Lack of discipline, lack of boundaries and limitations and consequences doesn't work with kids, it doesn't work with employees, it doesn't work with collaborative group efforts, it doesn't work for governments, it doesn't work for banks, and it certainly doesn't work with dogs. Structure provides sanity.
In some circles, it has become emotionally akin to participating in the holocaust to mention the word discipline in the dog world. For these individuals, any discipline whatsoever seems to be immediately equated with abuse. This is insulting and patently absurd, and does an enormous disservice to our interface with the culture of dog. The language of dogs is structure. Everything about their culture is imbued with structural language, boundaries and limits. To pretend otherwise is like trying to speak Amislan (American Sign Language) by waving your hands in the air.
It matters to a dog how close you are to them. It matters to a dog how and where you touch them. Just because they allow the kind of inconsiderate, fur ruffling touch that is commonplace does not mean that that does not have language significance for them. They are, on the whole, a tolerant culture. We would be sadly adrift, even more than we are now, were it not so. It matters to a dog, proximity, up and down, near and far, how big of a space over which we are moving, how fast or slow we walk, whether we are bowed or straight and what our eyes are doing. They have an immense culture and language of structure.
Discipline, in the dog world, is about recognizing dogs inherent need for structure, boundaries and limitations to thrive and maximize their well being. Dogs, like most living creatures, do not flourish in chaos. I have had the unique opportunity to participate or live in an anarchic society, a society with "no rules", three times in my life: first, a commune in Virginia; second, a village of boats in San Diego Harbor, the third, my farm in rural Mexico. In the first two instances, people were there precisely so that they did not have to live by society's rules. They were independents, fiercely so, from many different walks of life, and in the boat community, different countries. And yet, each time, hurtful events, incidents which tore at the thinly woven fabric of the group catapulted the community into structure. Was the resulting structure slightly more collaborative, a little more freewheeling than a traditional town council? Perhaps. But meetings were held, rules laid down, consequences discussed and adapted.
When I went south to live on my farm in Mexico, it was both inherent in my New England upbringing, and learned from my life experiences, that structure would provide the framework of our days, keep us safe, and nurture our creativity. And so we managed to feed and clothe ourselves and an extended family of people and dogs even when payment for our services were rendered in calabasas and queso (squash and cheese).
At the ranch, I had the rare privilege of living with and managing what grew to be a 13 dog pack. No fences. No kennels. No crates. Just the land, the house, my voice, food, and the structure of our lives. I ran them like I ran the ranch. No violence allowed, no posturing, no threats. Meals at certain times, lights out at certain times. Time to play and patrol the ranch, chase birds and rabbits, and bark at the horses and cows going by in the river bed below, our local highway. Time for four leggeds to nap while the two leggeds made scratches on paper. Time for intimacy. Time for everyone to be in their respective beds. I could leave for weeks at a time to work in the states, leaving our caretaker in charge and return to a happy, tail-wagging chorus at the gate, all present and accounted for. No one ever left of their own accord. Two were poisoned, and one was stolen. I still have the two terriers from the original crew, and the rest grew old and passed on. Life was very rich.
Lack of discipline, lack of boundaries and limitations and consequences doesn't work with kids, it doesn't work with employees, it doesn't work with collaborative group efforts, it doesn't work for governments, and it certainly doesn't work for banks. Structure provides sanity.
- Maryna Ozuna
For more on dog training - visit our blog Tales From the Ranch.