It’s July in Ohio.  It’s hot, it’s humid, and the air hangs like a mouldy blanket left at a Boy Scout Jamboree 2 weeks hence.  Walking, exercising, and training with the dogs during the day becomes uncomfortable if not dangerous.  Personally, as someone that prefers the climate of the northern Great Lakes, this place is only 2 steps from climatic perdition…That’s why our activities have taken place very early in the day for the last month or so…when it’s only 85 degree’s outside.  Sorry Ohio, I dislike your climate even more than I dislike your college football team.  (That which shall not be named here.  LOL)  But I digress into humor when my actual point is quite serious.

A pre-dawn walk is a riot of peacefulness.  Birds swooping over the lawns searching  for breakfast, a whitetail deer crossing the golf course with her two late spring fawns, a pattering of a light rain shower on the leaves,  the river running with the recent overflow of water.  A mother raccoon and her kits are busily eating my neighbors sweet corn crop in his fenced backyard. I can hear the babies cooing with delight at each juicy morsel they inhale.  Momma raccoon purrs with satisfaction, knowing that her babies will soon leave the nest and move on to their own devices, freeing her from the burden.  It’s noisy, but it’s natural.  By my side are the two German Shepherds that my wife and I share our lives with, both looking up at me wondering, “Where to today, Dad? Huh? The river? Chase the geese? Huh? Huh?”

Normally, I walk each dog individually, giving them ample time to do as each wants.  Those walks are often distracted by training or exercising some skill or behavior.  When I walk them together, I’m searching for something else.  Inspiration.  Clarity.  Prayer.  Or maybe something I can’t describe.  At any rate, it’s not about physical exercise…and the dogs are with me to be observed for whatever they can teach me…

My recent writing about the “Bond” that we all want to develop with our dogs has been on my mind like an icicle growing on the eaves of the house.  Dripping, growing slowly, drip, drip, drip.  There’s much more to be written and pondered, and this current walk together has been a catalyst of thoughts.  Now if I can only manage to get them on the screen with some sort of clarity…

When you sit in a forest in the anthracite black of night, or walk  in the twilight of the approaching dawn, and you really focus, it becomes obvious that all living things are interconnected.   All things living are symbiotic in some way…True, humans are closer to the animals than we are to the trees, but we are all part of, and dependant on each other to varying degrees.  How could we not be?  We all come from the same Creator.  He alone understands the full measure of the bond between all living things. ( Okay, if you don’t accept that there is a God, a Creator…then what I say here probably won’t be your cup of tea.  Just give me a listen anyway.)  That’s your loss…those that believe that this all came about by chance, by evolving are missing something wonderful.  Namely this:  All Things Have A Purpose.  The belief that all of this came about by chance takes away all meaning in life.  There would be no reason for it, and it would eschew responsibility for anything.  Nothing to look forward to…Be born, live a while, and die.  That’s a sad way of life, and I fear that more people live it than we realize.

Faith tells me that not only are all living things dependant on each other, but some of those living things were meant to have special and fulfilling relationships.  Like Humans and dogs…humans and horses…humans and fresh strawberry pie.  (Sorry, strawberry pie isn’t a living thing, but I do feel a very deep relationship with it.  Digressing again)     That’s what I was thinking as I walked with the dogs this morning.  I realized that as we have been overtaken by technology, science, and the human insistence on making work easier, we have abandoned this bond between all living things.  The Clan of All Living Things has been fragmented at best, and shunned at worst.  Horses were working partners, as were dogs.  They lived to serve their keepers, and their Keepers cared for them as cherished work mates.  There are still people who treat their animals this way, and you’ll find that they have the best ” Bond” that can be had.  Training methods are NOT the key to the Bond,  and such people prove this everyday.  Sensing the emotional output/input of the dog is the key.   Allowing the  energy between master and canine to flow unimpeded…What I mean by that is simple.  “Training Time” is time to train.  “Bonding” time is time to observe, listen, and understand.  Yes, training does aid in creating bond, but it’s only part of the equation to that end.  I’ve been reading the book, “Rin Tin Tin, the life and the legend”  by Susan Orlean,(http://www.amazon.com/Rin-Tin-Legend-Edition-Hardcover/dp/B00BR5G9M0/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top and I was surprised to learn about the “method” (or lack thereof) that Lee Duncan used with his beloved dog.  Duncan describes it as their “Wanting to please each other, and see the other happy.”   Okay, that quote screams of esoterica understood only by the quotee, but something about it rings true.  Duncan and Rin Tin Tin were together constantly.  They communicated on the dog’s level, in language and behavior that the dog understood.  Duncan never made Rinty a small human in a fur coat.  They had, “The Bond”…(A reading of this interesting book gives a bit more insight, but it is ultimately a very sad story.)

What I take from the story is that their relationship was not “Built” by any training method.  “Built” has a connotation of forcing or shaping  something into existence. Often with resistance from the subject.  Duncan gave credit to the deep bond they shared for Rinty’s huge bag of talents.  He states that they never learned “Tricks”.  Certainly there had to be some form of training, but they mention little of it.

Again, I’m not offering any strident method to building a bond with your dog.  My suggestion is only this:  Put aside the training and the discipline for a few minutes a day, and just be with your dog.  Observe (don’t sit there trying to interpret body language) Talk to the dog, (No, he won’t speak back), but he’ll become accustomed to knowing that he has your undivided attention aside from everything else.  Turn off the science and try to feel the flow that moves your dog…My suggestion for practicing this is to sit out in the dark some night this summer and just Listen…You’ll be surprised at what you’ve missed.  The same thing goes for the dog…You’ll be surprised at what you’ve missed while you were busy working at having a dog, instead of enjoying the dog just being with you…

As a final thought, I want to state that I now believe that this “Bond” cannot be built, as though from a blueprint.  Rather, like most natural, created things, it “develops” in a time and manner uniquely to itself.  Allow yourself to watch it develop, and stop trying to force it…That doesn’t mean I’m foregoing “Training” and “Working”, not by a long shot!  But there should certainly be time to just watch the passage of time,  the learning process, and your own growth as a dog trainer.  Treat yourself and your dog to this simple pleasure…

 

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Comments
  1. chris says:

    Hello
    I enjoy reading your blog, you have an interesting viewpoint, and a refreshingly open mind.
    I especially appreciate your search for a better way to understand and communicate/cooperate
    with your dogs, and the world of dogs.
    I am neither a trainer, or handler, of dogs, I am merely a caretaker of dogs. I try to understand why they do what they do, and what they need from me. Finding the answer to those questions has taken me down many roads.
    I have gravitated toward NDT, I have a good feeling about the information Kevin Behan shares.
    I find the controversy he generates in the ‘Dog Behavior Theory’ world interesting. Folks want
    to see those phd’s after a name. I think the answers, we are all seeking about dogs and behavior,
    lie somewhere in the greater sphere of collective thought. I think that is what Kevin is, ultimately,
    trying to say, the information has always been right in front us. It is just so hard to quantify the
    concepts of energy, consciousness, essence, attraction, even tho they are probably as essential to our existence as the air we breath, we can’t see them.
    I like your idea to remind us all to just take the time to watch, no projecting, no judging, no training,
    just watch…
    Keep writing, and I will keep reading.
    …carry on

  2. Therese says:

    I must disagree on one point, but not for the reasons you think.

    When I sit in a forest in the anthracite black of night, or walk in the twilight of the approaching dawn, and really focus, it becomes obvious that all living things are interconnected because they evolved that way – no god required. All things living are symbiotic in some way – because there is natural order it – which is why we are dependent on each other to varying degrees. But again, no god required.

    Because my life and the life of my dog’s is dependent on the here and now and not some future reward, I will make every day count. I will look forward to every sunrise and sunset and imperfect agility run. I will look forward and smile at every froggie stretch, and post meal burp, and marvel at my girl’s ability to find a single scented q-tip in a sea of cracked concrete. I will do much with her that has purpose and much that has no purpose except being and bonding.

    I will likewise treat the people I meet with gentleness, and care, and joy, because this is it – and I don’t want to screw up this one life that I am fortunate to have. And I do this not because I will get some bigger reward in the “next life”. I do this because my life right now is my reward and I don’t want to waste a second of it.

  3. C says:

    Write more articles like this instead of all the “gobbled-gook” technical stuff!!