Embracing the Wild in Your Dog

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Bryan Bailey wants you to know that you do not own a dog. “Domesticated Wolf” is the term he uses throughout the book, and one that he believes would lead a lot more people to appreciate, train, and have more productive relationships with their dogs. He is not wrong on this account. Genetically speaking, wolves are genetically identical to your Pomeranian. Humans nearest relative, the Chimpanzee, only shares 98% of their genes. Dogs have only been domesticated by humans in the last ten thousand years… wolves have been present on earth for 750,000.

Bailey certainly has the chops to make these claims. As a professional dog trainer, ex police K9 officer, amateur dogsled runner, and someone who has had more face-to-face experiences with wild wolves then all but a few naturalists… he speaks from a vast body of experience.

He believes that most accidents come from human mistakes. Dogs are not furry humans. We spend millions every year to give them special treats, dress them up, give them toys and entertainment. There is a booming industry to cater to dog owners and their pets. And many restaurants and hotels these days sell themselves with their facilities to cater to dogs.

Dogs do not understand human language, motives…and they have their own set of motives and desire. It is by understanding these motives and desires that we can begin to understand these animals…to try and train our perception of “human in furry suit” dogs is a flawed theory, as any owner who has found their dog happily wagging their tails while the garbage is all over the kitchen floor will attest to. Dogs have a certain level of aggression in them which will never be bred out. They have one tool to deal with conflict…attack or submit. They don’t understand human morals, and cannot fathom what we desire. They are dogs…or as Bailey would put it, Domesticated wolves.

Bailey’s answer is discipline. “Obedience is required” is his mantra, repeated throughout the book. He cites natural wolf pecking orders where alpha wolves pin down and threaten, possibly even hurt (though rarely kill) rivals and lesser wolves as the natural teaching order. Dogs understand the binary dominate/submit paradigm, and their acting out is due to them being unsure in the pecking order.

Bailey shines when he draws from his own experiences. In one chapter, he describes how he is hired by a woman who has a rescue pit bull. This dog, subjected to abuse and taught that other dogs were rivals for years, and she wanted him to train him to socialize with her other dogs. He refused, and was saddened, yet unsurprised when later he found out that the dog attacked and injured the lady and her dog.

I am reminded of the book The Hidden Life of Dogs by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. Both books are in-depth studies of dogs, and do not lay claim to being training manuals. But unlike that book, which strived to maintain an impartial observation stance, Embracing the Wild uses this as a chance to rail against the things that Bailey objects to. Positive-enforcement trainers, PETA, no-kill shelters, breeders, even the softening of the American people all get shots as the purveyors of the untruths that cause these issues. Nature isn’t kind. She kills any wolf that doesn’t get along with the pack. We should do the same, so he reasons.

Curiously absent from the book is anyone who has raised wolves. You would think that someone who is making the claim that dogs are wolves would go to the obvious source of evidence. The problem is that wolves are very different then dogs. Dogs are the only species aside from our own who recognize what pointing is. Dogs accept other animals into their ‘pack’. Dogs make exceptions to their hierarchies, and recognize children as something different then other humans. Wolves do none of these things, and people who raise them quickly realize that trying to keep them indoors results in many more challenges and destruction, and it’s far easier to keep them penned outside. While they may be genetically identical, the process of domestication has made dogs into something very different.

Bailey is correct on not trying to treat dogs like humans. He is very right in recognizing that different breeds represent different challenges. He is correct when saying that fighting against dogs instinctive behavior, like jumping or digging or chasing, is counter-productive. This book is a wealth of insight from a vastly experienced dog trainer. While not a training manual, when setting out to train your own “puppy pal” or “furbaby”, this is a valuable book to help you to perhaps understand why your dog loves your kids, but goes berserk when the neighbor boy shows up.

Reviewed By:

Author Bryan Bailey
Star Count /5
Format eBook
Page Count 173 page
Publisher Taming the Wild, LLC
Publish Date 25-Sep-15
ISBN 9781619333833
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue December 2015
Category Science & Nature


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