Saturday, September 26, 2009


It is amazing that Dogs have a fine tuned ability to communicate effectively in their pack without having a large vocabulary. They are able to let others know what’s going on with subtle changes in their stance and also with their vocal cues.

The other evening, Tessa, my Border Collie/Dalmatian mix saw something outside she didn’t like. She set up and started to growl softly and then let out a Bark – Bark – Bark. The other dogs were not in the same room or in sight of what was going on but they immediately started a unison of barking as a way of saying “OK, I’m with you, even though I’m not sure what you are barking at…” This went on for a few minutes until all the dogs were standing together in a cacophony of bark, bark, bark. They were telling who ever it was outside, “We’re together, we see you and you better not try coming in here…” It was a clear message to intruders or cats alike – Get lost.

I have never been more amazed than when one of our Dogs will attempt to mimic human speech. This usually happens when they are insistent about something like it’s time for a walk, their supper or something else and they will move their mouth in a very human like manner. It sounds like the noise Charlie Brown’s teacher made in the Peanuts specials – a Wahh- Wahh-Whaaa noise. The Dog is working very hard to mimic our speech and say, “Hey – this is important to me…pay attention!” -

Dogs communicate effectively with the Woofs & Barks but also visual signs like stance and positioning of their ears and snouts. Dogs have also learned to take visual cues from us as 90% of what they learn from humans comes from watching our faces and our eyes. Between their hearing acuity and the effectiveness of their visual communications, Dogs surpass us and are more in tune with the pack than we could ever be with our peers. If we were able to pick up 10% of the ability that Dogs use to learn from those around us, we would be better listeners and communicators.

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