In fiction, wild animals rarely act the way that they do in real life. Those hilarious Plucky Comic Relief chimpanzees and their hilarious antics? Never once do they get violent, no matter what (they may get mad for the hero's benefit, though). When animals do get mad, they're usually easily calmed down if just given whatever MacGuffin is necessary. Is a bear rampaging through town? Just give it some honey and everything will be OK. Being a Friend to All Living Things can help, but surprisingly often it seems like nearly anyone can calm down a wild animal.
Part of the cause of this is simply that animal sidekicks are really adorable (and loyal wild animal companions are cool in themselves), but most of the more interesting ones are not of domesticated species, and the only rational way for the hero to get one is from the wild. Taming an adult animal is far more trouble than it's worth. Even taming a baby one never does much for softening its wild instincts. (Incidentally, no reptiles are truly domesticated; they adjust to captivity well given the right temperatures and food, but that's pretty much it.)
Another strong factor is the huge number of YouTube videos available showing "wild" foxes (red, white, and yellow), other canines (coyotes, dingos, hybrids of all types), and smaller cats (up to lynx size, though you do find the occasional cougar) living in apparent domestic tranquility. There are also an increasingly large number of wildlife sanctuaries where you can go along and 'pet a wolf'. Again, most people tend to miss that these animals only behave like pets around people they know, usually have their own 'play/sleep room' (that they trash), and are extremely difficult/expensive to look after. The domestication is usually only partial and not hereditary, and you're only seeing the successful cases. That ambassador wolf who shoves his head into your lap and rolls over begging for you to pet his tummy? Almost certainly 50% of the animals at such places would simply run away if given the chance, and 90% of the rest will eventually bite you. The keepers picked this one for a reason.
Unfortunately, there are a depressing number of people who think this is Truth in Television and are apparently under the impression that nature is just a bigger version of Disneyland. This usually does not end well...
Note that "domesticated" means "genetically altered to meet human needs", not "tamed". Until very recently, this meant intentional or unintentional selective breeding. A feral housecat is domesticated, but a trained bear is not. Also, there are some animal species that can be somewhat successfully tamed or trained if not entirely domesticated, usually due to a combination of small size (meaning even if they do act out they generally aren't threatening to teen or adult human life), intelligence (meaning training can be successful), and/or partial breeding for those traits and friendliness to humans. Some good examples would be most small rodents (field or house mice, also including wild rats/prairie dogs/gophers/tree squirrels if raised from birth by humans and trained, though their natural instincts to dig and hoard need to be accounted for), skunks (if deodorized + spayed/neutered + vaccinated against rabies and having been raised with humans from birth), and some small monkeys (in their case, if raised properly alongside humans, which means no fear-based training, raising/training much as one would a human baby/toddler), with the one larger example being some wolf-hybrid dogs (those that have docility and intelligence bred as traits). Of course, most of these, with the exception of small rodents like mice, require specialized training for their trainers/owners as well in how to train and care for them, so you can't just go and pet a wild skunk or let your female dog mate with a wolf at random or bring that monkey stealing oranges from the fruit stand into your home, either.
All in all the sad truth is that only a very small minority of the millions of species in the world have the combination of traits necessary for true domestication, and only a few of those actually have been fully domesticated.
Compare All Animals Are Dogs, which is about non-canine animals exhibiting doggy mannerisms. Also see Domesticated Dinosaurs for what happens when this trope is combined with Everything's Better with Dinosaurs. Contrast Everything Trying to Kill You.
- The Pokémon anime plays it straight most of the time but also averts it a lot, especially for particularly powerful or tempermental species (Gyarados is a common offender, as are species like Ursaring, Metagross, Crawdaunt, or Charizard), which are said to take a great level of skill to successfully train and will act feral if the Trainer isn't up to it. Especially holds true for Olympus Mons. You'll never see Mewtwo, Lugia, Rayquaza, Arceus, or Zekrom even remotely act domesticated. However, the end of the Sinnoh arc introduced a one-shot character named Tobias, who somehow managed to tame a Darkrai and Latios and won the Sinnoh League with them.
- In Wolf's Rain, this trope is tragically proven false with Toboe. Despite being the meekest wolf, he accidentally killed the kind old lady who took him in and tried to raise him as a pet. It is violently fought by other characters in the series.
- Azumanga Daioh:
- As an inversion, a Running Gag has Sakaki try to pet a feral cat and inevitably get bitten. It's actually a little surprising she's ever able to get that close in the first place, since feral cats usually run away whenever humans make any concerted movement toward them. Later in the series, it's revealed that the cat Sakaki keeps trying to pet is a dominant tom over a colony of around a dozen other feral cats, and thus is not only unafraid of humans, but capable of fighting them in a surprisingly effective way.note This actually happens to Sakaki in a later episode, where she is cornered by the tom and his fellow cats in an alley and ends up pretty badly scratched.
- The series also uses this trope when Sakaki meets an Iriomote kitten, a highly-endangered exotic species, while visiting Okinawa. In spite of him being a wild, meat-eating beast, Sakaki can pet and hold him, and he even attempts to follow her home when she leaves. A few episodes later, the cat actually shows up to drive away the gang of feral cats that's cornered Sakaki; she ends up keeping him and naming him Mayaa, after the Okinawan word for the species. This creates the humorous irony that Mayaa behaves like an ordinary housecat towards Sakaki, while suburban housecats behave more like wild animals towards her; an example and an inversion of this trope at the same time. The explanation behind Mayaa's behavior is that, while Sakaki's intimidating appearance causes feral cats to become afraid of her, Mayaa instead sees those aspects as reminiscent of his mother, who was killed in a car accident.
- The manga Wild Cats (not to be confused with WildC.A.T.s) features a tame lion named Caesar (incidentally, a female) as the protagonist. The little boy who adopted her as a cub believed she was just a large house cat, and kept her even after learning the truth. Caesar grows up to be cowardly, shy, and is somewhere between a cat and a dog in her behavior.
- Subverted by Byakuen of Ronin Warriors. At first, he looks like a tamed tiger following Ryo around, but upon closer inspection, his brown eyes hint at his true nature as a re-incarnated human. Future behavior points to him being a priest like Kaosu and Shiten.
- Terry Cloth of Toriko belongs to a species of giant wolves so fierce they are counted among the most powerful creatures in one of the few worlds in fiction with creatures powerful enough to rival Dragon Ball Z characters. Despite this, she's tame and not dangerous unless you give her a reason to be.
- Ito from Punch Line keeps a bear cub that acts somewhere between a cat and a dog.
- Mark Trail, which purports to educate readers about nature and responsible respect for wildlife, regularly features characters who keep raccoons, deer, even bears for pets. However, it makes it clear that the specific pet animals shown have been domesticated, often having plotlines where the tame bear or deer gets lost in the woods and is completely clueless about how to fend for itself.
- Averted in Calvin and Hobbes in which Calvin frequently warns others of Hobbes' ferocity; but played straight with Mr. Bun.
- In Their Bond, Zelda takes in an orphaned half-dog, half-Wolfo pup that she finds injured in the forest and names him "Garo". It's mentioned that some pure Wolfo act like domestic dogs already, so a mutt will likely be tame enough to keep (especially since he didn't show aggression when Zelda took him home).
- In Aladdin, Jasmine has a pet tiger named Rajah. Not only does Rajah only tear people's clothes to see Goofy Print Underwear instead of tear them apart, but the sultan can scream at Rajah without any sort of worry. Rajah also acts more like a guard dog than a domesticated cat, growling at Aladdin when he gets too close to Jasmine the first time.
- Pocahontas: Playing with a mother bear's cubs right in front of her? That's a brilliant idea!
- The film How to Train Your Dragon (as well as the spin-off series Dragons: Riders of Berk) is a subversion of this. While the dragons can be trained/tamed, they are not domesticated and wild dragons are considered extremely dangerous. It actually takes Hiccup several days just to earn Toothless's trust before he could approach the dragon, much less ride him. This is helped by the fact that it seems like dragons - particularly Toothless - are smarter than real-life non-human animals, making it less of a domestication and more of a partnership.
- Balto is a stray wolf-dog hybrid with little socialization from with either humans or dogs yet he acts perfectly tame. First generation wolfdogs are notoriously unpredictable and can be aggressive, likewise with feral dogs. Balto's feral wolfdog nature makes people's distrust of him less like Fantastic Racism and more legit sounding. The real Balto was a trained Husky (or possibly a Malamute).
- Open Season has a grizzly bear named Boog who lives in a forest ranger's garage, has his own pet bed and favorite toy, and gets fishy crackers as treats. She even sings him to sleep.
- Help! has a zoo tiger that is theoretically man-eating — unless everyone sings Beethoven's Ode to Joy in German. Everyone does, and it never lays a paw on Ringo.
- Pirates of the Caribbean features a monkey who runs around and helps... usually Barbossa, but he's a bit of a mercenary. As the commentators of the DVDs are quick to tell you, that monkey was not nearly so helpful, friendly, fun, or cute for the filming process and we are seeing only the best bits.
- A similar tale is told of dealing with the monkey in Raiders of the Lost Ark, which took a violent dislike to the actor playing its best buddy in the movie.
- Subverted in Bringing Up Baby. Baby the leopard is fairly docile most of the time, but most of the cast is well aware that he is still a large and potentially dangerous animal that could do some damage if unhappy. Played straight when everyone mistakes a temperamental and vicious circus leopard for the tame Baby.
- The documentary Grizzly Man averts this trope: Cloudcuckoolander Timothy Treadwell spends thirteen summers hanging out with grizzly bears, respectfully admiring the bears from afar. It was only after spending season after season around the same pair that he was able to get closer and closer to them, to where they were comfortable with him cuddling with them. He'd probably have been lauded as a semi-deluded but amazing documentarian, but after one season he missed a plane out of Alaska and decided to go back to the woods. He encountered another set of bears, one he'd never seen before, but assumed he would be just as "in touch" with them as the pair he'd known for near a decade.
- Both used and inverted in Secondhand Lions. The protagonist's rich uncles buy a retired circus lion to hunt, but when they see how old and pathetic it is, they let the kid keep it as a pet. He feeds her through her crate and is afraid when she escapes. After that she just moves into the cornfield and the kid continues to feed her. He's never shown petting the lion or otherwise interacting directly with her, she's treated fairly realistically as an animal that needs a lot of space and can't be fully tamed. The lion's only other action in the movie is to attack someone threatening the boy, and apparently die of a heart attack during the excitement.
- Cry Wilderness plays this maddeningly straight, with pretty much every animal featured acting domesticated towards the protagonists. Naturally, when the film was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, the riffers got a lot of mileage out of mocking this (or just encouraging the animals to maul the characters).
- Many of the misguided exotic-animal owners on Animal Planet's Fatal Attractions are Truth in Television examples of how mistaking this trope for reality can get you killed or maimed. Unfortunately, the show ruins the reputation for people that actually can deal with such animals as pets, to the point the movement to ban all exotic pets - even genuinely safe ones like boa constrictors or domesticated ferrets - has gone way too far.
- One episode of Endgame revolved around a man who keeps a polar bear as a pet. When the bear was just a cub everything was fine but the bear grew up and now is becoming a major problem. The bear is getting too big to be kept in the garage and the owner has gone broke trying to feed it. The protagonists ultimately manage to keep everyone safe and have the bear transferred to wildlife refuge in the Arctic. At the end the owner still does not fully understand how stupid and unintentionally cruel he was.
- The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries notably averts this in "Mystery of Witches Hollow", where a trained panther is guarding a missing man (Callie Shaw's uncle) that the Hardys are trying to find. A very nervous Joe Hardy tries to trap it (the cat snarling, attacking, and decidedly NOT cooperating) by working a broom under its collar, but only succeeds in making it angry and attacking until the uncle distracts the hungry panther with a piece of meat — also warns both Frank & Joe to keep away and that it's not a house pet. Joe (i.e. the actor Shaun Cassidy) looks far too relieved when he finally succeeds — Enforced Method Acting, perhaps?
- Isaac Asimov's Foundation and Earth: When the main characters visit a planet whose human inhabitants have been gone for centuries, the feral dogs take them by surprise. Trevize then spends half a chapter (sitting in a tree, naturally) reflecting upon how there are no dangerous fauna (or flora, it seems) after twenty thousand years of humans domesticating the galaxy.
- A nasty subversion occurs in Oryx and Crake with the wolvogs, which are genetically engineered guard dogs. They look like dogs and act like dogs, even wagging their tails and playing like housepets, but if you get near them, they'll rip your throat out in a heartbeat. It's worth noting that this behavior was not just the result of cranking up the aggression on a normal dog while leaving everything else intact. They were explicitly designed and trained to act cute and cuddly until they were within striking range, as a means of lulling would-be (soon-to-be-ex)trespassers into a false sense of security. The world of Oryx and Crake is not a nice one at all.
- Ayla in Jean Auel's Earth's Children saga has, as one of her many, many awesome abilities, managed to tame not only a wild horse but a cave lion, a pet wolf and by the end of the series the horse's two foals.
- Marc in The Sky People rescues a greatwolf pup early on and trains him. A couple of characters point out how dangerous that should be, but otherwise the trope is played straight: Right from the get-go Tahyo behaves like a normal, very loyal dog (albeit a very large one.) He even behaves well around small children.
- A Game of Thrones (and the TV series) has each of the Stark children given a dire wolf pup because it's the symbol of their house. Most of them turn out all right, but Shaggydog, four-year-old Rickon's dire wolf, winds up semi-feral — not unlike his owner, who grows increasingly wild from lack of parental supervision.
- In Harry Potter, Hagrid believes this trope is true, though it's averted. This is Played for Laughs as Hagrid attempts to take care of several species of magical wild animals. He usually names them something ridiculous (like Fluffy the three-headed dog) and incurs many, many injuries for his trouble. It actually makes him bad at his teaching job, since he forgets normal children can't shrug off injury like he can. In the third book Draco ignores even the precautions Hagrid tells him to take when meeting a hippogriff and gets injured for his trouble.
- Defied in Life of Pi. Pi and his brother live at a zoo, so their father makes damned sure the kids know that the animals are dangerous and are not their playmates. He does this by not feeding a tiger for three days, then making them watch as he feeds it a live goat, then going around to every animal in the zoo and explaining in graphic detail how they can maim and kill you. Pi takes this knowledge to heart, and it's a big reason why he's able to survive for so long on a lifeboat with said tiger.
- Zigzagged in Warrior Cats. The characters are all domesticated cats however they live in feral colonies called "Clans". Clan cats live in a forest near twolegs (humans) but try their best to avoid contact with them. Very few clan cats are ex-pets due to Fantastic Racism against "kittypets". Despite the fact most are completely feral, a few have been taken in by twolegs as adults and become kittypets. Feral cats are only considered adoptable if they're kittens; adults are too skittish and aggressive to make good pets. Some instances have ended up more realistically though. For example, Graystripe was temporarily taken in by twolegs however he didn't make a good kittypet. He was wary of his twolegs and shredded his toys. Cloudtail was raised in the forest from 1-month and when he was "kidnapped" by humans he ran off the first chance he got.
- In The Space Trilogy, all the animal inhabitants of Perelandra regard the first human-like life-forms to evolve on Perelandra as trusted masters whom they are proud to serve, and, by extension, treat Earth-human visitors the same way - which is bad news for them if some of the visitors are sadists who enjoy torturing small animals. Justified in that Perelandra is an unfallen, Eden-like world whose natives enjoy the same status that Adam and Eve did before the Fall, and that complex life seems to have evolved here without the need for predation, so none of the animals have aggressive instincts. Most of the animals that spend most time interacting with Perelandrans are highly intelligent, and towards the end of the book, the Perelandrans are hoping to uplift some species to sapience. Although at the start, the Perelandrans assume that any intelligent life-form that evolved since the time of Jesus will be human in form, it seems quite possible that Perelandra will end up similar to Narnia, as a society of numerous intelligent species traditionally ruled by a human king (except that in this case, this will mean a Human Alien rather than an Earth-Human).
- In the James Patterson novel that inspired the Zoo television series, the protagonist keeps a chimpanzee in his New York apartment. The fact that it goes berserk and kills its baby-sitter in the protagonist's absence is treated as solely a result of the global animal-attack phenomenon, and not a tragically-predictable consequence of keeping a notoriously-unmanageable primate twice as strong as a human in the confines of a small flat.
- Bella makes this mistake in A Dog's Way Home. She's a dog and thinks other animals think like dogs as well. While traveling in the mountains, she adopts an orphaned cougar cub she dubs "Big Kitten". Bella herself was raised by a feral cat, so she understands how cats (at least, domestic cats) work. For much of the book Bella fantasizes about herself and Big Kitten living with her owners, but in the end she realizes Big Kitten refuses to leave the forest. Big Kitten isn't like her, or even Mother Cat, so the two end up parting ways.
- A Lion in the Meadow: The lion eventually becomes a "house lion" in the revised ending. Justified in that he's a Vegetarian Carnivore and can talk.
- In BIONICLE, the Barraki have efficiently managed to tame squid, insects, eels, giant crabs, giant turtles, rays, and sharks into armies that they can lead into battle. Some of this could be considered justified considering at least half of their armies are biomechanical lifeforms with both some kind of understandable programming language and an existing social structure. Pridak is specifically stated to have asserted himself as the alpha shark.
- Heavily used, somewhat zigzagged, and probably justified in Pokémon.
- Every single one of these superpowered magical beasts, based on everything from pot plants to jellyfish to dinosaurs and dragons, can be relatively easily captured, instantly tamed and may well come to act like a family pet. And why yes, this does mean you can have various kinds of giant monsters acting like a friendly dog.
- Don't mess with a wild one, though. Wild versions of even the common Bidoof and Starly are apparently so dangerous that travel between towns is considered extremely reckless without a Pokémon for your protection.
- Slight aversion: Traded Pokémon (that is, tamed by a different human) at high levels may ignore your authority and act independently until you prove your "dominance"... with gym badges.
- The games also avert it in that captured Pokémon start with low affection. You're not instantly friends with them, just their trainers. You need to gain their trust though The Power of Friendship, and even then your trustworthy Pokémon can ignore you if they don't see you as worthy of being obeyed (i.e. you're not their original trainer and you don't have the right badges).
- World of Warcraft plays this straight with the Hunter class and their "Tame" ability. Granted, some animals can't be tamed no matter what, and there's always a risk of being killed by a prospective pet, but once that's over with, you've got yourself a faithful companion be it a wild lion or ravenous hyena... or a giant devilsaur.
- In some of the "classic" Crash Bandicoot games you can befriend and ride a (baby) tiger or dinosaur.
- Defied in The Last of Us, when Ellie excitedly points out some dogs in an abandoned suburb, Joel warns her that those are wild dogs and she needs to keep her distance (the dogs run away as you approach).
- Defied in The Sims 2, where if your Sim tries to pet a skunk, he/she will get sprayed by said skunk.
- Most wildlife in Dwarf Fortress can be captured in cages and turned into pets by dwarves with the Animal Training labor, from stuff like lions to bears to gila monsters to giant rhesus macaques. Trained animals slowly revert back to wilderness over time, and as such require constant retraining. Certain animals like dogs, leopards and elephants can be given war or hunting training, increasing their combat prowess. If a trained animals breeds and you train the offspring before it reaches adulhood, they become permanently tame (you can't domesticate wildlife in a civilization-wide manner, but future fortresses made in the same world will start with a bonus to how easily they can train animals already trained elsewhere).
- Nearly all creatures in ARK: Survival Evolved can be hand-tamed by humans, not just the dinosaurs. This is implicitly because they were genetically altered or manufactured to be so by the creators of the Arks.
- Subverted in Penny and Aggie, where this happens.
- Housepets!: While the wolves moving into the neighborhood caused quite a stir, they're friendly enough and seem to be able to integrate without too much trouble. They're all sapient however, so it works.
- Averted in Freefall. Dr Bowman was part of a weapons program to create supersoldiers from genetically engineered chimpanzees. The engineering was a success, but the program failed because they still behaved like very un-domesticated chimpanzees and were completely useless as soldiers due to their refusal to follow orders.
- Also with Florence, one of the main characters. Although very dog-like, she was actually engineered from wolves. The reason only a small number were created is the need to prove they are safe around humans, since they're not actually just intelligent dogs.
- Subverted in an episode of Justice League, when a depowered Superman (transported thousands of years into Earth's future by what was believed to be a Death Ray) is confronted by a pack of post-apocalyptic wolf creatures. He first tries to command them to stand down using all of the typical trained dog orders (stay, sit, heel, etc.), but they don't listen. It's only after he fights them off, kills their Alpha, and makes a coat out of its hide that they finally listen to him (and act much more like domesticated sled dogs, as a result).
- Occasionally appears in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, but mostly through Fluttershy — a combination of strong Animal Affinity and a super-powered Death Glare allow her to tame bugs, bears, and dragons, to name a few.
- Steven Universe: Lion tends to act less like a wild animal and more like a giant house-cat, though it's implied to be because Rose tamed him.
- Averted in an episode of The Wild Thornberrys; even though Eliza can talk to animals and understand them, she brings a bottle of water to a mother cheetah and her cubs because they are suffering from an extended drought. After drinking the momma cheetah now wants to hunt the slowest prey that she can see, namely Eliza. Only a last second save keeps the girl from being cheetah-chow.
- Spotted hyenas are the second largest predators in Africa, and largely feared for their raids on towns, sometimes even killing small children. However in Harar, Ethiopia they are invited into the community, as many believe their laughter frightens away evil spirits, with some residents even hand-feeding the hyenas bones from the butchers'.
- This trope is so prevalent that it's spawned a sub-trope of its own in Canadian media: the tourist, either American or Japanese, who tries to pet the bear and/or moose.
- Also seen in American National Parks, as some tourists seem to assume that because the Park permits tourists and is regulated by the government, that must mean the animals within are domesticated. They're not: the wildlife within National Parks is wild, and even the herbivores, like bison, will attack if they feel threatened, never mind creatures like bears. The whole point of the National Park system is in fact to preserve parts of the American wilderness and keep them wild.
- It's often assumed all common pet animals are domesticated. This isn't true. For example, many pet birds, such as cockatiels and budgies, are only tame and they require rigorous hand-taming to even be petted. If one isn't hand-fed from a young age (as most pet store birds aren't), it'll be aggressive and skittish by default.
- Cheetahs can be fairly easily tamed and are fairly harmless to humans in the wild. This is because cheetahs are adapted to hunt a narrow list of prey and humans are nowhere near being on that list. They tend to be skittish around everything else due to their light build. Their popularity as exotic pets is more responsible for their being endangered in the wild than hunting is.
- As many with many a story, there's an inversion of this trope where some people, who don't want their (domesticated) pet anymore, will think it would do better in the wild. This doesn't often end well.
- Inverted with ferrets. They're a long domesticated species but are commonly mistaken for exotic pets because they closely resemble wild weasels. Ferrets are banned in many areas due to this misconception. It's stated that they're a danger to children and can become invasive predators if they get loose, but ferrets aren't any more dangerous than a cat and can't survive on their own (unlike most domestic cats).
- Inverted with rats. The common "fancy rat" is actually a domesticated rat, not a tamed wild rat, with various differences from their wild ancestors. They're frequently mistaken for wild animals and loose fancy rats are often killed due to this mistake.