Why does a dog chew what it chews?
When I come home and find that the dogs have destroyed something I know they need something more to occupy them. But then I started to wonder how they decided WHAT to chew.
One day I was fascinated when I watched one of my dogs start to choose books from the shelves
I noticed Jack at the bookshelf, carefully sniffing along the spines of books. He chose one and started to pull it off the shelf with his teeth. I gently intervened to move it out of his reach. He continued his search. He stopped at a second book and once again tried to remove it. Then a third. I removed more of the books out of his reach and he moved along to another shelf, sniffing along the full length. Finally he gave up, to be resumed when I wasn't there to spoil his fun.
What did it mean?
I shared the experience with my Natural Dog Training friends and Lee Charles Kelly offered that 'our dogs tend to chew the things that we are ambivalent towards'.
I checked out the meaning of 'ambivalent' :
Ambivalence is a state of having simultaneous, conflicting feelings toward a person or thing. Stated another way, ambivalence is the experience of having thoughts and/or emotions of both positive and negative valence toward someone or something. A common example of ambivalence is the feeling of both love and hate for a person. The term also refers to situations where "mixed feelings" of a more general sort are experienced, or where a person experiences uncertainty or indecisiveness concerning something. The expressions "cold feet" and "sitting on the fence" are often used to describe the feeling of ambivalence.
Ambivalence is experienced as psychologically unpleasant when the positive and negative aspects of a subject are both present in a person's mind at the same time. This state can lead to avoidance or procrastination, or to deliberate attempts to resolve the ambivalence. When the situation does not require a decision to be made, people experience less discomfort even when feeling ambivalent.
Pasted from <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambivalence>
What I learnt
I decided to pay more attention to the choice of books Jack had chosen to chew. I put the sorry evidence out on display.
'Hearts Minds and Paws' - a lovely book written by Nina Bodorenko whose workshop I had attended the previous year. She was inspiring, describing her work in teaching service dogs and her experiences with the amazing emotional links we have with dogs. Her book shares some of the stories and includes her own drawings of dogs. When I had read the book I had loved it, but I was also a bit jealous. This was something that I would love to have created. A clear example of mixed emotion.
'Glorious Inspiration' - by Kaffe Fassett - a book of beautiful imagery designed to whet the appetites of creative knitters and embroiders, reminding of the creativity I used to enjoy when I was much younger and now too busy to engage with.
'An Introduction to Working Trials' - something I had dabbled in with Jack. I had not gone back to it since the embarrassment of a being disqualified from a scenting trial. I had been told that Jack knew what he was doing but I needed to learn to read him.
'Astrology - an illustrated guide' - reading this book had filled me with wonder but, once again, I found myself thinking I don't have enough time to understand this as fully as I would like.
'Aurajin - Recognising Spirit it Matter' - by Carol Klesow - A fascinating subject but when I had read this book previously I had just not understood it.
It seemed that my dog really was chewing the things that I had conflicted feelings about.
In fact all the books that had been selected were of things I wanted more time to learn about.
I revisited the books that had been chewed. One, in particular, 'Aurajin', combined Jin Shin Jyutsu, Numerology, and colour and how it was used in healing. This led me to learn about healing with JSJ, for self and our animal companions . It also gave a me a different way of considering the significance of colours.
So next time you come home and you find that your dog has chewed something in your absence, it might be worth wondering why they chose what they did. Maybe you will make some interesting connections.