So far you have read about the doggy instincts and senses. It is time to know something about the balance of these two and with that how does a dog’s mind work? Some of you might say, ‘I just love my dog and don’t care how his mind works!’ Well since the dog has to adjust with the human society and home and not the vice versa, controlling a dog becomes easy if you know how his mind works. Dogs do have a certain amount of inherent intelligence and rest they accumulate with the help of their instincts and senses and association of ideas over a period of time.
Most owners are led to believe that their dog is intelligent than others’.
Do dogs have intelligence?
Yes they do. Dogs use their intelligence to their benefit. For example a dog in the wild uses his intelligence to make a kill for a meal or evade a murderous attack by a beast of prey or a stronger rival dog. A domesticated dog uses his intelligence either to make his master happy by obeying his commands and earn his reward in lieu thereof, or to avoid develop ways and means of evading the master’s command.
I am not an animal psychologist by qualification, but with my plus six decades of close association with dogs I have learned certain things about animals from them. For example I think those animals which have a hierarchical society make use of their intelligence to please their superior or leader. The leader in turn takes good care of his family/pack/group. The pup in your house finds a different type of group-it is not his pack, but your love and affection and care make him believe that this is his new pack.
Here we are talking of a family dog. Therefore, let us consider how best you can use the intelligence of your dog. Whether the intelligence of your dog is an asset to you or not, largely depends upon you-because you can not possibly teach anyone who knows more than you do. In other words an extraordinarily intelligent dog may prove to be a liability for a novice owner. For example let us consider an Alsatian who hates a bath. Being very intelligent he knows from his observations that you are preparing to bathe him. You might not utter even a single word, yet he knows that you have set his towel, brush etc in the bath and after that as per routine you will come with a leash and pull him to the bathroom. To your horror he starts to growl even before you have leashed him. He is in no mood to for a bath. At that stage either you over power him and drag him in to the bath or you chicken out and change your programme. Dog learns that a menacing growl scares you away. In future for anything he dislikes he uses the same trick. Such dogs are a valuable asset if trained properly.
A stupid dog on the other hand never protests, he meekly submits to your wishes. He may undergo the trauma of bath, yet he will not whine. If you are sluggish, physically not very fit a stupid dog may be good for you. But mind you during a crisis like a burglar breaking in your house he may just wag his tail to welcome him!
Judging the intelligence of a dog needs a sharp observation on part of the owner. Many owners punish their dogs, saying that ‘he knows what I mean, yet he isn’t complying.’ Poor dog is actually confused because the owner himself is a poor communicator and indecisive. For example, if you have asked your dog to ‘Sit’, he has no option but to sit. But in case he is dilly-dallying due to any reason and by that time you change your mind and ask him to ‘Lie Down’, dog’s computer like mind goes haywire. He gets so confused that either he walks away or refuses to budge. In turn he gets punished for being unresponsive because the ignorant owner presumes that his dog understands everything and yet does not respond.
Fortunately most dogs are born sensitive. A very few of them become insane, that too turn insane due to disease or an exceptionally cruel master. A sensible dog maintains a balance of instincts and senses and uses it for his benefit. A balanced dog is never shy. A dog which slinks away on hearing the footsteps of a stranger or barks incessantly but runs away and hides under the bed is a shy dog. A nervous dog on the other hand is highly strung. He sees a dog on the street, raises his heckles and barks his head out, his master wants to control him but in a fit of nervousness bites his hand. A nervous dog is unpredictable and unsafe, especially in a family.
Most of us just blindly love dogs and never bother about what goes in side the mind of a dog. We apparently try to give our pooch the maximum comfort, without really trying to find out what is actually comfortable for a dog. For example we buy the best dog box and the best toys and dog food. We think he is quite comfortable in his new dwelling and leave him alone and go to work. On the contrary in the nature being pack animals, constant interaction between the pack members is important for dogs. It is this interaction or play, which dissipates their energy. Secondly the pack goes out hunting, stalks a prey and makes a kill. Thereafter there is a tussle for the largest share-of course the pack leader gets it; then everyone takes off with his share to devour it or bury it near the lair for ‘bad times’. And that is lot of work for a day. Next day the routine is repeated. In other words in their society dogs go for work (hunting) and remain together and not alone in a ‘comfortable’ kennel.
But problem with you is that you have a dog and he is alone. Because you acquired it at the behest of children or as a status symbol or may be you love them, but you have other priorities too to cater to. Since you do not have much time, your pup craves for company. At four months he seems to possess lot more energy that you have! He vents his ire at your costly shoes, or digs holes in your garden or overturns the waste bucket. The list of his deeds in your absence is endless.
As the pup grows he passes through different phases. Initially at the age of six to ten weeks a pup can be fruitfully engaged by providing him with a football, with a tiny piece of chocolate pressed in its grooves. Leave this ball with the pup in an enclosed area and the poor guy will go on rolling it whole day in the hope of a lick. However after ten weeks he becomes smart and does not get lured by the chocolate. But even at this age he plays vigorously for some time and then sleeps off. He is now intelligent enough to reject the same toy if given to play with every time. Like your kid you have got to have a variety of toys for your pooch. Get him a set of calcined bones (femur) from a pet shop. The bone will keep him occupied for long. It is likely that after two-three days the pup may reject the bone. While you offer him a fresh one, dip the rejected one in meat soup and let it dry. It would be refreshed for next time. Alternatively you may buy a cong ball for him. Available in the pet shops, it makes nose at it rolls. The noise keeps the pup guessing and out of the curiosity he keeps playing with it. Some breeds like dachshunds are born diggers. It is not a bad idea to allot them a corner of your garden to dig freely, but please make sure that you are around to check him if he begins to dig beyond allotted limits. But if you are an avid garden lover, then dachshund is not the breed for you-the two never seem to go together.
A pup as it grows is not sent to a play school, unlike our children or later to a regular school. Yet he is supposed to understand each and every word you say and also obey. Poor chap has to sweat and toil a lot to earn his daily bread. Most of us commit the mistake of comparing our minds with that of the dog. We forget that we are at the highest pedestal of evolution hence there can be no comparison between our minds with those of our pets. How does our mind work? We think of the past and have vision about a happy future and curse the day. A dog on the other hand does not remember a thing of his puppy-hood and does not aspire to be head of your family. Poor creature is happy with the present. He is not bothered if you get your salary or not or if your daughter gets admitted to the best school or not, he bothers only for his food at the required time. Dog does not dwell upon the past, but yes sometimes bad memories of extreme punishment are retained. But even then he may not recollect the misdeed for which he was thrashed!
Being more evolved we have laid lots of rules and regulations for ourselves and we expect our dogs also to abide by them. For example, when a dog digs a small hole in a corner of the compound and buries his bone there we wonder at his intelligence. But when the same dog ‘digs’ a hole in the sofa to bury the bone, we thrash him. Poor thing, what he did was perfectly natural-but we go by the rule book we laid for ourselves. In order to make him abide by the rules we constantly nag him. From the day he is weaned away from his dam, the only word which he hears throughout the day is NO. He is nagged so much that he develops a kind of feeling of insecurity. He watches your each move and cringes if you make a sudden move or shout a NO. That is the price he pays for his free boarding and lodging at your place.
Please do not compare human intelligence with that of the dog. A dog has a limited intelligence good enough to earn him his daily food and save him from the marauders. He recognizes you as the leader and craves for your love and affection. He obeys your command to please you. He has enough senses and intelligence to find out if you are happy or not and he uses them to the best of his ability.
Ever watched a litter being reared by the dam? She keeps a tab on all the puppies. She knows which one wants to defecate, which one hasn’t had his milk and which one is missing. She nurses them accordingly. Puppies as they grow and interact with each other and the dam start playing games instinctively. Catch me if you can and mock hunting being their favorites. As long as they play without harming each other or the dam, she appears to be snoozing. But if any one of them misbehaves, tries to pester her, she gives a deep throated growl. And it is enough to control the pup. You may be wondering what is so great about it. Well it is the next part which is the crux of rearing-the moment the pup starts behaving she licks him and makes a lot of fuss over him. It is this ‘reward’ which ‘corrects’ the pup and not the ‘punishment’ she had growled a few moments ago. Please remember the entire dog training revolves around this reward and punishment.
Intelligence of dogs varies from individual to individual and from breed to breed. Some learn fast others take time. We misinterpret the slow learners as shirkers. We ourselves are shirkers so we think that dogs are also like that. Think of it dispassionately we are kind of introvert while a dog is an extrovert. For example while we might have different set of rules for out doors and indoors; a dog does not have any such rules.
In order to survive at any cost a dog uses his instincts to guard your house (actually his lair!). Unlike your employee he never thinks of a raise or a promotion. He just craves for your love and affection and of course food to survive. He never loses his temper, unless his or his master’s life is at stake. There are times when we get provoked, but usually saner sense prevails and we control our emotions or anger. This happens because of our gray matter in the brain. But sometimes extreme provocation or a sudden shock damages the thinking process and then inner brain or the animal brain takes over. Result is madness. Being lesser evolved, dogs do not have as much gray matter cover in their brains as we have. Yet because they have a full confidence upon their human pack leader, they use their gray matter until something happens that destroys their confidence. If that be the case the obedient dog suddenly breaks the shackles of domestication and goes haywire, biting and snapping at everything.
Understanding a dog’s mind is complex. But once you know your dogs mind you can make him do wonders.
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