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Davis Journal

Barking up the wrong tree

Nov 07, 2022 02:45PM ● By Peri Kinder

My dog Jedi started barking at cars. All the time. I don’t know why but my best guess is she a) hates cars, b) loves cars, c) wants to scare cars or d) she needs a ride to Petsmart to pick up some jerky treats and tennis balls.

I stop her from dragging us both into traffic by creating a distraction, usually with yummy treats. I tell her to look at me, hoping to snag her attention away from the tempting Hondas and Toyotas with their tantalizing and rumbly engines. 

Sometimes she continues flinging herself toward cars but once she realizes a treat is coming, in the form of mozzarella or pepperoni, she usually stops barking and waits to be rewarded. Not really rocket surgery, but it works. 

Someone suggested Jedi’s barking could be a reaction to stress which is probably true because we’re all as stressed as a Yellowstone bison being approached by human-shaped idiots. 

Jedi also feels the urge to run outside at 3 a.m. to bark at neighbor dogs, tree shadows and (probably) aliens. Her woofing seems to be important. It’s like breaking news in the canine world. 

I can’t yell at her to be quiet because then we’d both be barking at three in the morning. Plus, she’d translate my yapping as, “You are doing such a good job at howling, Jedi. Please, continue louder. Some neighbors might still be asleep.”

Once the noise levels drop, I check social media where barking has been elevated to an Olympic sport. Viral TikToks catch people in the act of snarling at each other. Twitter feeds show a slow regression back to our caveman roots where everyone spoke in grunts and howls. 

Parents bark at teachers and librarians. Drivers bark at each other. Customers bark at grocery store cashiers, and let me tell you, cashiers don’t get paid enough to put up with that baloney. Restaurant guests bark at the waitstaff, which usually ends with a footprint on your waffle. Y’all bark so much, I think some of you might have rabies. 

Dogs bark because they’re excited, hungry, bored, scared, tired, playful and frustrated. The trick is to distract them and teach them a different way to communicate. Humans also need a different way to communicate, because barking isn’t working. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re barking in fear or anger or fatigue, your message gets lost in the noise. Every time. Have you ever screamed at someone and thought, “Boy, I really think I got my point across. I feel so heard”? Yeah, me neither.

On the opposite end of the rainbow, my daughter had a teacher who only spoke in a whisper. The kids had to be quiet to hear what she was saying. It was kind of creepy talking to her because she’d forget she was talking to an adult and keep whispering. 

Maybe there’s a happy medium between barking and mumbling. I know, let’s call it “civil discourse” where our conversations actually promote understanding and connection. Revolutionary!

Instead of talking to prove your point, can you kindly explain why you hate avocados, without melting into a puddle of sweat? Can you avoid the gnashing and spittle that comes with barking and just talk like a human being? 

It might take practice but maybe if we calm down, our families will settle, our communities will rebuild and our civil discourse will improve. 

Less barking, more listening. And lots of treats.

Peri Kinder is an award-winning humor writer and hosts the Life & Laughter podcast and was voted Best of State for 2022. She’s also a yoga/meditation instructor and life coach. λ