say it how it is – series
Mental Masturbation, it’s a thing actually.
There are those that like polite, easy to digest information, a fast food version of what is going on with their dog. Scratching the surface, tickling the tip of the iceberg, but nothing more.
And there are others that like the deeper more full-bodied list of details, savoring my observations, and visualizing change with their dog.
But when I break the news that their dog is simply engaging in Mental Masturbation, most, if not all, maybe with the exception of a few, blink rather quickly, stare at me as I spontaneously grow three heads, and then become tight-lipped.
I believe some of this has to do with main stream training information. If you dive into the spoon fed sensational version of training, you are lead to believe that most dogs have behavioral issues, and at some point will try to dominate your life, and most definitely will be contemplating your demise while you sleep unless you rule with an iron fist. It is all crap, fodder for the trash can, all of it.
So when someone comes to me thinking they have the canine version of the ‘Crips and the Bloods’ under their roof, and I have to break the news that they don’t, but rather a dog who engages in mental masturbation the majority of the day, which isn’t healthy, and it turns out it’s not a dog issue but rather an owner issue, well … it isn’t the sexy answer they were looking for, and for sure an answer they didn’t expect to receive, and in all honesty, many are offended by my observation. It must be more complicated than mental masturbation, more difficult in some way, more like what they saw on TV. Nope it doesn’t.
So we are all on the same page –
Behavior is something a dog does, not something a dog has. For example a dog cannot ‘have’ bad or good behavior, it isn’t something they carry around. Behavior is something that is done in space and time, an act. Behavior is fluid and works in conjunction with and is effected by associations, experiences, the environment, and relationships.
Mental Masturbation is pleasurable but unproductive mental activity in the short-term, and self stimulating. Sometimes a dog will use language, or a technique, because it entertains or stimulates the mind. It may not, and is often times not, the best option for the dog, but some times it can also be the only option for the dog, and the dog starts to like the stimulation or challenge it provides.
The language I refer to can be barking, whining, pawing, lip lifts, growling, puffing, jumping, chasing, and the list goes on. And this language is used in repetition, with either a person, place, thing, event, or in the context of a specific environment.
The techniques can range from property line running, fence running/fighting, stalking, lunging, digging, scratching, repetitive jumping on the fence, chasing the post man, and the list goes on.
Don’t fix what isn’t broken. If your dogs mental masturbation habits are not upsetting your home, there is no harm to anyone, and it is more of a predilection, leave it alone and have a fun life with your dog.
Please fix what is broken. If your dogs mental masturbation has now become so well rehearsed, and fine tuned, that it is disrupting the home and those around you, starting to cause harm, or elevated behaviors that concern you, then you need to make changes. If a mentally stimulating activity is rehearsed often enough, you purchase that new behavior. Sit on that for a moment.
Exercise is number one and must be appropriate for your dog’s age, breed, and health level.
A dog that is bored and lacks adequate daily exercise will turn to mental masturbation as a way to self stimulate and alleviate the boredom.
A walk on a leash around the block is not what I consider exercise unless your dog is a geriatric, and then who cares if they mentally masturbate, they have the ‘Free Senior Pass’ card, let them enjoy the rest of their life safely.
Exercise is physical and mental, and should be varied. Tricks, positions, fetch, tug, hide n seek, nose work. If you are not engaging your dog mentally and physically, the environment will, and that will always work against you, and you purchase mental masturbation. Be very honest with yourself about this seemingly simple thing.
There are no short cuts when living with a dog, you must do more than buy food, provide water, and offer toys, and a soft bed. Those are all lovely comforts and necessities, but that isn’t addressing your dogs needs to exercise and possibly work. Get involved and learn more if you truly want change.
Management is essential. Your space both in your home and yard must be managed, especially if whatever is causing your dog to self stimulate mentally is in one of those environments. The same applies to when you are out and about, you must choose your environments intentionally, especially if you know that some environments will cause your dog to self stimulate mentally.
Choose. You have lots of choices to make in your life with your dog. In my opinion it is healthier to choose to want to work with your dog … But that just may be me?