How a psychology course finally helped me understand my weird dog

The unexpected logic behind the world’s most illogical creature


I love my dog. To be fair, I’m not sure how one can do anything but love my dog within the confines of the known universe. What’s not to love? He’s a rotund little Jack Russell Terrier who likes being close to people and taking naps curled up on a blanket. Even the most adamant of cat lovers quickly fall under his spell. However, despite my fondness of the portly creature, I’ve always had an unspoken awareness that my dog is a little … eccentric.

I first noticed my dog’s weird behavior when he was just a few months old. One day, after half a year of seeing the same broom around the house, he abruptly decided it was a threat and started whimpering whenever he passed by it. His behavior would be more understandable if the broom had fallen on him at some point, but as far as I know, my dog has never been hurt by a broom. Actually, I’m fairly certain he’s never been hurt by anything. Yet, for no apparent reason, he one day decided that a random inanimate object was out to get him and refused to calm down until I finally took pity and hid the broom in the attic.

The longer that I’ve known my dog, the more apparent his bizarre idiosyncrasies have become. For example, he doesn’t understand the basics of how to play fetch or go upstairs one leg at a time, but he’s somehow figured out how to open his crate. He’s also eager to eat pine cones, styrofoam and entire books, but he seems to be indifferent to the concept of dog food. My dog’s mysterious quirks are part of why I love him. However, for most of my life, I’ve also been completely at a loss as to what they mean.

Walking in on the first day, I didn’t expect my “Introductory Psychology” class at the University to be a window into understanding my dog’s behavior. Species difference aside, my dog’s oddness had always just seemed like something science couldn’t explain. I had never imagined that there was any kind of lucid reasoning behind his strangeness. Thus I was skeptical when my professor made the claim that all organisms, including animals, were governed by a system of logic.

The more time I spent in class, however, the more I realized just how well human psychology explains my dog’s behavior. In a section on hunger, I learned that people stop eating after a gene triggers a chemical reaction in their brain to tell them to stop chewing. After further investigation, I found that, sure enough, some dogs are simply missing this gene — explaining why my dog thinks it’s a good idea to chew through chair legs even when he isn’t hungry. With each new lesson, I discovered that my dog’s weirdness wasn’t really that strange at all — he just saw the world in a different way.

I’ve always loved my dog, but I’ve never really made an effort to understand him. Finally learning the reasoning behind his bizarreness, however, has helped me understand that although he may be eccentric, nothing about him is unexplainable.

Except his fear of brooms. Turns out there’s no possible explanation for that.

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