Hunting in the Human Way: With dogs

Jan 24, 2013
Hunting in the human way has many unique features that you won't find anywhere else in nature and one of the most fascinating is hunting with dogs. One of the ways that we can measure this is from the fact that very few people have chosen to keep and maintain other animals once they were no longer useful in the modern urban world. However, dogs are a very different story; they were part of everyday life from ancient times, perhaps as long as 35,000 years. And no doubt they will be with us long into the future. They have hunted with us down through the ages and truly we have shaped their minds and their bodies which raises the question, how much have they shaped us? For this relationship is complex and fascinating. And so it's worth going through some of the basics that will allow us to understand this relationship and give insight to hunting in the human way.
To start with, we can categorize certain basic relationships in nature such as predator and prey or symbiotic and parasitic. And while most people would tend to classify the human-dog relationship as symbiotic, I would say that it's much more than that, as it stands alone in the natural world. As most symbiotic relationships are relatively simple and are not between two different species of predators pursuing the same prey. Nor do they have a highly charged psychological component to them. For example, without a doubt dogs understand human language not just words but the inflection and body language that go with it. And dogs, of course, can communicate back in the same manner but not on the same level as the human. There is no other animal that shares this relationship with humanity. Also there is a wide range of techniques and environments in which this relationship is carried out.
The ancient lineage of this relationship also shows up in a wide range of hunting dogs that have been bred for very specific types of hunting and virtually all breeds of dog were bred to hunt whether it was the elkhound or the rat terrier. And if you've ever hunted large game with dogs, it is truly an exhilarating experience; it is as close as a human can come to running with a wolf pack and this is the very core, the very essence of the human-dog relationship. If you've never hunted with dogs, you've never really reached the true depth and intensity of the human-dog relationship. While I'm sure there are those that would dispute this, it is the primary relationship, that we have had for ages and it has shaped them and us. In this relationship we combine our abilities and become more than the sum of our parts. And so it is we can experience the environment and the predator prey relationship with them and through them on a fantastic level. For instance, while people can look at set of tracks and tell a deer from a bear, a dog really cannot do this; however, they can smell the difference. A good set of dogs can come across a scent trail that is invisible to humans and is ten to twelve hours old and not only tell what kind of animal it is but will almost instantly determine which direction this animal is traveling even though there are no visible tracks.
And of course, humans and dogs did more than just hunt together; they lived together in the same dwelling and sat around the campfire as part of the family. The tribe learned the ways of the pack and the pack learned the ways of the tribe and this closeness led to an understanding of each other. This shows up in many different ways. For instance, you can pick up a rock and threaten to throw it at a dog and it instinctively knows that you can throw that rock with power and accuracy and just how far away it has to be to be safe. This instinct I do not think you'll find in any other animal. At the same time a dog will understand and compete for its place in the pecking order and this includes its place among both dogs and humans.
And while our hunting relationship with dogs is both fantastic and ancient it is running into some problems in recent times. In some places they are actually making laws against it. Imagine: this animal that freely chose to live with us, that can run 10 or 15 miles in a single day with unbridled exuberance. Now all too often is cooped up in some small apartment or worse yet lives at the end of a chain. This magnificent predator who expected and got its proper portion of the kill goes without. Rather it is fed a vegetarian diet that is boring and detrimental to its health. And so it is to those who are willing to look; there is a price to be paid for living in this modern urban environment for humans, dogs and their relationship.