Do you have a pet in your family? If you do, you may already be aware that animals are often great listeners. Share a secret with a cat, lizard, or goldfish, and they will keep it safe. Of course, humans’ best friend – dogs – are also excellent confidants. But have you ever wished that your dog could speak?
If you have, we have good news! While dogs may not talk in the same way as humans do, they do communicate. Dogs, who are descended from wolves, are highly social creatures. They “talk” to each other through scents, sounds, and gestures.
Humans can understand many forms of dog communication, they just need to know what to look for! Most dog owners know what a bark means. It is often a dog’s way of informing their humans that there are other people or animals nearby. However, another form of canine communication provides an even deeper insight into what a dog is thinking. What are we referring to? Body language, of course!
Body language can be any movements or positions that express inner thoughts or feelings. Have you ever seen a dog wag its tail? This is one form of body language. You may have heard that a wagging tail means the dog is happy. However, this is not always the case.
A wagging tail communicates heightened emotion. The dog may be feeling happy, anxious, or even afraid. Owners who pay close attention to their dogs’ body language can often understand the meaning behind specific tail wags. They do this by observing the speed, position, and direction of the tail’s movements.
A dog’s posture can also communicate what they are thinking or feeling. For example, a cowering dog is likely to be afraid or stressed. If a dog shifts its weight forward, it is probably interested in something – like a tasty treat! Have you ever seen a dog give a bow by lowering its chest to the ground? This often means they want to play.
Dogs communicate with humans in many other ways, including their eyes and facial expressions. However, humans have also discovered another way to communicate with their canine companions. And, believe it or not, it involves dogs using actual words!
It all started with a speech therapist named Christina Hunger. When her dog, Stella, was a puppy, Hunger noticed something interesting. She observed that Stella seemed to possess many of the same communication skills that human toddlers acquire just before they start speaking.
This inspired Hunger to teach Stella to use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). AAC includes tools that replace speech for individuals who are unable to verbally communicate. For Stella, Hunger chose to use recordable buttons.
Today, Stella has over 45 buttons. When one is pressed, each button plays a different word. She is able to communicate to her owner that she wants things like “water,” “play,” and “outside.” Stella has even learned to combine up to five words at a time to form sentences.
Soon, Hunger shared Stella’s progress with the world. It did not take long for other pet owners to try using AAC with their dogs. Some quickly grasp the new form of communication, while others are not very interested in using the speech buttons.
Do dogs possess actual understanding of their communication through AAC? The verdict is still undecided. Many individuals, including Hunger, hold the belief that the answer is affirmative. However, there are skeptics who question whether the dogs are merely pressing buttons to please their human companions. Currently, there is a study in progress to gain further insights on this matter.
Nevertheless, it’s important to note that dogs do not necessarily require buttons to communicate. Barks, howls, and growls appear to serve them well. The next time you find yourself in the presence of a dog, pay close attention to their body language. What might the dog be attempting to convey?
Give it a try:
Remember to enlist the help of a friend or family member for these activities!
1. Interested in delving deeper into how dogs communicate with humans? Take a look at this guide from the VCA. How many of these different types of dog body language were you aware of? Tail wagging? Head tilting? Are there any that were unfamiliar to you? Share some of your newfound knowledge with a friend or family member.
2. Now that you have a better understanding of how to interpret dog language, reflect on a dog you know. What forms of communication have you observed from them? Did they wag their tail frequently or tuck it between their legs? Was there an action that you misinterpreted? Write a narrative about your experience, how the dog communicated with you, and the emotions it evoked in you. Share your story with a friend or family member.
3. Grab some drawing materials and paper, and create a colorful and dynamic illustration of your favorite canine friend engaging in your preferred form of dog body language. It could be tail wagging, head tilting, or any other action you choose. Show your artwork to a friend or family member.
– https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/advice/how-to-read-dog-body-language/ (accessed 16 Nov. 2021)
– https://www.thesprucepets.com/dog-language-understanding-dog-talk-2804565 (accessed 11 Nov. 2021)
– https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/08/06/talking-dogs-aac-devices-buttons/ (accessed 11 Nov. 2021)
– https://www.hungerforwords.com/our-story/ (accessed 11 Nov. 2021)
– https://www.assistiveware.com/learn-aac/what-is-aac (accessed 11 Nov. 2021)
– https://learnersdictionary.com/ (accessed 11 Nov. 2021)
1. Can dogs actually talk like humans?
No, dogs cannot talk like humans in the same way we communicate with words. They do not possess the physical ability to produce speech sounds or understand human language. However, dogs can communicate with humans and other animals through various vocalizations and body language. They use barks, growls, whines, and howls to express their emotions and intentions. Additionally, they rely on their body postures, facial expressions, and tail movements to convey different messages. While dogs cannot talk in the same way humans do, they have their own unique ways of communication.
2. Can dogs understand what humans say?
Dogs have a remarkable ability to understand human emotions and some words or phrases. Through training and repetition, dogs can learn to associate certain sounds with specific actions or commands. They can understand simple commands such as “sit,” “stay,” or “come.” Dogs also pay attention to our tone of voice and body language, which helps them interpret our intentions and emotions. However, their understanding is limited to a certain extent, and they rely more on non-verbal cues. It’s important to communicate clearly and consistently with dogs to establish effective communication.
3. Are there any breeds of dogs that can talk more than others?
No, there are no specific breeds of dogs that can talk more than others. All dogs, regardless of breed, have similar vocalization capabilities. However, some breeds may have a tendency to be more vocal than others. For example, certain small breeds like Chihuahuas or Terriers are known to be more prone to barking. On the other hand, breeds like Basenjis are known for their unique vocalization patterns, where they can make a yodel-like sound instead of barking. It’s important to note that a dog’s vocalization tendencies are influenced by various factors, including genetics, individual temperament, and environmental factors.
4. Can dogs understand different languages?
Dogs primarily rely on non-verbal cues and tone of voice rather than the actual language being used. While dogs can learn to associate certain words or commands with specific actions, their understanding is not limited to a particular language. They are more attuned to the sound and tone of the human voice, rather than the words themselves. Dogs can learn commands or cues in any language as long as they are consistently associated with the desired actions. This highlights the importance of using consistent verbal and non-verbal cues during training and communication with dogs, regardless of the language being spoken.