I was asked a question by a good friend a week ago after we had someone quit unexpectedly in the middle of a project because of “a better offer”:
“What happens when you show puppies a bowl overflowing with delicious meat?”
All the puppies I’ve ever seen will rip across the room, knocking over things, and gobble it all up without a care. And when it’s all gone, they’ll whine for more.
He told me a story that really resonated with me, that we think of dogs as impulsive and self-serving.
But it’s not a matter of it being “nature of the beast”, but lack of proper training, discipline, and socialization.
He raised AKC hunting dogs with his parents on a small farm, training them from a very young age.
They started with simple socialization– How did they act in groups– did they play nicely, or snap at others? Could they share a meal or would they greedily horde?
The next criterion- could they listen? Were they smart enough to learn the nuanced commands they required for complex movements and an understanding that they were part of a larger pack and that they were being relied upon?
Then they were moved into competency tests– this meant gun training- which is performing maneuvers and responding to calls while a trainer fired blanks near them.
This is very scary to a young puppy, but important, as it shows their ability to continue moving and performing tasks even under duress. If they get scared, or worse- freak out, it could spell disaster.
This often took a long time, as an instinct to fend for one’s self is strong when things are scary and hard.
And he made it clear that this sort of training isn’t meant to have them rely solely on you– that you have to issue commands to get them to move, even if it is terrifying or hard to complete.
These kinds of dogs are set free at the beginning of a hunt– they were runners, sent out to find and drive game back toward the hunters.
They were not meant to be micromanaged- but trained to report back when they found something (via barks, howls, bays, etc.) and then execute on issued commands.
Hunters rely on their pack to see them as equals- a part of their team, rather than darting off and greedily taking the kill while showing teeth and biting everything that gets near.
The last is important. It’s VERY dangerous to tolerate anything other than loyalty since this could disrupt a hunt if they chased game when not commanded to, disobeyed a clear command, or abandoned the pack.
The final test for these puppies’ loyalty was the food test. Bring them all inside after a long day of training in front of a mountain of delicious meat. The test is- do they look up to you for acceptance? Do they stay in place until given a command?
If they didn’t and went for it immediately, they failed.
VERY FEW puppies earned their brass tags, which showed that they were now well-trained hunting dogs. This took many steps, and many check-ins to assess their progress, but it was a proven process and when followed, produced world-class hunters, similar to what we do with our own training processes.
Do you know what they did to puppies who didn’t listen?
No no, they didn’t KILL them, but if they continued to show that they were not team players- able to hunt in a pack, follow instructions, and have discipline, they were kicked out of training, and if they were sociable, given to a nice loving family- to be a nice lay-around family dog– stuck in the house all day, eating kibble for dinner every night.
The lesson here is that even hungry dogs who are loyal, understand that things extend beyond just them and to the group that relies on them- to share and be equitable, but also remain disciplined. There’s plenty of food to go around.
Now apply all of this to yourself. This isn’t equating you to being a loyal lap dog who blindly follows orders- it’s asking you to think of yourself as a team player, to think of others, and not greedily break off to gobble up as much food as you can.
Replace food with cash, and then think about how you would feel being that puppy who’s beside the one that darts out to snatch it all up.
No one wants to be around those types– unless they enjoy being bitten.
I don’t, which is why I only surround myself with loyal, committed people.
Avoid running with slobbering mutts who will ditch you for one good meal, and ensure you associate with only the loyal runners.