Dogs and the Geography of Place

Dogs and Joy

My wife, Nicole, made an interesting observation the other day. While the news played in the background, we were talking about how dogs learn. I said something I frequently repeat during dog training sessions, “Dogs live in a world of geography.  Their world is defined by place.  They learn about bad places. When something bad happens in a specific location, they don’t identify what the bad thing is, instead they avoid it.  They simply learn to avoid the place where the bad thing happened.” They cede that ground to the bad thing and move on to better places.  In rattlesnake avoidance training, I use geography to teach dogs to identify the scent of danger. Dogs, using their ability to scent, are then able to avoid danger in different geographies.

Clearly, they have a different way of viewing the world. Nicole wondered, “What if people gauged the world the same way? Would it make things simpler?”

We humans tend to cling to things.  We often embrace the bad and run with it. Many people lose years of their lives reliving the same trauma over and over again.  Generational cycles of trauma and abuse continue and are transferred like a legacy that serves no one and damages all.

When a dog comes upon something bad she figures it out quickly, particularly if she encounters scent cues from other dogs who define that geography for them.  They understand and share knowledge.  They learn from each other much more efficiently than humans learn from each other. Dogs make a space and inhabit it.  They know what is theirs, and what isn’t.  They don’t want more than they can use.  Most dogs tend to share very well and they live in the moment.

Not so much for some humans, unfortunately, who often want what isn’t theirs and make the choice not to heal. Some take the pain they were given and cultivate it, then taking their magnified pain and forcing it into other people’s lives. They seek out innocents they can destroy and feed on.  We humans tend not to learn the lessons of history and we continue to inhabit this home of ours poorly. If something bad happened to us in the geography of our childhood home, we carry that home out into the world with us to share the misery.

We humans would benefit from spending much more time with our dogs.  Our dogs happily share their lives and space with us.  Spend time with your dog just hanging out and cuddling.  Go for a walk with him within the geography that the two of you share.  Observe how your dog maneuvers through the world. Watch how he values and explores every small, simple thing and inhabits every single moment of his existence.  The world is always fresh and new.  There is things to be learned there: Live in the moment. Avoid the geography of bad things and leave those bad things in their original place. Heal. Be kind to others and to our home. Learn to be happy.