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The Wild Within: Exploring 'Umvelt' and Embracing Our Dog's Wild Heart

UMWELT noun; (in ethology) the world as it is experienced by a particular organism

The concept of umwelt, which was introduced by biologist Jakob von Uexküll, refers to the unique sensory and perceptual experience of an individual organism.

"All that a subject perceives becomes his perceptual world and all that he does, his effector world." - Jakob Von Uexküll

When it comes to dog training, understanding our dog's umwelt can help us to effectively communicate with and train them.

Here are three different ways that the concept of umwelt applies to dog training.

Tailoring our training to each dog's individual experience & motivations.

Just like us, our dogs can have varying personalities and each can experience the world in different ways. Some dogs may be more sensitive to sound or touch, while others may be more visually-oriented. By understanding your dog's umwelt, you can adapt your training methods to their needs.

Gaining a better understanding of how to meet and fulfill our dog's species-specific needs.

Dogs have evolved over thousands of years to live alongside humans, but they still have many innate behaviors and needs that are specific to their species. By understanding your dog's umwelt, you can identify and meet these needs in a way that is most natural and beneficial to your dog.

Setting up realistic expectations for their behavior based on their unique sensory & perceptual experiences.

Instead of getting frustrated when our dogs don't meet our often human-centric & unrealistic expectations, we can focus on training them based on their unique abilities and sensory experiences.

Choosing to embrace our dog's wild nature & contemplate the concept of umwelt helps us to expand our imagination and understanding of what it's like to be a dog and broaden our own experience of the world.

Thinking about the senses of another animal; how vast & diverse the experience of each individual is, we begin to recognize the extraordinary magic of the unfamiliar. There is an entire world of organisms whose experience is beyond anything that can be revealed by our human perception.

When our dogs behave in ways that are different than our own ideas of what is 'normal' or 'right', maybe we can invite it as an opportunity to think more about the world through their senses.

With fascination & curiosity, we can embrace the wild, free & remarkable heart of our dogs.

Recommended Reading:

An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us

Author: Ed Yong


About the Author: Ashley Diaz is a dedicated pet owner and animal lover with over 10 years of experience providing professional pet care. With certifications in applied animal behavior & training, she shares her knowledge and insights on pet ownership, behavior, and training in her blog. Outside of her work with animals, Ashley enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, practicing yoga and playing the piano.


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