What is it about barking dogs that is so incredibly irritating and that provokes malignant and murderous thoughts toward an entire species? Barking seems to penetrate my rational shield in piercing pulses of petulance, weakening the shield’s primary purpose to both contain and guard against undisciplined emotional arousals. There’s some elemental receptor within the primitive, “reptilian” core of my human brain that barking offends. Or maybe it’s not offense, but rather a type of harmony which forces my beast to high, involuntary alert.
Judging by the distance I must travel to reach the more ‘developed’ regions nearer the surface of my gray matter, Godzilla (reference to reptilian) herself might frolic care-free and unfettered within the reptilian wilderness area of my brain, with full-choral reverberation in concert with the canine emissions that cruelly enjoin my attention.
When I regroup to assert my more rational side, of course I know it’s not a “fault” that the dogs bark. It is the nature of a dog to protect his “home” by barking to ward off unfamiliar scents, sounds, and unknown or unwanted presences. But how natural is it, and is it natural or necessary to bark continuously?
They say that modern-day dogs are descendents of the wolves that mankind domesticated waaaay back when. According to a recent study using mitochondrial DNA, wolves and dogs appear to have split into different species around 100,000 years ago, whether on their own or with the intervention of man. The types and occasions for vocalization also show a split. That is to say, the ways and whens that domesticated dogs bark and those of wolves are significantly different. I discovered a fantastic wikipedia page discussing just dog barking, which even includes mentions of why dogs bark and the different types of expected barks … when nothing is awry.
Awry. What is ‘awry’ if dogs — and humans — are acting according to their natures?
It is the nature of humans to trifle in the workings of nature. With dogs, I wonder whether humans have mutated what is “nature” and “natural” to produce something else. Since non-domesticated dogs (with little human breeding and other interventions) and wolves don’t bark except on specific occasions, something affecting the “nature” of dogs has occurred. Several sites I visited (including the wikipedia one) mentioned neoteny: the retention of juvenile lupine/canine characteristics via control-breeding to produce adult breeds, including ones bred to be watch guards, as in, to bark in alarm. Are we breeding a stronger tendency to bark into dogs or the controls to not bark out of them? Is what is awry that we humans want dogs to bark?
I also think that the environment we place them in is awry. If it is true that dogs are descendants of wolves (an assertion supported by the fact that they can breed and produce viable and fertile offspring), and since wolves are social creatures, it would follow that dogs might also retain a certain need for socializing. Dogs are also scavengers and hunters, both characteristics suggesting the need for space and having a disposition to roam. (I also know dogs sleep a TON, some species accumulating 18 hours in a day, contributing to their being “den” animals.) What happens when we socially isolate the dog, even from an extended human “pack”? Can dogs get lonely? And what about physical activity levels and mental stimulation (as in something to occupy what we grant is brain with processing activity)? Aside from crate training, it cannot be appropriate for a creature with a vivacious manner and outgoing temperament to have all of 2 meters of space to roam in with a cord tethering him to a single location in social isolation.
We know that dogs don’t have to bark, even if they have been bred to maintain juvenile physical traits and raised to foster juvenile behavioral traits. If they bark incessantly, then their circumstances are such that this nature is either being exaggerated or it is representing something out of balance with the rest of the dog’s constitution. It is the consequence of something. And since human “owners” are in control of the circumstances, that puts the blame squarely in the human lap for all three factors: breeding, raising/training, and living conditions.
What can this say about the owners who don’t seem to notice the barking, for whom the reptilian resonance with barking is either native, subdued, or ignored? What’s up with the type of consciousness that allows barking to happen and not act to investigate it?
Well, I can think of a few things. Where reptilian resonance is native, the human rejoices and finds solace and comfort in prehistoric ambiance. Those of subdued resonance might believe it is the nature of dogs to bark, so it would be “unnatural” to stifle that. Related to that might be that they simply don’t know what to do about it, not realizing they have put themselves in command of another being’s life without any consciousness of that other being’s nature beyond its being decoration and a convenient live toy when they feel like playing with it. (Whew! That smacked of judgment!) Finally there’s not caring — a brain-numbing condition, which dulls a number of very useful receptors, such as hearing. By not caring, they can ignore anything. There are more things that can I think of, but none without a significant feature of both ignorance and inconsideration on a variety of levels.
Considering the humans I know who allow this to happen, I’d say that it’s a combination that can be summed up in a new definition for a breed within the human species:
a reptile-brained mammal who, while arrogating their knowledge of other species, can presume upon the life of another being and who possess of a full range of conscientiousness equal to that of a head of lettuce. It is completely consistent with such a breed that neither do they — nay, can they — consider the impact on other members of their community living in close proximity to their hovels.
These are humans where a type of neoteny or, better, devolution has occurred, descendants of the superior species whose tendency is to selfishly trifle with nature without calculation or a reasonable measure of considering consequences.
Or maybe this is the base breed, where the dog owners who are more conscious and conscientious are evolved from this base breed! (Pun intended.)
My anger has shifted to a different species (obviously).
So I guess that leaves me with one last question: can such a breed be trained to at least simially mimic the actions of more evolved human breeds (it’s their fault), or am I of a breed whose sensibilities are dominated by my Godzilla zone (it’s my problem)?