Canine metaphors for human behavior

Domestic dogs are amazing creatures and companions. Some even like to watch TV. And just like humans, they can be loyal and gentle when part of your pack, but to outsiders, they can be aggressive, hostile and most anti-social. Humans however, can rise above such tendencies as mature, open minded and intelligent beings, if they choose!

When humans become mindless, when their emotional brain is engaged under duress or when threatened, it can be that their behavioural responses become more animal like or primal. It is in this context that the metaphor of canine behaviour is referenced, as per below. These metaphors used here are instructive only and not meant to be disrespectful, to humans or dogs. Instead, it aims to illustrate that if you treat a dog badly, it will consistently react in terms of flight / fight (and freeze) responses, just as an angry or frightened human will also.

The primary ‘moral’ of the story is don’t treat dogs badly in the first instance, and we will not nurture or activate their worst instincts.  Ditto humans, both in childhood, but throughout their adult lives also.

The angry dog. Anxious, fearful, in survival mode. Beware the angry dog, it will do more than just bare its teeth! Human: may have had a cruel or abusive up-bringing. Blames others and intends to avoid abuse and cruelty in the future by attacking first!

The wounded dog. It is in pain and conscious of protecting itself from further discomfort. It will be snappy and potentially dangerous to those it fears may hurt it further. Human: can be physical pain but emotional pain just as significant. May have been abandoned, rejected or feeling alienated. Self-pity, well defended, grumpy.

The hungry dog. Desperate to get fed and nurtured. May accept abuse in exchange for food and shelter. Human: vulnerable person dependent on others and less self-reliant or balanced. Often abused, exploited and with consequential low self-worth.

The pack dog. Top dog (aggressive, ego); underdog (passive, submissive, avoidant); other. Human: ego needs including safety, control, power, emotional regulation etc, may dictate how an individual behaves in groups.

The tired dog. Sleeps well when it is safe but fractious when it is not. Human – decision making, memory (cortical activity) compromised, heightened probability of outburst or erratic behaviour when tired.

The cautious dog. Preceding fight / flight behaviour. Confident but not stupid. Human – mindful, seeking social cues before becoming alarmed. Willing to be cooperative once there is evidence that it is safe to be so.

The working dog. Loves what it does. Its work is its own reward. Also releases pent up energy. Human – has purpose, feels they belong, gain satisfaction from achievement and working in teams with others.

The safe dog. Can be taught new tricks, will be attentive, loyal, predictable, and tolerant. Human – can build, maintain and sustain enduring and harmonious long-term relationships.

The loved dog. As above. When loved, the dog is then safe. Human – Dogs (at least the domestic variety) share this human desire, to be loved, included, and valued.  All is well when you are safe and loved.

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