Have you ever thought about where are you and your Dog are on the Friendship Scale? Followers of my blog know that the ultimate relationship with our Dogs is that of friendship and not ownership. However, there are varying degrees that can take us from Ownership to Friendship, and beyond. I call it the Friendship Scale, and it can be a useful guide help you and your Dog navigate the Path of Friendship together.
OWNERSHIP → GUARDIANSHIP → PARTNERSHIP → FRIENDSHIP → KENZOKU
In this relationship, the Dog is a something rather than a someone. The Dog is a possession, and the owner is in total control. The sole purpose of the Dog is to serve and please the owner. This relationship is one-directional, and there is a great separation between owner and Dog; almost no integration. All communication is limited to lectures and monologues from the Owner.
Here, the guardian has a minimal understanding that the Dog is an individual, but still feels that the foundation of the relationship is control. Often, this manifests itself where the Dog is thought of and treated as a Human child, and the Guardian feels as if they are the Dog’s”parent”. There is love and care for many of the Dog’s needs, to be sure, but the Dog is often not permitted to be a “Dog”, and the Guardian sees things only from their own perspective. The respect for the Dog just being a Dog is not always present. This is also a one-directional relationship, but there is less separation and more integration.
This relationship is based more on mutual benefits to both the Human and the Dog. There is a sense of both give and take, although it is more akin to a business relationship than a personal one. The level of respect for the Dog is increased, and she is seen more as an equal, in that her point of view has equal consideration. This relationship is bi-directional, and both partners maintain a level of dignity. Here, there is more integration in the relationship and although there is still a feeling of separation, there is a beginning sense of unity. Communication begins to become a dialogue, rather than a monologue.
This is the most natural relationship between Humans and Dogs. Here, the lines of separation are porous, and there is a real feeling of unity. The focus is mostly on how to help each other and make each other happy, and far less on personal gain. It is a fully integrated relationship where collaboration, respect, trust, compassion and equality are the ingredients. Communication is a dialogue. It is a selfless relationship, and there is no sense or need for one to control the other.
This is what we strive for with our Dogs. It is a relationship where there is no separation, only a fully integrated and unified connection. The relationship becomes its own entity. Here, there is no need for control or no need for manipulation. You and your Dog are one “being”. Communication is often unspoken, where you and your Dog just “know” what the other wants. This is the ultimate, fully functioning relationship. This takes time, and may not be possible with every relationship. However, when you’ve achieved Kenzoku with your dog, then real growth for both of you takes place.
Relationships are never static. Like a flower, they are either growing or withering. To help the relationship grow, all we need to do is to provide fertile soil, nourishment, and abundant light. This is simply a matter of removing the barriers that prevent growth. Devotion, Appreciation and Compassion create the environment for fully a functioning relationship. Cooperation and collaboration rather than Skinnerian manipulation, holism instead of reductionism, focusing on what we can give and not on what we can get – these remove the obstacles to growth. And if we can learn to be friends with our Dogs, we may find we can be better friends with ourselves, too.