Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Day 146: Socialising, taming and training

"I also use the term "socialized" rather than "tamed" wolves to emphasise that the animals were active participants in the process and that their behaviour and adjustment to humans went far beyond simple "taming". How the Dog become The Dog - From Wolves to Our Best Friends by Mark Derr

More about the book here (in Polish only)
At about eleven or twelve I went through a phase of fascination with wolves and wilderness in general which involved numerous re-readings of a series of books by Jack London, James Oliver Curwood and Piotr Korda. 

The latter wrote an interesting novel set many thousands years ago and telling a story of an injured, pregnant female wolf who cunningly decided to follow a human hunter in order to feast on his prey. 
The human lived in caves during the winter and in wooden houses built over the rider in the spring and summer. They were very much hunter-gatherers, moving across the lands with seasons and food sources. 

The book captivates the unlikely relationship of a wild wolf and an early human who hunts to keep his family alive…For reasons only explained in further books, the man and his family are alone and finding survival in the harsh winter very difficult.
At first, the man doesn’t realise he is being followed and so the wolf eats whatever the man leaves behind. When the man does find out what’s happening, over some weeks, he and the injured female form an unlikely alliance. The wolf finds the prey, the man hunts it, they both eat. Neither consciously knows what their role is at first. They do what their instincts and nature dictates and slowly notice the compatibility and ingenious benefits of the cooperation. The man uses the wolf’s superior senses to locate the prey, the injured wolf uses the man’s tools to replace her unusable leg and inability to run after the prey she found. Sometimes, the man’s arrow fails to hit the right spot and injures the prey instead of killing it. The wolf follows the scent slowly, the man follows the tracks the wolf leaves in the snow. They know each other’s tracks like their own. The wolf kills the injured animal and both hunting partners eat for days. 
They keep distance and respect each other. They learn about each other. In many ways, they fear each other. Until they don’t. 

At the beginning of the spring, the man realises the injured wolf is gone. He misses his hunting partner and decides to search for her. And as he finally finds her, in a den with her newborns, the new chapters in their lives began…


Right now it’s Tuesday morning and I am writing this on train to London where just a few minutes ago I was reading How the dog became the dog by Mark Redd (I finished the spy thriller). In fact, I was reading the exact sentence I quoted at the beginning of this post when the thought occurred to me. 
Perhaps in the quest to train horses, in designing new and using old gadgets, we are sometimes missing that important factor of socialisation vs “taming” Perhaps by telling them what to do and wanting it done immediately, understood swiftly and performed on point, we forget to let them be the active partner in the learning process? We forget to give them the benefit of their own learning speed, their own way of processing what we want from them - be it to work over the back or to jump cleaner or to jump higher or to simply be more obedient….? 

Wolves, horses, humans - after all, we are all some kind of animals. 
After all, if we are indeed the superiorly intelligent ones, perhaps we could use that advantage by fully understanding how the other species learn and how to help them take more active participation in the training process...?


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