If humans enjoy anything, it’s a good debate, a controversial idea, or an interesting piece of fiction. We talk about looking at different sides of stories, of hidden meanings, repressed (or not) emotions. It’s a gift and a curse.
When we are trying to understand why an individual does the things they do, it’s often no holds barred. We explore their early lives, even imagined past lives. We consider motivations, intentions, character flaws or strengths. The Psychology Today educated among us will have no shortage of theories.
How do they feel?
Whether or not animals experience emotions in the same ways humans do is another source of continuous debate and research. Even with scientific evidence to support similarities in our nervous systems, we cannot without reservations, claim that what we experience is the same. Similar maybe, and we don’t deny that something is being experienced.
What trainers have to go on are the behaviors we can observe, and their purpose, what they accomplish for the individual. Is that growling dog afraid of me or angry with me? Maybe I can tell based on other body language I can see, but even if I can’t, I’m certain that the growling is not an invitation to come over for a pet or to stick my hand in their food bowl. The behavior is to keep those things from happening. This is one of the functions or purposes of behavior, escape from or avoid something. We can assume whatever that something is, it’s not perceived or felt to be a good thing.
Fill that toolbox
That’s your starting point, it’s not a good thing. If we need it to be, this is when the challenge and fun of training starts. How can we make it less bad, even better, how can we make great? Do not pass go until you have that proverbial toolbox full of possibilities.