Animals|Life Lessons|Relationship|Ideas

Love Animals? Watch and Learn

Bonnie Kreitler
3 min readFeb 25, 2021

Observing animal behavior can offer clues to improving interactions with fellow humans.

Photo by author

I’ve been addicted to animals since I could crawl.

I had an aunt who was addicted to books. Every Christmas she gave books to her nieces and nephews to encourage us to become fellow addicts. She sure got me hooked. Now I write about them.

One year she gave me and my sisters a copy of Aesop’s Fables, a classic collection of animal tales, dating back to around 600 BCE Greece. Each story illustrated a short life lesson taught by an ant and a grasshopper, a lion and a mouse, or a donkey, a dog, a horse…you get the picture.

This was an awesome gift for someone addicted to both animals and books! I read and reread and reread the Fables and still have our dog-eared, well-thumbed copy.

Aesop was a fabulous storyteller in the oral tradition who harnessed the power of the parable. He used stories about animals to illustrate little life lessons to people. He told the story of the grasshopper and the ant to encourage people to plan for the future. The lion and the mouse taught that every act of kindness, however small, is always significant. Et cetera.

Photo by author

Aesop was on to something. The more I hang out with animals, the more I study how animals interact with one another, the more I realize how their perspectives on relationships offer humans a lot to ponder about our own species.

Notice how meetups between two dogs go well when both approach slowly using polite canine body language but can result in growling or fights when one just barges headfirst into the other’s space.

Next time you’re near a flock of geese or gulls on the ground, don’t rush at them. Try herding them slowly in a particular direction. Notice how your approach angle and speed can push them away or even draw them back toward you a bit. Did you move the birds slowly, briskly, or send them abruptly into the air?

Are you aware of the multiple ways you unconsciously interact with animals as you approach them? For starters, they notice whether you are staring at them, approaching with soft eyes, or paying no attention to them at all.

Should they stick around or hit the road? To make a decision, they calculate the speed of your approach, the tone of your voice, breathing, your breathing pattern, your muscle tension, even things like how you smell and what is obscured by that baseball cap or hoodie. Should they worry?

Do these animal interactions offer suggestions on ways you might interact with the mix of folks in your work team or on that committee you volunteered for? What do your body language and vocal tones and other cues convey when you’re in a group?

On a trip to Ireland, we enjoyed an amazing demonstration of interspecies interaction by Brendan Ferris and his Border Collies at the Kells Sheep Centre. The dogs were keenly aware of Brendan's posture and gestures as he worked them from a distance with barely audible whispers and whistles. The sheep were keenly aware of the dogs, of when to move, in what direction, and when it was OK to stand and wait.

I recently found this video of Brendan and his dogs posted online and got to relive the experience.

Have a look. Enjoy the rapport. Pay a little closer attention to your own critters and you might learn some interesting things.

© Bonnie Kreitler 2021. All rights reserved.

Writer Bonnie Kreitler creates content to help fellow animal addicts build rewarding relationships with the critters in their lives. See more at



Bonnie Kreitler

Author, journalist, animal addict, observer, and explorer creating connections between our critter relationships and life lessons at