No Canine Translator Required

Over the years I have read various books on canine communication.  I’ve even attended a seminar on “How to Communicate with Your Pets”, which turned out to be a real bomb filled with New Age kooks and just plain weirdos and me.  In my defense, I thought I was going to be getting tips on recognizing different physical signals that dogs give us when they are trying to communicate and also info on how dogs communicate with each other…..again aimed more at the physical, tangible things that they do.  Instead I sat there trying to stifle giggles as we all were instructed to rub our palms together to generate heat and then to lay them on the photographs of our pets as we thought in “word pictures” that we wanted to communicate to them.  Oh, please!  What was even funnier was the question and answer period at the end of the seminar as the participants asked the instructor for advice on specific situations.  Think “Ghost Whisperer” meets “Horse Whisperer” and you’ve got a pretty good idea of how the evening was going.

I still remain fascinated with how animals communicate with each other and with us.  Fresca, our dog, certainly has amused me over the years with her own individual style of communicating.  These are a few of my favorites.

1.  “I’m top dog.  Get thee behind me!” Whenever her little doggy friend, Schatze is visiting, Fresca always lets Schatze know who is supposed to go out the sunroom door into the enclosed backyard first.  The two dogs will race through the dining room French doors into the sunroom and then Fresca lets out a specific short bark while body slamming Schatze out of the way so that Fresca can get into position as the first one in line to go out the sliding glass door into the backyard.  She does this every time.  There is no mistaking her message.

2.  “Hey, you guys up?” We have two dogs that live next door to us.  Fresca isn’t particularly friends with them but she has a keen interest in what they are doing.  If they are out in their yard, Fresca always can sense this and wants to go out.  Of course, once she’s out there, all she does is bark at them and then I have to bring her back in so she isn’t annoying the neighbors.  But her daily routine each morning is this:  She goes through her normal feeding and bathrooming routine and then, after I’m dressed and ready to face the day, Fresca comes over and bugs me to let her out.  I open the back door into the dog yard and Fresca runs to the middle of the enclosed yard, stops, faces the neighbor’s yard and lets out one short bark.  Then she stops and listens and looks intently.  She repeats this several times more and, if neither of the neighbor’s dogs appear, Fresca will turn around and come back up the steps and sit by the door, waiting for me to let her back in.

3.  “Aw, Dad, you don’t really want to go to work.  Play with me.” Each morning, when my husband goes to get his coat on and gather his briefcase, Fresca disappears downstairs to the family room.  Then she reappears with a toy in her mouth.  The Commander will start towards the door into the garage but Fresca will cut him off at the pass and drop the toy at his feet, looking up at him hopefully.  It never works.  He still leaves but she always tries.

4.  “OK, now you need to open the curtains.” Fresca always comes up to the bedroom when I’m getting dressed.  I have my normal routine.  I’ll make the bed, get dressed, sit down in a chair to put on my socks, and the last thing I’ll do is open all the curtains.  Lately I’ve noticed that when I sit down in the chair, before I get up, Fresca comes over to me and looks at me and then looks at the curtains nearest to me.  If I don’t get up immediately, she walks over to the windows and sits down and looks at them and then back at me.   I’ve heard of seeing-eye dogs but I wonder if anyone has ever thought of training dogs for the memory-challenged?  Fresca might be a good candidate.

5.  “Danger, Mom, Danger!  Come on!” Monday through Saturday, our mail lady drives through our neighborhood and stops at our mailbox to deliver our mail.  And six days a week, Fresca can hear her mail truck coming when it’s still way down the street.  That dog will start barking and racing back and forth between the two front rooms, peering out through the windows for the dangerous interloper.  I’m usually in the backroom, working on the computer.  When Fresca’s frantic barking fails to rouse me, she will come find me and give me a worried look, whining and going back to the front room and then coming back to my room until I get up and go stand by the door, ready to fight off any rabid mail carriers that might breach the perimeter of our home.

6.  “It’s Time for Dinner.” I’ll bet most dog and cat owners are all too familiar with this communication.  Fresca will start pacing between the kitchen and whatever room I’m in, about an hour before it is time for her to eat.  I refuse to be lured to go feed her so early.  So she’ll then resort to coming into my workroom and sitting down by me and just staring at me.  She doesn’t “say” anything but her stare is LOUD.  Usually I’m the one who “breaks” and I get up, saying something like “Oh, OK, for Pete’s sake.  Come on!”  Then she’ll joyfully dart to the kitchen and prance around until I’ve filled her food dish.  Oy!

So how do your pets communicate with you?  I’ll bet you all have some fun stories to tell.

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  • Shelley

    Elphaba is the same way with the mailmen….but he does the street behind us first…so she goes nuts while he’s back there…then we get about a 30 minute break, then she goes nuts again when he finally starts down our street.

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