Dogs and What we should do about Values and Instincts

I have two bitch Jack Russells . We got the younger one a few months after the first to keep her company. The problem was that at some forgotten point in time they started fighting.

Now these weren’t your normal, run-of-the-mill playful dog fights. These were fights that would result in the death of one or both without our intervention.

As a result of this we keep one in a cage at all times. Not the same one; we switch them every walk.

The problem dog is Jesse (the older one). It takes two to tango though and the fights would start whenever Elsa would make a bid for dominance.

Neither of them have been spayed so that aggravates the problem somewhat.

But why this behaviour?

They act in this way towards one another based upon pack instincts.

They didn’t choose to have these instincts but these instincts almost totally determine their behaviour and in such a way that it causes them suffering.

Humans are no different really.

The only thing that makes us different is that we have a highly developed and sophisticated means of self-reflection and self-analysis via a sophisticated language capacity.

We can review our behaviour and interrogate it:

“Why did I do such and such?”

Imagine that my dogs had this capacity.

Jesse could reflect on why we keep her on the leash while we let Elsa off the leash and see that it’s because Elsa never attacks other dogs whereas Jesse attacks other dogs without warning.

She could see that the reason why she is caged up half her life is because when she is let out of the cage with Elsa they fight.

If she were especially perspicacious she may even realize that the reason she feels this drive to attack other dogs and fight Elsa comes from a set of instincts that are no longer necessary to her domestic situation.

Namely those of a pack of wolves.

There is a surplus of food and no matter who is top bitch neither of them are going to breed with my dad.

It is this ability – the ability to communicate to others and ourselves on such a highly sophisticated level – that distinguishes us from animals.

Instead of instincts we have values that we sucked from the teats of our mothers.

We also have instincts and I’m sure animals have socialization as well.

What do we do with this gift of a highly sophisticated means of self-interrogation and the ability to interrogate our values and instincts that were shoved down our throats before we could even speak?

Do we interrogate these values and instincts that so determine our behaviour and happiness?

Do we ask them: “Are you necessary?” and “Do you cause me suffering?”


Instead we use this highly sophisticated capacity in the main to defend these values and instincts without ever really understanding them.

We have this wonderful capacity to sift through our values and instincts and practices to get rid of that which no longer serves us; but instead of using it to better our lives we allow ourselves to be hijacked, to be hacked by values and instincts that were forced into us before we even had the capacity to understand what was going on!


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