I was sitting unsure of what I would write today when my dog Scout began to bark. What exactly he was barking at was unclear to me.
By dog standards, Scout is not an awful barker. He barks when he senses a dog that he cannot see or sniff. Most often this involves dogs out for a walk across the street that he longingly sees while perched on our couch. He also barks at motorcycles, flocks of birds and, for some strange reason, the Netflix logo.
The reasons why he barks are a little less clear, I assume it’s some combination of an expression of fear, distress, a desire to protect, to play, to be heard.
My response to his barking is uneven and often dependent upon my mood. If I am stressed or impatient I am likely to bark back. He cowers at this and I feel guilty as I suspect he is not choosing to bark but acting off instinct. Then again, perhaps so am I as there was a lot of barking, both of the people and pet variety, when I was growing up.
When I am calm and he barks my reaction is altogether different. I’ll go up to him to see what he is barking at. I tell him everything is ok and gently pet him a few times. When I walk away, he follows – looking for more positive attention. His desire to bark has subsided.
It seems to me that there is a lot more barking lately, not from Scout but society. Our reactions mirror mine on my worst days and we bark back even louder. Many could benefit from taking a beat and a breath and instead of barking back, go and see what their barking is really all about. By lowering our volume, it lowers theirs. Maybe then we might actually be able to hear and understand one another.
This week, be mindful of the barking around you, and if possible try not to bark back.