Saturday, June 1, 2013

Human-Dog Problem Tree - PART EIGHT

by Dino Dogan

The Nature of Modern Existence… and Dogs – SECTION TWO

In the first section of the modern-life problem tree, we’ve seen how the nature of modern existence puts us in a misalignment with our biology.

In this section, we will discus psychological factors affecting our existence and how it relates to human-dog relationship.

Image Virginia Tech
One of my favorite psychologists is Abraham Maslow. Why?

Maslow has come up with an ingenious way of classifying the human psychological condition. Maslow’s Theory of Needs is one of those rare gems that fits into Eastern philosophies just as easily as Greek. Both Buddha and Socrates would have been proud.

It also fits into modern schools of philosophy. From Kant to Freud, Nietzsche to Frankl.

Sidebar: These 4 guys are basically 4 different schools of though (sounds familiar dog trainers?) and pillars of modern philosophy and psychology. The root difference between them are in the disagreement as to what motivates us as humans. Is it will to logic, sexual instinct, will to power or will to meaning? But let’s get back to Maslow.

Both people AND philosophies can be entirely classified within Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

The only caveat is that different areas of your life will fit into different parts of the hierarchy, Let me give you an example:

When it comes to Dog Training, you might fit into Level 4 (high esteem), however, when it comes to your finances, you might fit into Level 2 (need for safety).

We will go over these levels in a moment.

Also, the same area of your life will fit into different levels as you move through life.

Example: You might have been born very poor and your basic need for survival wasn’t assured (this is Level 1); however, as you got older, you’ve managed to provide yourself with shelter, safety, money, things, etc. (Moving up to Levels 2 and 3). As you got older, you wanted to give-back, so you’ve started a charity, which moved you into Level 4 and 5 and so on.

Here is a visual depiction of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Lets move through Maslow’s Hierarchy as a 90 percenter.

I’ve asked my Paleolithic friend Java, to write me a letter from the past and tell me how he spends his days. I also asked him to map it to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; this is what he wrote.

For 90 thousand years, as a human, I lead a nomadic life, living day-to-day, unsafe, using primitive shelters, and so on. Clearly, I spend most of my time leading a Level 1 existence of Maslow’s Hierarchy.

I build fire and primitive shelter, sometimes a sleep in a cave; this provides safety from the elements and nocturnal hunters. This mean that I spend the rest of my time at Level 2.

The fact that I live in a pack, extended familial unit, or a tribe, does offer me some level of safety (Level 3).

Of course, sometimes I do engage in Level 4 (High esteem) actions. Example: Getting really good at chucking a spear, laying a trap, skinning an animal, and so on.

Also, someone needs to lead my tribe on a hunt, if I’m able to bring in the biggest animal they will elect me Chief and my chances of procreation will drastically improve. (Level 4 tied into Level 1. After all, procreation is survival)

On a rare quiet night, I like to hang out in my cave and carve pictures on the wall of the animals I’ve killed that day. (Level 5).

Image Wikimedia

Thanks Java, that was very revealing. What can we learn from this?

This part is very important so “listen” closely.

For 90 thousand years, better part of our day was spent at Levels 1 and 2. Surviving was a full time job.

Now days, Levels 1 and 2 are all taken care of.

We have plenty to eat (most people in most countries); water comes out of a spigot which is in our large, safe shelters. We live in such an age of abundance that our lives are fully taken care of at Levels 1 and 2. Remember that Levels 1 and 2 were the levels where we spend almost all of our time as 90 percenters.

We no longer have to pursue survival and safety, we are free to engage in higher Levels, but do we?

Let me conclude this post by tying psychological factors affecting our existence with human-dog relationship.

Psychologically, we are unchallenged. Our primal instincts have atrophied. We are lulled into a false sense of security and survival-entitlement. We are not extending ourselves (psychologically) to reach Levels 3,4,5 or the “secret” Level 6 (more on that later).

There are of course biological factors for this. We are evolutionarily predisposed for conservation of energy (mental and physical).

What I am suggesting is that we can override this safety-mechanism that was embedded in our DNA thousands of years ago and extend ourselves beyond the current levels. How? Dogs of course.

But before I get into that, let me stress the following.

Humans of today, have a very peculiar psychological unrest. You feel it, no?

While I’m the first to question most scientific data, especially data of a statistical nature, all research in the levels of happiness points to the fact that people’s happiness is at an all time low. Why?

Because this thing we use to do for thousands of years is missing. Trust me, if you had to worry about survival and safety, so many of the things that bring you stress and seem important would be irrelevant to you.

So what do you do about it? Go live a nomadic life style, hunt and scavenge for food? Build primitive shelters? Hmmm…that’s not a bad idea, we should all be so lucky to be able to fend for ourselves if need be, but that’s not what I’m suggesting. If it’s illogical to go back, lets move forward (or since it’s a hierarchy, let’s move up).

Dog can help us move up this hierarchy, here is how.

At Level 3 of Maslaw’s Hierarchy is need for Social inclusion. Both humans and dogs are social animals. I know people with social anxieties whose sole contact with other humans is when they take their dogs out to the dog park. If dogs can help people like this, imagine what they can do for you? It is almost trait to state that dogs can fill a very real need for companionship. People with pets are shown to live longer, feel better and so on. If you know someone who doesn’t have a dog in their life, get them one for their birthday.

At Level 4 of Maslaw’s Hierarchy is need for mastery. This is the level at which life-long martial artists reside; or anyone who is really good at something; someone who has mastered their craft, whether it’s motorcycling, juggling, dancing, dog training? Of course. Mastering the skills required to become a good dog trainer would certainly move us up a level.

At Level 5 of Maslaw’s Hierarchy is need for Self-Actualization. To borrow army’s slogan “be all you can be” kind of thing. We can enter competitions with our dog (agility, tracking, whatever). Of course, training your canine will require infinite amount of creativity and patience; and more difficult something is the more value it has.

At Level 6 of Maslaw’s Hierarchy is need for Self-Transcendence. (Maslow added this level later in his life). This is the level at which you go beyond yourself and put needs of others (peoples, dogs, places, whatever) before your own. Maybe you decide to teach someone how to achieve what you’ve achieved. We instinctively have respect for teachers, now you know why.

Those who volunteer their time, skills, wisdom and share it with others are engaging in legacy-building. We may not live forever but our impact can be felt forever, so make it good.

Last but not least, the importance of all this is so that we can model our own behavior and “pull-up” other aspects of our life (Fitness, leadership, relationship, spirituality, finances, etc, etc) up the hierarchy. Here are few examples:

If you are a fan of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), you know that collegiate wrestlers do really well in MMA. Why? One of the reasons is because they know what it takes to get good at something, they know how hard they have to work, they’ve done it before and they put their nose to the grind and do it. In other words, they can model their own behavior to move up the hierarchy.

I’ve read somewhere that Donald Trump, in his typical boastful style, has stated that he’s not afraid of risks even if it results in him going broke. He is confident that he can become rich again. Why? He can model his own behavior to replicate results. In other words, he can model his own behavior to move up the hierarchy.


During the first 90 thousand years of human evolution, bulk of our time was spent surviving and ensuring our safety. Now, our society has evolved to the point where survival and safety is built-into the nature of modern existence. What do we do with our time surplus? If we are to maintain our physical and mental health, we must seek to move up the hierarchy. Nothing less then the survival of our species is at stake. No worries, your dog will be your teacher. He is already self-transcendent.


Dino Dogan is a blogger, writer, biker, dog trainer, singer/songwriter, Martial Artist. Dino is now busy with his DIY Blogger Net blog. He is also behind the great social media tool, Triberr. Hopefully one day he'll return to dog blogging. Meanwhile, you can connect with Dino on Twitter or Facebook.

Related articles:
Human-Dog Problem Tree - PART ONE
Human-Dog Problem Tree - PART TWO
Human-Dog Problem Tree - PART THREE
Human-Dog Problem Tree - PART FOUR 
Human-Dog Problem Tree - PART FIVE 
Human-Dog Problem Tree - PART SIX 
Human-Dog Problem Tree - PART SEVEN

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