Some of you might have read the wonderful story of „The Little Prince“, who lives on a small planet which had only three tiny volcanoes and a rose which told him that it was unique in the whole universe. As the prince began traveling and visited various planets in space to learn about the truth of loneliness, friendship, love, and loss, he encounters on one planet a whole row of rosebushes and felt immediately sad, thinking that his rose had lied to him about being unique. He lay down on the grass and wept until a fox came along.
“Good morning,” said the fox.
“Good morning,” the little prince responded politely, although when he turned
around he saw nothing.
“I am right here,” the voice said, “under the apple tree.”
“Who are you?” asked the little prince, and added, “You are very pretty to look
“I am a fox,” said the fox.
“Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince. “I am so unhappy.”
“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”
“Ah! Please excuse me,” said the little prince.
But, after some thought, he added:
“What does that mean– ‘tame’?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”
“‘To establish ties’?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…”
“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince. “There is a flower… I think that she has tamed me…”
“My life is very monotonous,” the fox said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow.
The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.
“Please– tame me!” he said.
“I want to, very much,” the little prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”
“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me…”
“What must I do, to tame you?” asked the little prince.
“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me– like that– in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day…”
The Little Prince came back to sit with the fox every day until they had established a strong tie and grown a deep understanding of each other and they both became very happy.
“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.“
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
As an integral dog trainer, I was struck by the wisdom contained within Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince”. The fox’s words, “To establish ties” spoke to the very heart of what I strive to achieve with the dogs I train. It is not simply a matter of teaching commands or tricks, but of building a true connection based on trust and mutual understanding.
To tame a dog is not to break its spirit or force it into submission, but to patiently and gently guide it towards a harmonious relationship with its human companion. Words, the fox reminds us, can be a source of misunderstandings. It is through non-verbal communication, through shared experiences and consistent positive reinforcement, that we can establish a bond with our dogs that goes beyond mere obedience.
The fox’s desire for something more in life, for a deeper connection that goes beyond the monotony of the everyday, is something that I witness in my own canine companions. It is my goal as an integral dog trainer to provide them with the stimulation and enrichment they need to thrive, not just to exist. Every training session has to be a super fun, exciting and fulfilling activity for the dogs. To see their eyes light up with joy as they learn a new skill or explore a new environment is a reward beyond measure.
But the fox’s words also serve as a warning. As integral dog trainers, we must never forget the responsibility that comes with taming a dog. We are forever tied to them, responsible for their well-being and happiness. We cannot simply buy our way into a relationship with our dogs, but must put in the time and effort to truly understand them and meet their needs. Patience and consistency are the two keywords for every successful training. Always look at the bigger picture and give your dogs all the time they need to reach a deeper level of understanding in training.
In the end, it is the establishment of ties, the building of a relationship based on trust and mutual understanding, that sets integral dog training apart from other methods. It is a holistic approach that recognizes the unique personality and needs of each individual dog, and seeks to build a bond that will last a lifetime. For me, the wisdom contained within “The Little Prince” serves as a constant reminder of the importance of this approach, and inspires me in my daily work as an integral dog trainer with the most amazing beings on this planet.