My globe-trotting elder daughter brought me back a German dog journal, which made the transcontinental haul back from SoCal seem to “fly by”–despite a rowdy class of 8th-graders in the cheap seats, two screaming Pre-Ks in front of us, and an in-flight entertainment system on the fritz–as I brushed up my German vocab and translated the HundeTrendMagazin cover-to-cover. My favorite article, with the title as written above [last word in English], summarizes the recent research of Dr. Friederike Range @ the University of Vienna into Inequity Aversion in dogs. [You can read her article, in English, featuring 3 priceless pictures of the “striking” dog, @ http://www.nc.univie.ac.at/cognition-research/animals/dogs/projects. ] Before we get to her findings, she also is co-founder of the Wolf Science Center, whose website is: http://www.wolfscience.at/english/about_us/friederike_range.html. Check out how much “Shima” the Wolf looks like Lili.
So @ the Clever Dog Lab, two dogs who were buddies were seated side-by-side and each asked, “Gib Pfote!” [“Give me a paw!”] Sometimes the reward was a piece of sausage, and other times, a piece of bread. No difference in compliance was noted. Then the black & tan dog was given the bread, but the black & white was not. So, he went on strike: “Nicht mit mir” [“Not with me”] they captioned his averted-gaze body language. Earlier studies with primates had shown that even a distinction in the value of the treat–a cucumber chunk (meh) vs a grape (yum)–was enough to send the slighted monkey into a fury. Not only did he refuse to exchange a pebble for the treat, he threw both the cuke and the pebbles back at the trainer! The dog didn’t appear to get miffed until no treat of any kind was offered to him, while his buddy did get something.
This is a variation on the theme of the Zero-Sum-Game, where the trainer suddenly changes the rules in the middle of proceedings. We go from a day’s pay for a day’s work, to We’re-having-a-party-and-you’re-not-invited. Well, how would you feel? Correction–how have you felt? Who hasn’t been there, done that? They schmize you into believing your school or your job [or Britain’s Got Talent] is a meritocracy, and then they play favorites! All of a sudden, black & white is uncool, and black & tan is all that. In vain, you gave your paw with the same enthusiasm and reliability as your pal. He turns out to be the teacher’s pet! What’s up [your nose] with that?
At the very least, humiliation, innit? Probably also intrusion. The powers-that-be have taken away your rightful piece of bread and given it to old used-to-be-your-pal, Black & Tan, who looks set to scoff the whole loaf…which, if true, could lead to hunger [pain & suffering], or worse [fear]–starvation! So what do you do? If you’re a dog, you avert your gaze and keep all paws planted firmly on the ground. How tame! [Especially compared to the miffed monkey.] This is the canine version of a sit-down strike–a form of passive resistance [when Gandhi did it] or passive aggression [when a disgruntled employee does it].
The very phrase “disgruntled employee” conjures up images of humans who have decided to “Go Postal” and take revenge–not only on the invidious “(bread)-winner”–but on everyone within their line of sight. Dogs, it seems, are more Stoic than that. They simply refuse to perform tricks anymore for The Man.