Ask Nancy: How Do We Work with Instinctive Behaviors in Animals?
In the Ask Nancy posts, I answer frequently asked questions about interspecies communication and animal Reiki + energy healing.
Today’s question comes from Sofia, one of my animal communication students, in response to a post about animal communication and working with behavioral conflicts, challenges, and issues:
What if the behavioral issue is actually a very natural one? Wolves will attack a weak, injured individual to protect the pack, a very natural behavior for the species. My dog has attacked my neighbor’s deaf dog twice. When I communicated with her, she showed me that she feels something is “off” with that dog and cannot help herself. Can we do something in such cases?
This is a wonderful question, and one that can apply to many behavioral challenges and “conflicts of interest” with our companion animals.
First, it’s important to remember that an animal’s behavior always makes sense from the animal’s perspective. In cases where the behavior may have a strong instinctive component, as in the example Sofia shares, working with it can be tricky from a human perspective. It’s important to recognize also that each animal is an individual, and so generalizations about the behavior of particular species, or the meaning of particular behaviors, are not always relevant to the particular individual animal.
Many behavior “problems” in companion animals stem from a conflict between an animal’s natural or instinctive species behavior, and the preferences and requirements of cohabitation with human companions and other animals in human homes, neighborhoods, and societies.
Here are some suggestions and some ways that animal communication may be helpful in situations like this.
1. Communicate with the animal to get her perspective on the situation using direct, two-way telepathic communication.
This is the first and most important step in addressing any behavioral issue. Go directly to the animal using two-way telepathic communication, and find out what her perspective is. You can do this yourself, if you are confident in your telepathic communication skills, or get the assistance of a qualified and trained professional animal communicator. Before assuming anything about an animal’s behavior in any situation, go directly to the animal and ask her to show you what is happening from her point of view.
It’s important to go deep, and to fully explore the entire situation with the animal, getting the whole picture of the animal’s perspective on every level (physical, emotional, mental), as well as asking the animal about any other factors that may be influencing the situation (some examples might be: the physical environment, how her body feels, her relationship with her human guardian(s), her perspective about the other dog, etc.)[If you’re new to interspecies communication and would like to learn how to start to understand your animal companions more clearly, check out my free resources, including my free Introduction to Animal Communication Class or my Beginning Animal Communication Class.]
2. Once you’re confident that you understand the animal’s perspective thoroughly, see if there is a willingness to shift the behavior, or if there are things that could be done to alter the situation from the animal’s viewpoint.
Sometimes the answer is “yes”, sometimes it’s “no”, sometimes it’s “maybe”. Sometimes these kinds of situations require negotiation; sometimes solutions will present themselves once a clear understanding of the animal’s perspective has been reached.
Be careful not to impose human perspectives and values on these kinds of negotiations and communications. For example, human ideas about fairness, compromise, or “ownership” often have little relevance for animals. Stay with the animal’s perspective, and work from there.
In cases where the answer is “no”, then common sense guidelines are important. For example, in this particular situation, things like keeping the dogs separated, keeping the dog who is attacking safely away from the other dog, changing routines, using a different kind of leash, etc., are important and necessary steps.
3. Get some help from a qualified trainer or animal behaviorist, and/or an animal communicator who is skilled and trained in conflict resolution and species-specific animal training and behavior.
Sometimes instinctive or “natural” behaviors can be worked with through compassionate, species-appropriate training, behavior modification, or changes in the animal’s environment. (For example, some kinds of instinctive territorial aggression in cats can be managed or solved simply by adding more litter boxes, levels of climbing areas and safe space, etc.)
I train developing animal communicators in learning how to skillfully negotiate and work with these kinds of situations in my Advanced Topics in Animal Communication Class in the Animal Communication Professional Training Program. I also recommend that anyone interested in interspecies behavior and communication become familiar with the training and behavioral resources that are available that can support and work in partnership with direct telepathic communication.
Here are some of my favorite canine and feline training and behavior experts who have excellent resources for working with behavior challenges:
- Suzanne Clothier: Relationship Centered Training (TM) Suzanne Clothier has been working with animals professionally since 1977, with a deep background of experience that includes obedience, agility, puppy testing, breeding, Search and Rescue, conformation, instructing, kennel management and canine midwifery. She is well respected for her holistic Relationship Centered Training™ approach to dogs and the people that love them.
- Patricia McConnell PhD, a Zoologist and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, (CAAB) has made a lifelong commitment to improving the relationship between people and animals. She is known worldwide as an expert on canine and feline behavior and dog training, and for her engaging and knowledgeable dog training books, DVDs and seminars.
- Dr. Sophia Yin Dr. Yin was a veterinarian, animal behaviorist, author, and international expert on Low Stress Handling. She has a lot of YouTube videos, and some wonderful books. There are some excellent resources on her website.
- Linda Tellington Jones/T-Touch The Tellington TTouch is a specialized approach to the care and training of our animal companions. Developed by internationally recognized animal expert, Linda Tellington-Jones, PhD (Hon), this method based on cooperation and respect offers a positive approach to training, can improve performance and health and presents solutions to common behavioral and physical problems. Linda Tellington-Jones has a lot of material for animals of all species on her website; here is her book for dogs: Getting in TTouch with Your Dog: A Gentle Approach to Influencing Behavior, Health, and Performance
- Tufts University Veterinary Behavior Center Canine Behavior Issues Tufts Veterinary Behaviorists are doing some of the most progressive work with behavior in the field. There are many excellent resources on their website and in their publications.
- Jackson Galaxy There are lots of excellent resources and information on his website. I highly recommend all of Jackson Galaxy’s books and videos.
- Tufts University Veterinary Behavior Center: Feline Behavior Issues
- Pam Johnson Bennett: cat behaviorist. I particularly recommend these two books:
- Cat vs Cat: an excellent book on solving issues in multi-cat households
- Starting from Scratch: How to Correct Behavior Problems in Your Adult Cat
- Tellington T-Touch for Cats
This is a vast and complex topic, with a lot of nuance and variation. Start by learning to listen clearly and accurately to your animals, and then go from there with exploring possibilities for working with these kinds of situations. Some situations are workable, and some aren’t. Developing an openness to understanding the perspectives of all beings involved can go a long way toward helping to potentially resolve some difficult behavioral challenges with our companion animals.
If you have a question for the Ask Nancy column, please email it to us with “Ask Nancy Question” in the subject line. Questions may be edited for clarity. (Please note that these posts are for general questions about these topics that will be helpful for a wide number of people. If you have a specific personal or animal situation that you need help with, please schedule a consultation.)