“I told him about the way they get to know you. Not the way people do, the way they flatter you by wanting to know every last thing about you, only it isn’t a compliment, it is just efficient, a person getting more quickly to the end of you. Correction – dogs do want to know every last thing about you. They take in the smell of you, they know from the next room, asleep, when a mood settles over you. The difference is there’s not an end to it.” Amy Hempel, American Writer
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world in a variety of ways. The majority of our businesses are remote-friendly or remote forward, virtual learning has kept children in school in the safety of their home, and pets from rescue organizations to breeders found their forever homes. Emptying shelters and cleaning out breeders of available puppies for years to come.
Who knew a pandemic would be a boon for dogs, cats, and other pets?
Dogs are in tune to human emotion
These pets became our therapy in a world turned upside-down. But did you know animals, much like humans, can experience empathic emotions? In other words, transference. They pick up on your moods, even when you don’t know you’re having a ‘mood’ at all. They are that observant of our behavior and emotional states.
Imagine you’ve had a rough day at the office. Via Zoom, we know. You log off at the end of the day and blow exasperated air. Your pup comes up and is ready to play, but you haven’t yet calmed down. You pick up your pet in the hopes that petting him or her will calm you, but sensing your distress, he or she growls at an imaginary monster. Your pet wants to protect you, but they don’t know from whom or how.
It is amazing how in tune dogs are to their human’s emotions and how perplexing our behaviors can be to them with the way we are living now – Steve Haynes, Dog Trainer and Behaviorist
You take the growling as intended for you and put your pet down. Your pet doesn’t know what happened and thinks it’s a game. If you blow air again, you’ll pick up your pup, he or she will growl to be put down again, and a dangerous game has begun which can escalate as your pup gets older.
Think about it. When you’re sad or sick, your pet will come lay with your or lick your face. But they may empathize in other ways, too. If you’re not eating, they won’t eat. If you’re stressed, they’re stressed. Or maybe they’ll eat something they shouldn’t. And if you’re scared, they scared.
When you’re happy, you’re playful and energetic. Your voice is higher, happier. The toys come out more frequently. You get down on the floor in your pup’s world to play. You may wrestle a bit or play tug-of-war, but when you’re ready to stop, you give your pup a bone or a KONG filled with peanut butter. Something else they can do on their own. The pup version of calming down from their activities.
There’s a reason we turn to pets to help us navigate this journey we call life.
This emotional transference can get tricky when you can’t sit your dog or cat down and explain to them what’s happening in your life. Or maybe you can. Part of being a therapist is listening, right?
The Doctor is In
There is a shadow pandemic within the pet world and its our desire to ensure our pets are treated like humans. Kittens have their own rooms. Dogs are prescribed CBD oil and medicated to within an inch of their lives. Would you ever give your dog Prozac for being too active? Surprised? Us, too. Yet, some people don’t want their puppy to be a puppy or their dog to be a dog.
Yes, it’s important to ensure they have their immunizations and get a checkup once a year, but we are forever trying to ‘fix’ ourselves and our creatures.
Most dogs and humans would benefit greatly from an hour long walk twice a day. The physical exertion and the intellectual stimulation they get from these walks can work wonders on improving their acceptance of the strange world we now live in – Steve Haynes, Dog Trainer and Behaviorist
Like our families, our pets are unique individuals with personalities all their own. Some dogs bark, some don’t. Some are bigger than others. Some are more mischievous and some are shy. Do you know any people who might fit into these categories? Including the some who bark and some who bite and some whose bark is worse than their bite?
Puppies don’t come out of a factory where they are all identical like toothbrushes from an injection molding machine. Each dog is unique and should be looked at as such. Just because the humans want the dog to be a certain way doesn’t make it so.