Primitive Instincts, Part 2

I am fortunate to have Alyssa Lapinel as a colleague and reader of The Real Deal on Dogs.  She is an excellent dog trainer with a sharp mind for all things canine.  After reading yesterday’s post on primitive instincts, she wrote a very thoughtful response.  Cheers to that.

Before quoting Alyssa below, I will say that her reasoning further illustrates why I am SO into spreading awareness about the Critical Socialization Period in puppies.  This period from approximately 3-12 weeks of age will make all the difference in how the adult dog thinks, learns, sees, and reacts to everything in its world.  By the end of next week I will launch the first phase of the Society to Socialize Puppies Now.  The mission will be to spread the word on what good socialization is, when to do it, and how.  When we join together in this mission we will literally change the future of pet dogs and the way they function in our society.  For the better.  Way better.

For an example of what great early socialization can do, check out this video of my son and dog playing together.   Our dog, Hazel, is gentle, patient, and totally NON-possessive about the food that my son, Isaac, has taken from her.  I didn’t own her during early puppyhood, but I’m willing to bet that she was raised with positive exposure to children from a very young age.

Now, back to the primitive instincts topic and how this all relates together.  Here are the great thoughts that Alyssa shared regarding dogs doing bone-headed things with porcupines.  Gotta hand it to her.  She added more Real Deal to The Real Deal:

“For me, it does highlight the fact that our dogs lack successfully adapted hunting skills, but … it’s less a reflection of their inherent intelligence than the fact that their environment failed to teach them those lessons at the necessary age.

A person/animal is equipped with the knowledge to successfully engage in their environment through experience. A wolf, coyote or fox has to learn that a porcupine is dangerous, fortunately for them that learning occurs during a period in their life where their mind is more malleable, and the curiosity and uncertainty of a young wolf pup curbs the drive that might get a more confident (inexperienced) adult into trouble.

The average domestic dog doesn’t have that opportunity in its youth. Fear periods occur within the first year of life, almost as if there is a biological assumption that living dangers will present themselves in that first complete seasonal cycle. Black bear cubs are not born knowing which plants and berries are poisonous, and wolf pups are not born knowing to stay away from porcupines – the impulse to forage and hunt is only inhibited through a systematic learning process.

I’m reading “On Aggression” by Konrad Lorenz and he writes about how the “damming” of an instinctive activity increases the readiness of an organism to react to stimuli. … “If the stimuli normally releasing it fail to appear for an appreciable period, the organism as a whole is thrown into a state of general unrest and begins to search actively for the missing stimulus … Wallace Craig called this type of purposive searching “appetitive behavior.”” Just like when city dogs get out to the country [and seem to over-react to the natural stimuli they have been deprived of], or when people get their dogs fixed on laser lights that they won’t stop searching for (long after the light is put away), or when collies herd shadows, or when Tiger Woods goes on tour and sleeps around with every woman that isn’t his wife. (I think that applies).”

Right on, Alyssa.  Thanks for sharing.


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