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Giving Dogs Psychedelics: Practices in Indigenous Tribes

Giving Dogs Psychedelics: Practices in Indigenous Tribes
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Giving psychedelics to dogs is an ancient tradition amongst some indigenous tribes. Although this practice exists worldwide, quantifiable research – the little that does exist – focuses on tribes of Peru, Ecuador, and Columbia. They believe, in any case, that psychedelics improve a dog’s ability to hunt, and protect the tribe from wild animals and evil spirits. If that is the case, what could that mean for our dogs in the West?

Dogs as Sacred

In the Amazon, indigenous tribes do not see their dogs as pets but as sacred beings. They do not put their dogs on a leash, or feed them, like we do in the West. Rather, dogs are self-reliant and play a crucial role in the survival of the tribe. Dogs are hunting companions, and protection from jaguars. And many tribes hold their dogs as divine, or at least, divinely inspired. The Schuar tribe, for example, believe that dogs are blessings from the Earth Mother, Nunkui. Another Amazonian tribe, the Quicha, believe that dogs have souls, and are gifts from forest spirits to ward off “the evil eye.” 

This relationship to animals harkens back to a time lost amongst us modern cultures in the West. Taking the motifs present on cave paintings, for example, our ancestors believed in the divinity of the animal. Even the act of hunting was a sacred exchange between the visible and invisible worlds. The animal sacrificed itself for the sustenance of the tribe. Thus, human beings treated animals with the utmost respect and gratitude through the ritual itself.

In this case, dogs are hunters. Thy are instrumental in providing nourishment for the community. Furthermore, dogs so sacred for these groups that they give them psychedelics. They aide human beings in their survival. Their ability to sense, hunt, and protect means the difference between life or death. For these purposes, psychedelics are used to train the dogs. But like many acts in indigenous cultures, a ritual often accompanies training, such as special bathing. This act strengthens the bond between owner and dog, and prepares the dog for their training, which may occur in the presence of the elders.

Why Give Dogs Psychedelics?

Little it known about the practice, but it dates back centuries. Some tribes brew a special blends of plants, like ayahuasca, especially for their dogs. Others apply plants such as tobacco and ginger to the eyes, believing this combination to improve night vision, which in turn makes the dogs better hunters. In the Schuar tribe, they smear a particular plant on the dogs’ noses to enhance their sense of smell.

For these tribes– plants, dogs, human beings–nature is sacred and exists in a symbiotic relationship with all of its parts. But plant use is so common that they are just a part of life. Camomile – for example – is technically a psychoactive plant because it has calming effects. In the West, we do not see that as a drug. One could say that the different plants at their disposal serve different functions, but none of them are “drugs.” Their use is natural and beneficial. Thus, it makes perfect sense that these plants would be used on their dogs as well. 

The Dogs Might Not Be Tripping

Yes, the dogs may not be tripping at all. The doses given to dogs are relatively small. But then, there is such little research on this practice, that we really don’t know. Possibly, dogs could experience the same psychedelic effects as humans – heightened senses and focus, time distortion, and who knows, introspection? Whatever happens to the dogs, the plants may very well provide tools with which to strengthen their skills overall. It’s hard to back that up because research doesn’t exist. Given the fact that tribes have continued this practice for thousands of years – something must be working or else, why would they do it? 

A study published in 2015 attempted to lay a foundation for future research.  Researcher stumbled upon this practice without intending to, and it surprised them. Furthermore, they didn’t realize how common it was. Quickly, they put together a report that gathered 22 species that the Schuar and Quicha use on their dogs, as well as 42 plant spices administered to dogs around the world. What we lack is a comprehensive study that analyzes how psychedelics improve a dog’s skills.

What Could This Mean For Our Dogs?

If psychedelics do in fact improve dog’s senses, whether that be sight, smell or feeling, then they could serve a purpose in the West. Dogs do play an important role in our society as well. They are used in police enforcement, search and rescue, bomb and drug detection, and as service animals. And, apparently, dogs and animals play a vital role in the study of crop circles. Nevertheless, some argue that putting some effort into studying this practice might prove to be beneficial for our dogs. But for now, we don’t know.

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