Understanding Behavior in People & Pets
It can be interesting to exist as a human in a world of fellow animals. This is particularly true when you spend your days in the company of the two and four-legged variety, as I do. While it can be easy to acknowledge our many differences, I consistently find myself astonished by our similarities. Yes, humans have
developed advanced languages, a world of arts and sciences, intricate societal systems, and yet, for all our evolution, we often lack an ability to recognize our most primitive instincts; those we have no trouble identifying in our four-legged friends.
I’ll begin with an example that often comes to my attention: the dog that won’t allow his food, bones or toys to be taken away, or who protects his person from being approached. This is often accompanied by the owner who attempts to grab something from the dog and then finds themselves being growled or snapped at; perhaps even bitten. This behavior is categorized as resource guarding and it is often viewed as a problem in pets. It should also be noted that while you won’t find most people biting one another over issues of territory, you will find examples of resource guarding throughout daily human life. You won’t have to search very hard to find a friend who locks the doors to their car and home to keep their family safe. Or perhaps you have a neighbor who keeps a baseball bat in their bedroom in case of an intruder. This day and age just about every person stows their money away in a safe or a bank to keep funds secure. And who among us hasn’t smacked the greedy hand of a mooching friend away from their plate of French fries. Every human being has resources that they would guard, some with their life, to protect. To your dog, their food or their person is their life; their survival is dependent on it, and sometimes they guard it as such.
This is not to say that we should minimize the potential severity of a pet that displays challenging behaviors, but it is a reminder that we all have our flaws and fears, and they aren’t always so different from our companion animals. Whether it be fears, sociability issues, or day to day practices, humans share a myriad of traits with our feline and canine friends. These days, when I see an animal that has been labeled with “behavior problems,” I remind myself that sometimes we are simply scared and need to feel safe and loved before we can let our guard down. And sometimes pets, like people, are just a work in progress.