Understanding How Dogs Talk

Dog Language: Understanding How Dogs Talk

How is it that dogs understand human language, whether it is clipped Yankee, Texas Drawl or Southern Y’all, but we humans have so much trouble understanding them?

It matters not which country we’re from, humans are of the same species so we should be able to understand each other, right? Wrong. We don’t all speak the same language nor do we “read” each other’s actions as well as we did before we became so civilized.

Rhinos, hippos, and elephants have no trouble understanding each other. In fact, world-renowned elephant authority, University of Georgia Theriogenology Professor Richard Fayer-Hoskins DVM, reports that elephants actually carry on extensive verbal conversations.

group of elephants

Did you ever think about the fact that dogs have no problem understanding each other whereas Midwesterners can get lost trying to get directions from someone who speaks in Brooklynese? It isn’t just body language that animals read. THINK about going to the kitchen early to fix his food and your dog will beat you there, tail wagging.

And what about dogs that live in Alabama but instantly understand what someone from New Hampshire is saying? We went to dog shows all over the country, but taking a taxi from “The Garden” (Westminster) in New York City was a kerfuffle of a conversation for us Southerners. New York City cabbies are remarkable in their command of foreign languages, but they had a little trouble with finding us “sumpun ta eat” that was “not too fur a piece.”

Imagine going to China and instantly speaking their language! Your little Italian Greyhound meets and greets a Pekingese like an old friend. Okay, you are thinking, “no big deal” that canine conversation is body language, but even that is remarkable because a Rottweiler and a Poodle have very different body carriage and signals.

Even more amazing than the canine’s ability to converse in any language is their ability to read humans like a book! Any dog can sense someone’s intentions, but “guard breeds” are particularly adept at understanding human body language. Think about it. Protection Breeds are as tuned in to humans as flock guardians are to their sheep.

If your dog is normally friendly but takes exception to someone, don’t let your guard down.

man holding a lecture

And here’s something even more thought-provoking. You know dogs read body language… but read your mind?!!! Think about this everyday phenomenon which we humans take for granted. You are watching TV, your dog dozing by your chair. During the commercial, you THINK about a snack. Even as you start to get up, your dog jumps up and heads for the kitchen!

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we understood each other as well as dogs understand us? Here’s a fact to ponder. Put all the college professors in the world together and they still don’t have the perceptiveness of a wild rabbit!

Is it that we depend too much on the spoken word and have therefore diminished what our senses might tell us about a situation or a person’s character? Have humans lost that instinct or is it just suppressed in today’s overcrowded world? Maybe we should step back and take a lesson from our dogs. Any owner who is communicating with their dog out of love can learn from him or her—and I know that’s you because you are reading this.

Consciously try it for a few days. “Listen” to your dog AND to your own buried instincts.

Your dog can still “sense” if a person intends to harm you, whether physically or emotionally. So, work on reading him and honing your own instincts based on what your dog displays. We are so evolved that we often let manners rule over our innate perception. It is a fact that the more “elevated” and educated person is the easiest target for a clever conman.

taxi cabs at madison square garden

Your lap dog can sense an evil person as easily as a New York City detective can read that same person. That being said with deep respect for all the men and women who risk their lives in law enforcement. Their senses are especially fine-tuned to danger, and like a working police dog, they are uncannily perceptive.

So, when your dog talks to you, whether verbally or through body language… listen up. Your best friend usually has something interesting to say. Be especially cognizant of his or her posture as it relates to “did you hear that?” If your dog is relaxed and wagging, he knows what he heard or smelled. If he is tense and still, he senses something unusual. If he growls, your dog has decided it could be a threat and you should be on high alert.

Understanding your dog could save your life. He may lie about who tipped over the kitchen garbage, but there is no deceit in a dog when it comes to danger! Understanding your dog can keep you safer or give you a laugh when you most need it.

  • Barbara “BJ” Andrews is the breeder of over 300 AKC Champions including over a dozen All-Time record holders. She is the author of 8 breed books and founder of 3 AKC Breed Clubs. In 1998 she launched the world’s first public website (TheDogPlace.org) followed by TheDogPress.com and TheJudgesPlace.com which, as part of the NetPlaces Network, serves all facets of dog ownership and exhibition. She and husband Bill pioneered the Akita, Miniature Bull Terrier, and Toy Fox Terrier to AKC recognition and BJ served on the board of each Parent Club. She has judged in England and AKC Specialty Sweeps. She was awarded UKC All Breeds approval but has never applied for an AKC judges license because it could interfere with objective reporting on the sport.

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