Sunday, November 13, 2011

From a dog's viewpoint.

You adopted me and brought me to a strange place. It doesn't matter how old I am, how much life experience I've had, there are going to be times when I've just had enough of the strangeness. As a dog, I communicate mostly by moving parts of my body in ways that let others know how I'm feeling. It's all in the emotion, the energy that builds up because of stress and then comes out as motion. Even when I seem to be frozen in place, there are still those signs that show my discomfort, uncertainty or fear.

I can tell you in many ways that dealing with life has become a little difficult. I might yawn more than normal or turn my head away and ignore your behavior or the behavior of the other dogs around. Do you notice these signs? Have you learned what these signals mean? I can scratch when I don't itch, lick my paws, my eyes can get red and show the whites. Are these signs too subtle for you to notice, or perhaps you notice them but choose to ignore them because you don't understand?

When you don't notice or choose to ignore what I'm saying to you, there are other, more overt things I can do. When you come home, and really it doesn't matter how long you were out of my sight, I can jump on you, nip your hands, legs, or face. I can do all that when anything exciting happens just to let you know that it's hard for me to handle the excitement. I could mount everything in sight just to release the pressure of the stress. I heard that some people think my mounting behavior is due to "dominance" or trying to take control, but it's mostly a sign of stress and too much excitement. It's so comforting to mount cushions and your legs when my excitement or frustration levels are brimming over and I just can't cope. I can do the same with the other dogs when they are playing and I just need them to not be so exciting. I guess you could say it's "dominance" or the need to control, but what I'm really trying to say is that it's just too much !

If you are still ignoring my communications, I can ratchet it up another notch. All that nasty stressful, anxious energy could become restless pacing around the house, not being able to settle anywhere, not even with 2 hours of running or the treadmill that you may be told is what I need. I could start stealing your things, especially things that smell like you or just smell good. Getting into the garbage is a great way to take my mind off the stress. I could even start peeing in the house to relieve the pressure. It just feels so good to have something go out of my body when everything seems to be crowding in. But I've heard that you could be told this is a dominant act also.

So how do I get your attention? How do I communicate to you that life is too hard for me right now? Humans talk, they seem to talk a lot, so I could do that too! I could start barking at everything. This is bound to get your attention, but is it really the kind of attention that I want? What are you going to do when I bark all the time, at you, at the kids, at other dogs, at your guests, at a leaf blowing around the yard. What you don't seem to understand is that it helps to relieve all the pressure inside me. So when you bring out the bark collars, when you try to suppress my loud communication, what you're really doing is causing all the stress energy to remain inside me, building up even more pressure and eventually I will explode.

After all that, when you've ignored me or told me with blows and pinches and shocks and bad smells that I can't do all those things to communicate my stress to you, what is left? I have a choice here, I can do something or I can withdraw and wallow in my misery. I could start ignoring your communications - not do all those obedience things you taught me and just stare at you like you're crazy. I could turn into a tazmanian devil and growl and bark and lunge and snap at everyone - human or canine. I could even attempt to kill the cat.

All of these things are just my attempt to communicate with you, to tell you that things are not good for me, that I'm missing something in my life or that life right now is just too much and I can't handle it. Why would you punish me for this?

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