It is important to remember that while Hal and Buck may seem like people in some ways, they are still animals. As such, they have certain instincts that humans may find difficult to relate to or understand. From an animal perspective, when someone owns another creature—whether it be a pet dog or a wild wolf—the owner will naturally want to maintain their power and authority over their pet or pack member by asserting dominance. This is especially true if the owned creature begins to challenge their authority. In terms of “The Call of the Wild,” this explains why Hal feels compelled to beat Buck in order to keep him under control. After all, Buck is a wild creature who has been taken from his natural environment and put into an unnatural one where he must follow orders from a human being who does not understand his true nature.
In addition to understanding Hal’s natural impulses as an animal owner, it is also important to consider situational context. This includes factors like economic status (Hal was poor) as well as environmental conditions (the Yukon was cold). It is possible that these contextual elements combined with Hal’s own personal anger led him to become more aggressive with Buck than he needed to be. For example, there are times when Hal expresses genuine affection for Buck; however, these moments do not last long before Hal once again asserts his dominance over him through physical means such as beating him with a club or whipping him with a stick.