Thursday, October 14, 2010

More Interspecies Communication!

There is no cause for alarm. My book this month is from the juvenile nonfiction part of the library. But that's OK. I don't limit my reading to "adult titles." I find a lot of good reading in the children's area. This book is a prize: How to Talk to Your Dog, by Jean Craighead George. I should mention her companion volume, How to Talk to Your Cat, but will not say as much about that one. I read it, even though I already knew how to talk to my cats. But the author opened my eyes about dog communication. She writes a very entertaining guide.

Our animal friends have a lot to give us. Ms. George writes that "No matter how old your dog is, you can speak to him in his own language at any time in his life." Dogs are pack animals, and she explains how to tell them you're the boss. She says you should never leave your dog with a scolding. (I can't help thinking a lot of what she says about dogs can be applied to humans, as well.)

"Tell him what a good dog he is. Dogs love flattery. Flattery will put him in a good mood, and it will be easier to teach him..."

She describes dogs' use of their tails, and how to know their feelings from watching them. Which made me think of Choo-Choo, our Amphibious Rat-Dog (which is not an AKC-recognized breed, by the way). Choo-Choo's tail was broken, and she couldn't wag it. Dogs that were three or four times her size were frightened of her because she didn't do the happy tail wagging. Seeing them cringe and whimper was always pretty funny.

And the author talks about bonding by making eye contact: "In fact, you should make eye contact with him before you tell him to sit or heel or stay. He will pay more attention and learn more quickly." Now it occurs to me that this eye contact would help humans learn. There is no way for a classroom teacher to make eye contact with thirty students simultaneously, is there? Hmmm...

"Do not stare; a stare is a threat.

"You can pass other messages with your eyes. Think 'I love you. I love you,' and your lower lid will involuntarily come up and soften your expression. Your dog will read that and return this message by softening his eyes."

And she says some dogs have a different bark for each different animal they are tracking. "By listening, you know whether the hound is following a deer, rabbit, raccoon, or squirrel.

"Although it is fun, it is not very rewarding to bark at your dog. He doesn't understand your bad accent and may twist his head and look at you in confusion."

Humans and dogs have co-evolved for a long, long time. It is so cool to know How to Talk to Your Dog.

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