What if people only expressed degrees of anger or fear at everything you said? That would suck.
But that’s how many of us respond to our dogs’ barking.
We might intellectually know dogs use a vocabulary of noises, including barking, with different meanings. The Whole Dog Journal, among others, has published thorough pieces detailing them. Some studies show humans can actually decipher dog barks.
How truly mindful of it are we, though, when faced with a barking dog?
A simple Google search of “barking dogs” brings up nothing but resources on how to make them stop (and one supposedly funny compilation video). Many of us just want them to hush. But they’re trying to communicate something important to them.
Rico and Roxy reminded me of this.
Rico loves to spend time outside alone. When he’s ready to come in, he sits by the door and gives me a breathy-sounding woof. Roxy and I were in the office one day when he cued me. (Remember that anger response? Guilty as charged.)
Roxy continued lounging on the floor without a care.
Later that morning, back outside again – he’s like a cat that way – he came to the backdoor and gave another bark.
I wasn’t really paying attention. I thought he sounded the same as when he wanted to come in, so I figured he could wait a few minutes. Roxy, however, interpreted this one as an immediate call to war. She shot down the stairs, barking at the front door. When I say “barked,” I actually mean “gave it all kinds of hell.”
Rico stood at the back door, innocently wagging his tail. Roxy continued frantically barking at the front, and, for a second or two, I frantically tried to get her to stop.
Suddenly …. ding-dong! FedEx delivery.
Rico had told Roxy someone was coming. Roxy was trying to tell me someone was there. And I was the dull human annoyed by the chaos, conditioned to wait until for the doorbell.
Since then, I’ve started being more mindful of how I feel when listening to Rico and Roxy or other dogs barking rather than generalize all barking into one category. This mindfulness has helped me feel the different energies behind their barking and better respond to them.
On our walks, we pass dogs who mostly bark to get my attention, so I know not to encroach on their territory. Some dogs with higher-pitched barks seem to want to escape their yard and join us. Some dogs barking while on their walks sound like an exuberant five year-old at Disney World for the first time
In a future post, I’ll share what I actually do now when Rico and Roxy are being too vocal. Becoming mindful of how I feel about barking and working through that was an important first step
Are your dogs barkers? How do you usually respond?