Humans are good at a lot of things. When it comes to creating art or doing science or excelling at any of hundreds of other pursuits that we have invented, no animal can beat us. A dog will never write a symphony. A crow will never discover a cure for cancer. An elephant will never create a masterpiece — despite what you’ve heard about elephants painting in Thailand.

What we lack in fur or feathers, we make up for in intellect. When it works for us, we do things like travel to the moon or create “Hamilton” or invent newer and better machines to make our lives easier. That’s part of what makes us human.

Unfortunately, we also excel at something that no animal can do.

Humans are experts at working against Nature at every opportunity. That’s essentially what we’ve done by creating our cities, connecting them with highways, and powering them all without regard for their effects on the environment.

We are getting better at being aware of our negative impact and trying to mitigate it, but we’ve been doing this for centuries. Even primitive human tribes left behind garbage dumps in pristine wilderness when they weren’t busy hunting native species to extinction.

With dogs, we’ve also been guilty of ignoring Nature, particularly as we’ve tried to create new breeds that vary more extremely from their wolf ancestors. Because of this, some breeds of bulldogs are incapable of mating or giving birth normally, so that these puppies can only be conceived through artificial insemination and delivered by C-section.

I can’t think of anything more removed from Nature than an entire breed being completely incapable of reproducing the natural way, but we created that ourselves. And bulldogs aren’t the only susceptible breed. Because of the huge size variation in dogs, it isn’t at all uncommon for a vet to have to perform a premature C-section when the father is a very large breed and the mother is very small. The puppies become too big for the mother to carry or handle.

Another way we separate dogs from Nature, of course, is by ignoring their instincts and psychology when trying to train them or rehabilitate them from their misbehaviors. Instead of letting them be dogs and then working from there, people often humanize their dogs and then try to negotiate with them like they’re little children. Negotiating with children is hard enough — try it with your dog, and you’ll quickly find yourself wrapped around their paw.

It’s not just humankind in general that can lose touch with Nature by retreating into artificial environments. We as individuals can do it, too, by forgetting to listen to our dogs or our own instincts.

The good news is that once we learn to start looking at our dogs as dogs and understanding how they perceive the world, we begin to come back into touch with Nature ourselves. Dogs are very direct and they show their intentions through their energy and body language. They’re ready to have a two-way conversation with us. We just have to learn to speak in their “words” and not ours.

Stay calm, and get back to Nature!

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