Monday, February 13, 2017

A Failure to Communicate

One of the questions I ask when taking about HAWS to groups of children is what reason a pet owner might have for no longer being able to keep their pet.  Generally the kids answer with the usual reasons:  can't afford, moving, ruining stuff, not good with kids.  Last week I had an 8 year old girl give me an answer I've never ever had anyone phrase in quite this way.  She said, "The owners and the animal can't communicate well enough."

I was struck by how perceptive this little girl was, and how much truth there was in her statement.  The majority of the reasons for people to give up their pet involves some kind of a communication problem if you think about it.

The fact is that people have certain expectations about their pets, and when the pet doesn't meet those them it's either because the expectations are unreasonable, or the owner isn't being effective in their communication with the pet.

While it would be really nice to say, "Hey Fluffy -- I'd really appreciate it if you wouldn't use my couch as a scratching post", the reality is that because our pets don't speak our language it makes effective communication even more difficult.

We (arguably the more intelligent species) might have to learn some of their language, because after all even if pets don't speak verbally they do have their own way to communicate and can tell us a lot if we would just learn how to listen to them.  And knowing what normal species specific behaviors are, and how to provide opportunities for our pets to perform them will go a long way towards resolving conflict.

Additionally, just as in any good relationship, we may have to compromise.  While we might not get everything we want, our pets may also not get everything they want.  You may want the walk to be moving as quickly as possible on your route for exercise purposes and your dog wants to stop and sniff each and every tree, light post and clump of grass.  So maybe you stop occasionally and allow your dog to sniff, because after all they are scent machines on legs and the world is full of wonderful and meaningful scents.  But on the other hand you don't stop as often as your dog would like.

Trying to understand our pets will make the relationship that much more richer.  And if your are struggling to communicate effectively and make the relationship work you can always seek a relationship expert to help you.  Many people call those professionals behaviorists and trainers.