Your dog is a wolf. Perhaps not literally, but in his or her own mind … your dog is a wolf. The behavioural constructs of the wolf pack, whether your dog is a malamute or a chihuahua, never really leaves the subconscious mind of the dog.
Emotion Code for Animal Counseling reminds us of this all the time.
Dogs have been a part of the human family unit for so long that we humans have gotten a little too casual with expecting or projecting human-like behaviours and attitudes onto them.
One example of this was our own dog, Harry. Whenever we would leave him alone in the house for any period of time, he would invariably let us know his anger about this by grabbing whatever food he could reach in the kitchen – a loaf of bread, a block of cheese, scraps from the garbage – and drag it all over the house to his bed, where he would make a royal mess of devouring it. When we would arrive home, he would greet us with total joy, absolutely forgetting about his earlier plan to stick it to us and let us know how angry he was about us leaving.
This scenario, of course, is described entirely in terms of projection of human attitudes.
When we learned applied kinesiology (Emotion Code), we used each other as a “proxy” for Harry to ask his subconscious questions about his motivations when he did this. Anger? Nope. That’s largely an exclusively human emotion. Dogs are rarely motivated by anger. Instead, the emotions that would come up were in the realm of anxiety, abandonment, worry, vulnerability. How the situation really looked, we established through a series of binary questions directed at Harry’s subconscious, in wolf pack mind, was thus:
The “pack” has left. (And we humans are very much a part of our dogs’ pack.) To get food. Because that’s what the pack does when it leaves the house. But … the world is dangerous, and the pack might be out there getting its throats torn out and may never come back at all. Importantly, the pack may not be bringing any food back as a result. Enter: survival mode. Must. Eat. Whatever. I. Can. Now.
Having no idea when the next opportunity for a meal might be, our canine companion would immediately search for food in the house so he wouldn’t starve to death. No anger. No “sticking it” to us. No revenge for leaving him alone. Just simple panic and survival. And that joy that we would experience when we got home? That was a simple: “Thank god you’re not dead! I’m so happy!”
As we learned to think of Harry’s behaviours being far more in wolf pack mind than in human mind, a lot more of them started to make sense to us, and thus we learned to accept them with more patience and understanding. That annoying behaviour of refusing to come when called while rushing off to check out other dogs? His service to us, protecting us from some unknown, potentially dangerous, wolf pack. In his mind, doesn’t matter if we’re calling him back; he has a job to do, dammit! And that howling your dog does out in the yard when you leave? That’s her trying to call the rest of her pack back to her. (This fact might not help your neighbour’s develop much more patience with it, but it may help you get over thinking that she’s just being a pain in the ass and react differently to it.) Your dog getting depressed when one or more members of the family are gone for extended periods of time? That’s worry; anxiety about the pack being separated, and who-knows-what happening to the missing pack members while they’re out in the dangerous wild.
Emotion Code on our animals helps train us more than it helps train them. The more we accept their innate inclination towards survivalism, protection and community, the less reason we’ll have to get frustrated about perceived disobedience of human expectations.
Now when we have to leave Harry at home alone, I’m sure to put a hand on him and let him know how long we’ll be gone, that we’re going somewhere safe, and we will be returning. To date, no more Bear Grylls-style survivalism in the kitchen. When he chases after those potentially killer wolf packs that show up, I don’t scald him for refusing my commands, I thank him for protecting us. It feels overall like a much healthier inter-species communication.