She Does It Just to Make Me Mad!

Does your pet chicken seem to do things just for the express purpose of aggravating the life out of you? To inconvenience you? To make you really mad? To make huge messes, or worst of all, make you late for work or school? You love your pet dearly, but sometimes you’re convinced that she does these things with the most diabolical glee and evil intent – just to tick you off, to punish you, or to get even with you for leaving for the day.

(Note: the following information applies to all pets, not just chickens.)

Well, today, we’re going to investigate that suspicion and put it to rest once and for all. Yes, pets are inconvenient, they do things that make us mad, they disrupt our schedules and routines – but . . . well, do they really do it on purpose? Let’s check it out.

Your dog, cat, chicken, porpoise, turtle or elephant certainly does have an emotional life. We’re not going to deny that! We’ve all seen our pets do the “happy dance” when we come home after a long day away – or even a few minutes, in some cases (okay, dogs)! We’ve seen them grieve when an animal companion dies. But that’s a long way from knowing what emotions are. To put it another way, we don’t believe an animal knows it feels happy, sad, scared or angry in the same way humans can identify and name their emotions. Humans can even relive their past emotions to an extent, as we’ve all seen when a journalist interviews a survivor of some catastrophic event. “We were terrified when the tornado hit,” the survivor begins, and then chokes up with the memory, unable to continue, although he or she is perfectly safe in the moment.

Your pet would have to understand what emotions are in order to decide to “make you mad.” But that’s not all. She (we’re assuming your pet is a girl) would also have to be able to PROJECT emotions onto you. In other words, she’d not only have to understand her own emotional states, she’d also have to comprehend that YOU experience emotions. That’s quite a stretch! We would not deny the intelligence of animals any more than their “emotionence,”* but how smart would that make her?

Well, about as smart as a ten- to twelve-year old human. That’s about how old kids are before they develop real empathy and understand that people around them have feelings (by my own estimation; don’t ask me to cite authorities). I know what I know – I’ve raised a couple of kids! And they’re even a little older than that before they care, lol!

Now, let’s assume that your pet really is all that smart. What would it take for your pet to decide to do something just to make you mad?

She’d have to decide to do something to trigger that particular emotion in you. In order to do that, she’d have to first be observant enough to see what it is that makes you mad, which would require some long-term thinking and planning, and is just plain creepy, spooky and scary! And finally, she’d have to think something like this: Today’s the day. I am going to carry out my nefarious plans so I can get (yelled at/ beat up / spanked/ kicked/ locked up / have treats withheld - in other ways) punished in some way; it’s worth it to me to cause an emotional reaction in the person who feeds me and cares for me. It will be so satisfying!

Believe me, if an animal is smart enough to go through this entire process, just to trigger an emotion in you, it’s not going to be anger. That animal is going to pick up the phone and make a phone call or two! She’s going to order you a pizza with double everything, to be delivered with flowers and chocolate. She’s going to try to find a way to make you HAPPY, not angry!

Bottom line: your pet is not doing anything deliberately to make you mad. Your pet is just being an animal. Yes, they are messy and inconvenient, and that’s just the price of having pets. Build extra time into your schedule to deal with it, and try to enjoy it. They don’t live forever and some day you’ll miss that mess and laugh about it – and maybe even cry a little, too.

*"Emotionence" is a word I coined while teaching basic dog obedience through San Juan College's Community Learning program in Farmington, New Mexico to describe the ability of an organism to feel and experience an emotional state.
About author
Former teacher of basic dog obedience for about 15 years at San Juan College in NW NM, I developed my own techniques, which I called "Dogspeak," emphasizing two-way communication through body language, facial expressions and vocalizations based on dogs' natural communications in conjunction with training equipment. Interactive, fun and effective for dog and handler alike.

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This is a great article! I completely understand what you mean! Yes, pictures would be great but I don't want to rate this 4 star and then you add pictures... it's 5 star WITH the pictures! :)
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Thank you so much! I'll work on those pics!
Enjoyed reading, and the points were great! Would love a few pics added to the article.
Thank you for your comments, @DIYMama! I will see what I can do about adding pics.


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