This page about Chronic Barking is part of Section Seven:|
the Harm section of barkingdogs.net
Page One of a four-page article:
People who have never suffered through extensive exposure to chronic barking often find it difficult to understand why it should be such an incredibly upsetting, debilitating ordeal. This section tells you why that is, beginning with a discussion of how our bodies react to exposure to chronic noise.
The Physiology of the Upset Victim
The various organs of your body are connected in a way you may not have thought of before. Your eyes, heart, lungs, digestive system, and the smooth muscles of your vascular system (among other organs) are all connected to your brain by nerve cells, which are also called neurons.
Picture the way telephone lines run across the country connecting one city to another. The telephone line running from Los Angeles to San Francisco is not one continuous wire. It is many wires, each connected to the next. When an electronic signal goes from one city to another over the phone line, it travels in relay fashion from wire to wire until it reaches its destination. These particular types of neurons are like that. They carry electrical impulses from the brain in relay fashion, only instead of running from city to city, they run from the brain to the other organs of the body.
Because the brain is wired up to these particular organs through the same relay system of neurons, it can simultaneously create changes in all the connected organs at once by sending electrical impulses traveling along the neural pathway.
If your brain sends electrical impulses along the neural pathway telling the connected organs to speed up, the pupils of your eyes will open wider. Your heart will begin beating faster and your breathing will increase as your lungs begin to work harder. Also, the smooth muscles of your vascular system will react in a way that reduces the blood flow to your hands and feet and channels more blood deep into your body to the major organs. The one exception is your digestive system. When the speed-up message is sent, everything speeds up except your digestion, which slows down. The more things speed up, the greater the sense of tension we feel. When you feel emotionally upset in an excited, high energy sort of way, you are in a state of autonomic speed up.
If your brain sends electrical impulses along the neural pathway telling the connected organs to slow down, your pupils return to normal size and your heart rate and breathing slow. At the same time, the smooth muscles of your vascular system channel more blood into your hands and feet and less to the major organs. As you might expect, when the slow-down message is sent, your digestive system reacts by speeding up. That's why digestion is a more pleasant process when you're relaxed than when you're tense.
The more things slow down, the more relaxed we are likely to feel.
The Autonomic Nervous System & the Endocrine System
The organs of the body that are beyond our conscious control, like those listed above, together with the nerve cells that connect them, are known as the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).
Notice that when you hear the sharp report of a barking dog, it gives you a start. Physically you feel yourself give a little jump and you experience a sudden sense of tension. That feeling is the autonomic nervous system speeding up the inner workings of your body. As the barking continues on, the neurons continue firing and you become increasingly tense.
When a dog barks, he creates sound waves. Sound waves are real physical entities that have a real physical effect on our bodies. We can't see them, but they are there and they carry the output of the barking dog to the sensory hair cells of our ears, which then carry the report of the sound into our brains. The brain, in turn, stimulates the ANS, which makes us feel tense.
Hormones are chemicals manufactured within our bodies. Under certain conditions, those hormones are released into our blood streams by our body's various glands. Different hormones do different things. They regulate our growth, our metabolism, our sexual desires and our sense of well being and distress. While the ANS makes us feel tense, it is the endocrine system that makes us feel anxious when we are in close proximity to a barking dog. That's not surprising really. The hormonal (endocrine) system is regulated by a primitive part of the human brain that seems to respond instantly to the primitive threats and messages of desperation that are implicit in the voice of a chronically barking dog. That's part of why barking drives people wild.
To really appreciate the impact that chronic barking has on your autonomic and endocrine systems and, thus, your emotional state, you must also factor-in the length of time required for our bodies to return to normal after an acoustic shock like that which we receive when a nearby dog releases a loud, sudden, percussive burst of barking. If it happens only once, you may return to normal in a matter of seconds. However, with each additional episode of barking, your systems fire-up more quickly, and it takes a little longer to return to baseline. If it happens frequently enough, you will still be wound-up from the last outburst when the next one hits, with the result that you will be forever tense, and at no point will you ever be able to become truly relaxed in your own home.
Some people have an autonomic nervous system that works like greased lightening, while others have a relatively sluggish function of the ANS. The more readily your ANS fires up, the faster your endocrine system will kick in, and the longer it will take your body to return to a relaxed state after you are exposed to a flurry of barking.
Written by Craig
Spanish translation - Traducción al español
This website and all its content, except where otherwise noted, are © (copyright) Craig Mixon, Ed.D., 2003-2019.