Can dogs be mentally challenged? I can't imagine it. Yet I've met more than one person who describes their dog as having mental issues. Perhaps they've witnessed such things. Perhaps they know a friend of a friend of a friend who knows someone whose dog's behavior is odd, or who hears such stories about their neighbors' dog. Perhaps, they read an article about a dog with mental issues in a magazine or blog. Whatever the source, the person's experience was enough for them to be able to describe their dog as "mentally challenged."
What is so striking is how many other people, when asked about their dog, describe their dog as "mentally challenged."
This raises a couple of interesting questions.
First, how common are dogs with mental issues?
Second, what, if anything, should we do about such a dogs?
This blog is my chance to explore both questions.
I hope it will be enlightening and entertaining, and that it may also be useful.
What we do about a dog with mental issues
I'll talk about our experience in dealing with our own dog, our friends' dogs, and my friends' neighbors' dogs. My hope is that what we have learned will prove useful to others with dogs.
How common is a dog with mental issues?
First, how common is a dog with mental issues? I do not have numbers to cite. I do, however, have anecdotes that support my opinion that a significant number of dogs have some kind of mental issue. My anecdotes can be divided into two categories. The first are anecdotal experiences with family and friends. The second are stories I've read.
The first category includes dogs of people who were my students. These students and I have been friends for 20 years.
My children have dogs. I've known these dogs for as long as I've known my children. It seems that I've known one child's dog since before the child was born. I've known some of them for over ten years, and some for about three. They've had more than 50 dogs. I've known about every one of them.
What is remarkable to me is that in the almost 30 years we've been friends, not one of my children's dogs, nor any of their friends' dogs, has ever exhibited anything like the behaviors that have been described by my students. This may simply be my prejudice. It's possible that these anecdotes of dog abuse and dog illnesses are anomalies that reflect a small percentage of dogs. My personal prejudice is that a significant number of dogs have psychological problems.
I recently received an email from a reader of this blog. The reader reported that her dog showed at least two signs of mental illness, and both signs were evident when she first got the dog.
If a large percentage of dogs are mentally ill, it would be very easy to become a victim of dog abuse. One would have no reason to believe that dogs really can suffer, and if it was believed that the owner could not know whether the dog was doing what it was doing in response to his behavior, he might be inclined to do whatever he wanted.
I believe that the prevalence of mental illness among dogs, as in humans, is underestimated. People have been told that dogs are incapable of suffering, and that, therefore, their interests do not matter. But I believe that people who do not care about the welfare of other animals can abuse and neglect them with impunity. People like to believe that they are the center of the universe and that everything and everyone revolve around them. If I believe that my dog can understand me, my dog and I may be able to communicate. That would be a first for him.
I believe that dogs have as much potential for joy and as much potential for pain as humans. Some of them might show signs of psychological disorders, but how many do?
I also believe that dog owners who understand that their dogs have emotional reactions to life can respect them and be happy for them. But when people do not understand the animals they own, they cannot understand their needs. Then they abuse and mistreat the animals, and the animals suffer. If a dog can communicate, then the dog's feelings are important, but they are important to him if he wants to communicate with people, or with the owners of other animals.
It is not that I say that dogs cannot suffer, and I certainly do not think that dogs don't feel the pain of being mistreated. But I do say that it is a mistake to believe that dogs do not suffer, because it is easier to abuse an animal than to understand it, and understanding dogs requires that we understand their world, their feelings and their thoughts.
A dog's brain is very small in comparison to a human's brain, and it is very different from the brains of other animals. Understanding dogs means understanding their brains, and that means understanding their feelings. They might not be able to talk, but I believe that they can show it by how they behave, because they are animals who do not have language but have the ability to show their emotions and feelings, or what they understand by the word "feelings."
Dogs show affection by many things. They look at a person and communicate, with a dog's eyes, what the dog is feeling at that moment, what he wants and what he will do when he finds something he wants. When dogs look at you, they may show a smile, and that is the closest to language I can explain.
Other animals understand that a human and a dog are different, and that is why they look at us as if we are different from them. There is a similarity between dogs and humans, but the differences between us are important. That is why I choose to live among animals, and why I love dogs. The feeling of love for a dog is different from a human's love.
In the human world, there are people who call me their friends. They see me as one of them, and I also see them as friends, but in the world of dogs, I am always an animal, even though I am with the human world. My love for them is different from the love a human would have. I wish humans would understand this and love animals like me. The way a dog speaks to another dog and to humans is different from the way a human speaks to another human. This is how it is between dogs, and between humans and dogs.
Dogs and humans are different, and they always will be. They have no language, but they can express their feelings, and their actions are similar to the actions we do in our lives. And so, in the life of a dog, there are many things we humans can do. But there is only one thing a dog can do, and that is love. It is the human heart that creates the difference between humans and animals. The spirit that is a dog is not capable of anything other than love.
In the world of humans, there are many human ways of thinking, but the feeling of love is different. Only a dog can understand this.
The human heart is in the human mind. In the world of dogs, there is only the dog heart.
There is a big difference between human love and a dog's love.
## Chapter 8
It was a beautiful day, the beginning of spring, and I could see flowers in bloom in my yard. The garden was full of everything. The sun was just bright enough to make the sunflowers shine brightly. And a pair of birds were singing, a male and a female, in the trees, the male singing first.
I heard a car approaching and I went to the window. I saw my brother sitting