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Why do humans hunt for power?

by on 07/3/14


Why do humans hunt for power? 

We are getting ready to board the plane home from the SPARCS conference and as I sit in the airport all I can think about is that the highest value resource at the departure gate is a power outlet.  Watching people searching for an open outlet looks like the eye stalk behavior we see in dogs hunting prey.  The good news is that there doesn't appear to be an escalation into aggressive displays to guard territory; but then again I've only been sitting here for 30 minutes. I can sit back and watch these behaviors unfold before me because my battery is charged.  This means that this resource is of no value to me currently but it does lead me to consider what slight changes in the environment could instantly change the value of the resource for me and for others. What if they had a partial power outage or we only had half the plugs or worse yet only had one or two plugs? What is half of the flights became delayed and people were stuck here for hours and my battery died?

Power outlets may not seem relevant to dog training but looking at what is considered valuable in a given situation is always relevant. The value of anything is inherently contextual.  What's more valuable at the airport? Access to the restroom? Starbucks coffee? Or power outlets? To quote Patricia McConnell, "it depends." Imagine an international airport with a hundred Starbucks and only one restroom. You'd suddenly have a much bigger problem than charging your cell phone. 

As Ray Coppinger discussed, Mexican dump dogs don't fight over food or even mates because those resources are widely dispersed throughout the dump. They guard shade and water because those are the resources that are the most limited and therefore valuable in those conditions.

Whenever we are looking at dog behavior we need to consider what matters to him in that moment and why. 


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