A human who is perfectly happy can become miserable when they compare themselves to another human.
Does it happen to dogs? Do they compare themselves to other dogs?
Watching Dogs Swim
I’d love for Honey to enjoy swimming.
But if it’s not her favorite activity, I’d at least like her to swim well and develop some endurance in the water.
If Honey ever goes overboard from the boat, I don’t want her to panic.
Since she was a puppy, we thought she’d pick up swimming from watching other dogs do it.
Nope. It has taken human intervention to get my girl swimming.
But lately, as she has started swimming more, I’ve noticed something. Honey looks more intently at a ball thrown to another dog in the water.
It’s almost as if she’s saying to herself, “I’ve swam out to balls. I wonder if I could get his ball too?”
And I wonder if she compares herself to that swimming dog and wishes she could do it as well.
Watching People With Boats
Boat shopping has caused me to meet more wealthy people than I would normally know.
Boats are an expensive hobby.
And the owners of the sailboats we’ve looked at own houses (in some cases, two houses) in addition to owning sailboats (and in some cases, two or three boats).
I am not rich.
I could never afford to own a house and a boat (unless, maybe, it was a radio controlled model).
For us, selling our house and replacing it with a boat is a cost-saving way to travel and have adventures.
I know that in comparison to most Americans with my education and skills, I’m relatively poor. But I’ve always felt satisfied with my life.
I also know that I have immense wealth compared to most people in the world. I certainly have everything I need and a little bit more.
I turn on a tap to get clean water. I have expensive toys, like computers. I have electricity when I want it.
But rubbing elbows with wealthier people about my age and with similar backgrounds, I feel dissatisfaction creeping in.
Like “wouldn’t it be nice if I could have kept my house to return to someday?” And “gee, I wish I could buy what I’d like for the boat without scrambling or shopping in thrift stores.”
I’m starting to feel like Honey looking out at that ball and wondering if I could swim out to it if I just tried harder.
Dogs And Fair Play
Scientists have done studies that find that when dogs see another dog getting rewarded for a behavior when they are not, they stop doing that behavior.
Apparently, dogs, like humans, recognize when things aren’t fair.
I wonder if this means they are actually capable of comparing themselves to other dogs on a simple level?
Is Honey seeing that dog swimming out to a ball as getting a reward she is not? And will it change her behavior?
In other words, does my dog Honey compare herself to other dogs? Or is that too advanced for a dog brain?
And if she could compare herself to other dogs, is that helpful? Or harmful?
Count Your Blessings
When dogs do feel things like jealousy (and I definitely believe they do), they don’t have higher reasoning to know what to do with it.
But we do.
I don’t go out of my way to feel bad that I can’t set sail from the dock in front of my house like that dude whose boat I was considering buying. Hints of dissatisfaction creep in anyway.
But I’m not a dog. And if I start feeling bad that I’ve worked at low wages for nonprofits my entire life or that my retirement fund couldn’t buy a car much less help me live without working, I need to shift my mental gears.
No, I’m not going to walk out the door and apply for a job at Bank of America. I think it would kill me.
It’s time to hang out with new people. People who are rich without lots of possessions.
And maybe I should be spending a lot more time with my dog than with snooty yachties who have more money than they have sense.
After all, there are worse folks to compare myself to than my happy pup.
Your Turn: Do you think dogs compare themselves to other dogs? Do you compare yourself to other people?