21st Century Dogs and Kids are Fish Out of Water- A Staff Conversation

by Kim Brophey on 09/19/13
Behavior | Dog Door

We at the dog door always find ourselves involved in very interesting conversations about not only dogs but also people and children. We all read all sorts of interesting books and articles about the sciences as well as current thinking pertaining to both human and animal behavior and psychology. We are of course all dog owners and a couple of us are moms as well.

This morning one of our trainers, Jennifer King, and I we’re discussing a book that I am reading about the myth of attention deficit disorder in American children. As the mother of an extremely energetic intelligent and passionate 8 year old boy who at times struggles tremendously with the constraints of the modern public school system and the resulting inclinations that authorities often have to label these boys I thought I would do a little bit of research on the topic and so picked up the book a few weeks ago. It’s not the first time I’ve read extensively on this issue. Years ago when I started all of my research on dogs and the prevalence of dysfunctional behavior in recent years I found myself cross referencing literature and research on America’s children. One of my favorite books, Last Child in the Woods -Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, was an incredible inspiration and insight for me both as a mother and in my profession of working with dogs. It opened my eyes to an entire body of research which is not the general mainstream of public conversation about the behavior of children in a culture that overwhelmingly chooses to diagnose and treat chemically the “disorders” increasingly observed in kids. This same pattern has been observed as the current thinking and behavior in pet dogs as we have enculturated them into our family system and cultural beliefs about behavior and obedience, reflecting our ever changing values towards conforming to an arbitrary standard of “normal”.

What we observe in dogs, and our clients attitude about their behavior, is a reflection of the same belief system that there is a normal to which a dog’s behavior should align and the perception that any straying from this standard should be diagnosed and treated accordingly as a problem.

The perception that attention deficit disorder is nothing more than yet unquestioned, and still unsubstantiated, propaganda that has found its way into the hearts and minds of the American public is alarmingly commonplace. Having an honest discussion about the historical and scientific explanations for our observations in impulsivity, inattentiveness, hyperactivity and a struggle with authority brings to light the same exact cornerstone of the Dog Door’s research and assertion about dog behavior problems today.

The unexplored conversation is that of the role that our changing environment, culture, conditions, relationships, lifestyles, etc. has in the facilitation of these challenging behavioral expressions in kids and dogs. What was very recently a set of relevant and even necessary behaviors in both humans and dogs in our history where the physical bodies were used profoundly more diversely and intensively than they are today as a matter of rule have become the standard problems, disruptions and grievances of parents teachers and other authorities.

The ease with which we are willing to diagnose and medicate for what very often is the intrinsic natural design of the individual and its expression is somewhat frightening, although we have not been privy to an understanding otherwise.

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