Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Listening To My Dogs

I've said for a long time that I'd like to speak Barklish.  That's my imaginary language between people and dogs.   

But I've learned that my dogs communicate just fine with me without an actual language.  They talk, sure, but that's mostly barks from them when they want my attention.  And I can interpret those barks to know what they're intending to say. 

For example, my older Cavalier, Lexie, will bark when she wants to go outside.  That often means she wants to go potty, or at least pretend to so I'll give her a treat when we're back in the house.  In case I don't hear Lexie barking, Mystie will come to me and stand up at the side of my desk chair (which is usually where I am, writing) and paw at me to make sure I hear and obey.  Mystie will also do that when she's the one who wants to go outside even if Lexie isn't barking.

Then there are the barks from Lexie that mean she wants me to open our front door so she can go outside on our fenced-in porch and watch the world go by.  And if the dogs are out there, they'll bark in a different, warning tone to let all people and other dogs passing by know that this is their turf and they're protecting it.  Mystie will also bark when she thinks it's time for a squeak-ball game.

Lexie will jump onto the sofa and paw at a pillow.  Sometimes she gets it arranged the way she want, but other times she'll look at me until I try to put it into the right position for her--not always an easy feat.

Their dinner time is usually around 6:00 PM.  That means that both of them, Lexie in particular, will start coming in to my office and circling me or staring at me around 4:30, just to be sure I don't forget.

And during the day, when I go into the kitchen to warm my coffee in the microwave, they always join me because they have me trained to give them a small treat each time I nuke something. 

Do I talk to them?  Sure.  In English, punctuated by gestures.  They'll sit on command.  They'll "hush" if I'm strong enough about it.  I hold conversations with them that they respond to with their own body language, including cocking their heads if they're really interested.  And if I put on shoes, Mystie in particular will start barking because she knows I may be either taking them out or putting out the trash, which is also interesting since she gets to see the front of the house. 

My husband just returned from a trip yesterday.  I'd joined him in Chicago for a long weekend to visit family, then came home before he did.  Mystie in particular has separation anxiety, and when she sees a suitcase she'll refuse to come into the kitchen, which is where we often enclose the pups when we're out of the house.  Or, she'll try to follow me into the garage to tell me she wants to come along, wherever I'm driving.  While Fred was away, this behavior was even more common.  And Lexie, who considers herself Alpha over me but Beta to Fred, was even more insistent about hanging around me and getting onto my lap to exchange attention for snuggles and chin-kisses. 

As I write this, they're both sleeping near me.  But as soon as I stand up they'll be wide awake and demanding something. 

Which will be a good time for me to kneel and hug them.

How about you--how do you communicate with your pets?


Betty Hechtman said...

I talk to my cats and surprisingly they seem to listen. We let them out in the backyard with supervision and when it's time to go in, at least one of them actually listens and goes inside on his own.

Linda O. Johnston said...

I'm not surprised that your cats seem to listen, Betty. Cats are intelligent. They may prefer doing things their own way, but if you tell them to do something that's in their best interests then their heeding what you say makes sense.

Monica Ferris said...

You're right, Linda. Cats haven't sold their souls to humans like dogs have, God bless them. But cats do hear and understand. I can identify at least four kinds of "meow" one of my cats makes. He sometimes wanders through the apartment at night crying in a harsh existential voice - I don't know why. When his tummy hurts and he's going to throw up, his cry is a low monotone, giving me enough warning to move him to a hard-surface floor. When he's gotten himself outside and the cat door through the screen hangs up so he can't get back in, his cry is soft and pleading. And when he wants me to turn the water on just a trickle so he can lap it up, he speaks in a kind of persuasive chuckle.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Your cat definitely communicates with you, Monica. It sounds as if you've taken instructions well and know what he's saying--at least most of the time!