I work for the largest mental health and addiction treatment hospital in California. My office at our central facility overlooks the street and I am frequently entertained by the driving habits of folks coming and going.
Sometimes a car double parks in the middle of the street and, of course, drivers coming up behind have no idea they are approaching a parked car. Until they get really close, which is when they slam on the brakes and lay on the horn.
Why do vehicles have horns, anyway? A horn is intended for use when you cannot alert other drivers by any other means. Wikipedia says drivers use their horns to warn others of the vehicle’s approach or presence, or to call attention to some hazard.
In Los Angeles, at least, drivers frequently seem to use their horns as an extension of their middle finger. Like when you’re halfway into a lane change, with your blinker on, and some complete moron barrels into the lane with that get out of my way or I’ll run you down attitude.
When you’re hitting your horn – for whatever reason – you are communicating with the drivers and pedestrians around you. How you use your horn determines the message you are communicating.
Why do dogs honk their horns?
Like humans with their horns, if your dog honks its horn, there is a reason. We’re talking about barking here. Why do dogs bark? What does it mean?
Dogtime identifies eight reasons why Oscar is yipping and yapping:
Territorial or defensive barking;
2. Excitement, or happiness at seeing you;
3. Play and exercise;
4. To get your attention or to signal you (I have to go potty);
5. Aggravation over not being able to attain something (your pork chop);
6. Social barking in response to other dogs;
7. Separation anxiety and trepidation; and,
8. Compulsive behavior.
Let’s look at a few of what I think are among the most common reasons.
Barking as Warning
This is territorial or defensive barking, and was the issue we had with our Frenchie, Stella the Enforcer. We had recently moved into a new townhouse complex (still under construction) that was full of unfamiliar sights and sounds of construction and moving trucks.
The worst part for Stella was that her back yard was now a front yard where she could see everything passing by. In other words, everything was unfamiliar, so everything was threatening.
So, I started spending time out front with Stella and helping her, with a calm and reassuring demeanor, to distinguish between normal, everyday sights and sounds, and unusual things she should be alarmed – and therefore bark – at. Over time, she learned, and she stopped barking at everything and everyone.
Except, of course, other dogs; but, that’s just because she wants to play. Being that Stella is still a young dog, that type of barking falls under playfulness and excitement which is common in puppies and young dogs. She’ll grow out of that in time, I believe.
There is a huge difference between barking excitedly and the sharp, loud barking that is a hallmark of barking as warning. You’ve probably heard the same types of barking with your own dogs.
Barking as Greeting
When my children were wee ones and I picked them up at daycare, both would come running with so much joy and exuberance, arms outstretched, and yelling Daddy!! That’s how my dogs greet me when I come home; but, since they can’t yell Daddy, they just bark.
You’re home! You’re home! Yay! We’re so happy that you’re home! Hold me. Pet me. Pet me. Hold me. Take me for a walk!
Cesar Millan suggests that, since pack dogs don’t bark in a burst of affection, ours don’t either. He says they are releasing pent-up energy, telling you their lonely and bored, and that their needs aren’t being met. With all due respect to The Dog Whisperer, I disagree.
Ellen works from home. She’s with them all day. She sees to their emotional and physical needs all day. There is no pent-up energy, boredom or loneliness, and their needs are met. When I come home, they’re excited and joyfully exuberant because they’re happy to see me and they compete with each other for my attention – to be loved on and petted and held or to sit in my lap.
Barking as Separation Anxiety
We used to live, as I mentioned, in a townhouse community, so everyone lives stacked in next to each other and a lot of residents have dogs. We even have a community dog park. One family, though, leaves their dog outside 24/7.
Firstly, what kind of life is that for a dog?! It never gets walked, the only attention it seems to get is when someone yells out the window to quit barking, and its entire world is 200 SF of concrete and bricks. And, no, the police won’t do anything.
No wonder the dog barks at everything that moves. It’s so starved for attention and affection that it runs up to the gate, barking, whenever anyone or anything walks by. Here I am! I’m here! Notice me! Pet me, please! I’m lonely!
I don’t know, maybe they were too cheap to pay for a protection alarm.
These are just a few examples of the True Value of Communication. I’m sure you have examples you could add. I would love to hear from you about your pups and the ways they communicate with you and their world. Please consider sending me a message and sharing – perhaps even writing a guest post for True Value of Dogs. Thank you!
Before you get a dog, you can’t quite imagine what living with one might be like; afterward, you can’t imagine living any other way. – Caroline Knapp
As always, if Ms. Rose in fifth period Biology assigned a paper on How Animals Communicate, these references may be helpful to you:
Dogtime. Solutions for barking: How to get a dog to stop barking. Retrieved online at: http://dogtime.com/dog-health/general/675-barking-aspca
Cambridge Media Services. 2018. Horn laws you need to know according to mydriverlicenses.org experts. Retrieved online at: https://mydriverlicenses.org/blog/horn-laws-you-need-know.html
Millan, C. 2017. Why dogs bark. Retrieved online at: https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-behavior/barking-and-howling/discovering-the-cause-of-barking
Park, A. 21 Aug 2015. The do’s and do-not-do’s of car horn etiquette. Retrieved online at: https://www.idrivesafely.com/blog/the-dos-and-do-not-dos-of-car-horn-etiquette/
Stregowski, J. 20 Aug 2017. Why do dogs bark? Retrieved online from: https://www.thespruce.com/why-do-dogs-bark-1118266
The Columbian. 08 May 2014. Barking can bite relationships among neighbors. Retrieved online at: http://www.columbian.com/news/2014/may/09/barking-can-bite-relationships-among-neighbors-dog/
Wikipedia. 01 Jan 2018. Vehicle horns. Retrieved online at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_horn
I met a refugee in 1975, a South Vietnamese teenage girl whose family was granted asylum after the fall of Saigon. Think about it. Having to flee your home with just the clothes on your back and maybe a few valuables or be killed.
No time to say good-bye to friends, neighbors or any other family. Living with fear and uncertainty, dependent on the charity of strangers to build a new life in a strange country with different people.
Different people, different language, difference food, different customs, different religion, different laws, different social mores, different businesses and stores and schools. Different politics. Unable to return home and largely unwelcome in your new home.
I’m not sure why I was thinking about that Vietnamese girl today; but, it reminded me a little of how Millie came to live with us.
Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugee
We brought Millie home on Saturday, 08 April 2017. In the space of 18 days, her life had gone through so many changes it’s difficult to imagine. So many things happen to dogs that they have no say and no control over.
And, yet, in many cases they are resilient and able to trust the humans in their lives. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about all rescued dogs.
Millie’s journey began on 032217 when she and her siblings, Coco and Coral, were dropped off at the Baldwin Park Animal Shelter with its reputation of being the highest kill shelter in Los Angeles County. A page on Facebook calls this shelter a death camp for dogs.
Her journey ended on 040817 when Millie arrived at the last home she will ever need.
So, in 18 days, Millie went from her home to a shelter to a veterinary hospital to a rescue to her new home. In the process, she was permanently separated from her sisters. She was given no choice.
How would you handle that? Could you handle that? Could you learn to trust again? To love again? And, yet, rescued dogs seem do it all the time. Almost every dog I’ve known was eager to trust and love – despite bad things happening to them at the hands of humans.
What can that teach us about Resilience? What is Resilience? The dictionary defines it as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. Strength. Flexible. Bouncing back. Pliant. Adaptable. Endurance. Tolerance. And, my weird favorite: Indefatigable.
I will say this about rescued dogs. We, as the pawrents (cute, huh), need to recognize that our pups have been through a traumatic experience and give them love, patience, and time to adjust. On her first night home, Millie looked fearful, uncertain, and a little shell-shocked.
What was going to happen? Would we give her food and water? Would we get mad and give her back? What did we want her to do? Were we kind and loving or would we hit her or just ignore her? Was she allowed on the furniture or the bed?
At first, she slept with one eye open – wanting to trust, but afraid.
After a few days, Millie would sleep but suddenly wake up terrified. She’d look up, see me, and fall back asleep. It took weeks for trust to finally (mostly) replace her fear. Consistent love and patience has been winning the day.
I started taking Millie to work the very first week – not just to cement our relationship; but, to start building the better life implicitly promised in her adoption. I believe that the reason why most people adopt dogs is because we look at them and say: That dog needs Me. I can give it a better life than the one it knew before.
It didn’t take long before I could walk away (in sight) and come back or ask someone to babysit while I attended a meeting (out of sight), then come back again.
Millie was resilient enough to embrace and enjoy her new life. And, make friends with Miley, another rescued Razor USA Office Dog.
Three Ways Dogs Teach Us About Resilience
1. Live In The Moment
I think the most important thing that dogs can teach us about Resilience is not to fixate on the past. Dogs live in the moment. They don’t regret the past or worry about the future. If we can learn to appreciate and focus on what’s happening in the here and now, we’ll experience a richness of living that other members of the animal kingdom enjoy (Cesar Milan, 2009).
I’m not a big Dog Whisperer fan; but, he hits this one out of the park.
Living in the moment means letting go of pressure, fear, worry, and other emotions that prevent us from fully experiencing and enjoying our lives RIGHT NOW! Living in the moment is a source of gratitude and appreciation (Newman, 2016).
2. Never, Ever, Ever Quit
Have you ever seen a three-legged dog running like every other dog also has three legs? Or a blind dog? This is Simon and he’s my favorite blind Pug in the world. I don’t recall when he lost his eyes – maybe seven years ago. He comes to just about every Los Angeles Pug Meetup and has a blast! He doesn’t walk around like a blind Pug. He just walks around like a Pug.
When Simon lost his eyes, he had to either adjust and use his other senses to compensate or sit in a corner and mope. So, he adjusted. He uses a dog door at home just like my dogs use one at our house. He can climb stairs, just like my dogs. He explores the dog park, just like mine do.
Dogs can teach us that, when unthinkably bad things happen, we don’t have to stop participating in life and those bad things certainly should never be allowed to define us.
We can improvise, adapt, and overcome! My children grew up hearing this line by Clint Eastwood in Heartbreak Ridge every time they felt overwhelmed by a problem.
3. Keep a Positive Attitude
Attitude is everything. Attitude is a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior. I think the most important part of that definition is that attitude is typically reflected in behavior.
One thing I am absolutely sure of is that I have never seen a pessimistic dog. All the dogs in my experience were optimists though-and-through. People have bad attitudes. Dogs, eh, not so much.
My attitude determines what I think. My thoughts determine my actions. My actions inform the world who I am. That, I believe, is what Garth Stein (The Art of Racing in the Rain) is talking about:
That which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.
Do I try to find the best in situations or am I a chronic complainer? Do I try to change my life for the better or do I seem to be happier moaning about how bad things are? When bad things happen, do we get stuck there; or, do we decide not to let those bad things define who we are?
What About Your Dog?
One True Value of Dogs is Resilience and I’ve listed three ways that dogs can teach us that trait. How about you? In what ways have you seen resilience in dogs? How have they inspired you by overcoming the bad things that happen to people and animals alike?
Hurricane Harvey is a real-life, current events example of how bad things happen to us all – people and dogs. Both people and their pets have been separated from their homes, the lives they knew – and from each other.
Tell your dogs every day that you love them. They won’t understand the words, but the sound of your voice is their music. And, telling them every day will reinforce those positive feelings when they pee on the rug.
As always, if you’re writing a paper for Mr. Waznewski’s English class, here are a few sources that might help.
My life is likely to last 10 to 15 years. Any separation from you will be painful to me. Remember that before you buy me. (or adopt me)
Give me time to understand what you want from me.
Place your trust in me. It’s crucial to my well-being.
Don’t be angry with me for long, and don’t lock me up as punishment. You have your work, your entertainment and your friends. I only have you.
Talk to me sometimes. Even if I don’t understand your words, I understand your voice when it’s speaking to me.
Be aware that however you treat me, I’ll never forget it.
Remember before you hit me: I have teeth that could easily crush the bones of your hand, but I choose not to bite you.
Before you scold me for being un-cooperative, obstinate or lazy, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I’m not getting the right food, or I’ve been out in the sun too long, or my heart is getting old and weak.
Take care of me when I get old. You too will grow old.
Go with me on that final difficult journey. Never say: I can’t bear to watch it or Let it happen in my absence. Everything is easier for me if you are there.
REMEMBER THAT I LOVE YOU.
This is the True Value of Love
Heaven goes by favor; if it were by merit your dog would go in and you would stay out.
(Man) is the most detestable. Of the entire brood, he is the only one that possesses malice. He is the only creature that inflicts pain for sport, knowing it to be pain. ~ Mark Twain
Be kind to your dogs – they love us more than some of us deserve.