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Dog in Training -- Writer's Poke #224

Some people in my neighborhood have one of those invisible fences for their dog; I'd probably never have noticed the "fence" if it weren't for the accompanying "Dog in Training" sign.

Dog in training, I thought. What an interesting concept. It reminded me of the old fashioned finishing schools for young debutantes.

Do puppies really need to learn how to become dogs? Doesn't the process happen naturally? And then I thought: What does it mean to be a certified dog? Drawing connections from the sign, it would indicate that a dog learns its territory. It learns to accept a fence that it cannot see. It conforms to what its master wants it to be: well-mannered and restrained.

In other words, it learns to become something other than its nature.

How has the influence of family, friends, or society "trained" you? Do you have any idea who you might be without outside influence? In other words, has your "essence" been altered?

"We are strange beings, we seem to go free, but we go in chains -- chains of training, custom, convention, association, environment -- in a word, Circumstance -- and against these bonds the strongest of us struggle in vain." -- Mark Twain


  1. First let me say I like your thinking. Having said that, of course a puppy "knows" or can learn from other dogs, how to be a dog. What it doesn't know from the nature of being a dog, is what is required of it to live in the circumstances that are not natural for the "natural dog". I believe that if one observes nature that one will find that puppies are indeed trained by the mother and other older animals of its kind what is needed to survive. For example how to hunt, stalk, chase or whatever else is needed to kill its food, if carnivorous, how to migrate to find food in the proper season for others kinds of animals, how to locate carrion for the scavengers, etc. To be continued.

  2. The "puppy in training" in your neighborhood, is as you have observed, not in training just to be a dog. That puppy is being trained, perhaps well, perhaps poorly, to be a different kind of animal. He is being trained to be a "domesticated dog". He is being trained to be what his "owner" desires him to be, not what in nature he would be. He is being trained as is obvious, to control his roaming habit. The "invisible fence" can help accomplish that. One would hope that he is also being trained not to attack as potential food other small animals. One also would hope that he is being trained to obey certain commands which make him more suitable to the life style of a domesticated animal, even while making him less fit to be a natural dog. (Continued)

  3. How does all this apply to human beings? Human beings are in essence, maybe, at least according to some, mere highly evolved examples of bipedal mammals. In their natural state they are really ill equipped to hunt and kill other animals for food, although adults of the kind can teach them to do so. Unfortunately history shows that sometimes, maybe many times, the prey was of the same sort. That is, other "highly evolved examples of bipedal mammals" or human beings. That is less common today, but in a smaller way it still occurs. Is it not a minor cannibalistic trait that drives so called "civilized" people to go to war for territory or products? If I take part of your production of anything that you have given time (part of your life) to produce is that not somehow taking part of your life? If I then convert that to food, am I not in a sense eating part of you as I eat that food? But "civilized" humans develop a means of trading some of themselves for some of others.That is trading a good or service that "I" produce for a good or service that "you" produce. If we ever get really good at that, the economy may be "fair".
    (To be continued again.

  4. The influence of my family, friends and society has trained me to know that there are others who are important for my well being. They deserve my respect, at the very least. There are still others who do not have my well being in mind at all. Who hold other things in much more esteem than they hold me. These may deserve respect as well, but in a different way. These influences have also taught me that I have responsibilities to others. It is up to me as to whether I fulfill these responsibilities, how and why I do so. I have learned that I may or may not be respected and valued for what I do but it is my responsibility to "do" regardless. The influences which have affected me have caused me to conform to certain standards of dress and speech and other actions which may differ from the "natural" dress, speech and actions of others.

    Twain may have been right about who is strong but I think at least some of the strong are those who struggle against those who cannot see and appreciate some aspects of training custom, convention, etc.

    I accept a certain amount of well considered rebellion is needed. Rebellion against that which makes us less than we ought to be. Too much rebellion is not of that kind.


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