Mastering a Dog

Well, Gracie has mastered me, so I guess we're done with training. No, wait, that's not right. Some people-- dog people and others-- have told me she has to know I'm Master. Wait, does that mean she's a servant? A slave? No, they say, she WANTS YOU to be the Master, the Alpha Dog.. Ya, right, I say, just another happy slave? Well, of course, they take offense. And they think I'm crazy for not training her to a crate.

No, I don't think that "Master" is an apt metaphor at all, and I don't want to subjugate a dog to my will. Gracie was desparate to learn how to survive in the human world. None of her strategies were working out for her-- 3 previous caretakers plus several months in the pound, other dogs coming and going-- and she desparately wanted to find her people, and then find her place. Not her place in the pack, but in the mystifying human tribe. Security breeds serenity. She feels safe (or much safer) in the environment and with the schedule we have created. Safety breeds trust, without which the relationship is doomed to be fraught. In a relationship of mutual trust, mutual learning is possible

As she has learned (quickly, mostly) to trust me-- amidst all my eccentricities of voice and motion (especially hand movement). We make eye contact, she pays attention, and she learns some English as I am trying to master her dialect of Dog.

So I don't see myself as her "master", but as a teacher and guide. Suits me better, anyway.


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