It is often said that the first experiences are recorded in our memory and that -I venture- consciously or unconsciously determine our relationship with objects and/or people known through them. It is precisely the memory of one of them that prompts me to write this short article, hoping that it will help that neophyte in the canine world who has decided to enter it by listening exclusively to his heart.
Thanks to a certain worm eager for knowledge that my teachers knew how to infect me with, I decided while I was studying ethology to enter the professional world of dogs through the so-called “small door”: the walker; an activity that would allow me to gain experience in dealing with foreign canines and –the terror of terrors- with their owners.
On the big day of the debut, I rang the intercom of a flat in an apartment building, where I was greeted by an upper-middle-aged lady with a rather slight physical complexion and a small Maltese bichon who looked at me suspiciously from his padded bed. pink, in the middle of a fluffy rug that was also pink, and stuffed into a colored coat…yes, indeed: pink.
To my quick, inexperienced look, the little dog perfectly matched the environment and its owner. We turned around, stopped by the barbershop where he had his hair cut and styled (with a pink tail on his head, needless to say), and headed back to his house.
Until then, all is good. The curious thing appeared later, when through the conversation the subject of my studies came up and the consequent talk about dogs in which, to my astonishment, the lady referred to being worried about security issues and that to remedy them she wanted to buy nothing less than ... a rottweiler!
As my training had just begun, I did not dare to give him my opinion and left after wishing him luck, between mental images of a 1.50-meter tall lady being dragged by a 50-kilo big dog, and a Maltese bichon snack at the drop of a hat...
The saying goes that "Nothing is new under the sun" and certainly much has already been written about the difficulty involved in choosing a dog to take home.
Antonio Pozuelos, in his article "I'm going to buy a dog!", gives a good account of the most important issues: the objective for which we want it, its character, our own, our training and leadership skills, etc.; so I do not see the need to redound in them.
However, and acknowledging my rookie temerity, I want to draw the reader's attention to another way of looking at these issues: the point of view of our possible future friend.
It is well known that the different breeds of dogs have different levels of skills that make them appropriate for certain activities; These aptitudes are genetically transmitted and derived on the one hand from natural selection, and on the other from the enormous interference that the hand of Man has had in their development through artificial selection.
We wanted a guard dog, and we strengthened its prey and defense through specific crosses; we wanted a shepherd, and we strengthened his gregariousness and his resistance; we wanted a companion dog for small spaces, and we sacrificed some of those characteristics in favor of small size and greater psychic sensitivity…and so on a huge list of jobs or activities for which we decided to use the dog. Very good, then; Now is the time to be responsible with our "creations" and adequately meet his needs.
Suppose we pass by the store and fall in love with a puppy of any shepherd breed. We are not interested in any specific aptitude in him and his mere presence will satisfy our need for companionship. But…and what does he need from us?
-Company: you get home and, of course, your faithful and unconditional friend is there to welcome you, wagging his tail that looks like it's going to fall off and waiting for the least of your gestures to please you. What satisfaction, right? But… how long have you been away from home? Does your job allow you to share your life with him? Would you be willing to sacrifice leisure activities to be with him, or to change them for others in which you can enjoy each other? If the answer is negative... how about buying a fish tank instead?
-Exercise: very good. You have a flexible schedule, or even better, you work from home and you can be with your furry friend all day. Certainly, your sheepdog keeps you company – and you him, of course – even if he is asleep on the sofa like now, eight hours a day. Something in the picture doesn't add up, right? The dog needs to run, move, feel useful; you have to stimulate his body, and also his mind so that he can fulfill himself and be a Dog (thus, with capital letters). If not... how about buying yourself a plaster dog instead?
-Living space: phenomenal! You have plenty of time to share with the dog, and you have internalized that it rains, snows, or shines, you have to take it outside to exercise and let off steam. This allows you to dedicate some time exclusively to him, something that you cannot do at home since you and he shares 20 square meters with four cats, a ferret, and a parrot... The alarm sounds again: no matter how interspecifically sociable your dog is, you need your space, your toys, your place to be quiet. If not... maybe a colony of ants is better, right?
-Living space (2): excellent! You work from home, nobody takes away your two hours of daily walks with your dog (not counting playtime with him), and you live in a chalet with a garden as big as a football stadium. You have two dogs that get along great with each other, so go for the third one. Anyway, what can go wrong, right? Well, let's say if you have two dogs that get along, you have a well-balanced equation. And when you have a well-balanced equation, introducing another element into it has to be done very carefully, or else it can end in disaster. You have to examine the character of the dogs you have, their needs and qualities, and then make sure - as much as possible - that the ones the new member has will be compatible with them. For this, you must have certain knowledge and a good capacity for observation.
In the history that we have been writing together with the dogs for thousands of years, we have reserved for ourselves the role of the dominant, of being the Super Alphas. But that privilege also brings a great responsibility: we are in charge of providing well-being for those who blindly trust us. Well-being is made up of much more than the daily ration of feed and a roof under which to sleep.
The first step to do so is to understand that their needs are different from ours, but no less important for that.-
Martín R. Ojeda :aepe.net
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