As humans, I think we are a rather arrogant species.
We spend a lot of time talking about how to train animals, to make them understand our language. We come up with all sorts of tools and gadgets to make animals do our bidding. Sometimes we yell, we bark out commands like a drill sergeant. And all of our efforts are often met with confusion and stress.
Boy. We’re really missing out.
Animals of all species have rich language. They communicate subtly and effectively. The twitch of an ear. A glance. A flick of a tongue. The curve of a back.
If only we could just hush for just a bit. If we could just learn to stop filling the silence with a lot of words that are often not given the chance to have meaning, we could learn so much. We could work together with our companion animals so much more effectively.
The horse trainer who understands an ear turned one way or the other, or the message of a horse making chewing motions and licking his lips, is the trainer who will work with a horse fairly and without force to form a meaningful bond.
A dog trainer who understands a deliberate glance away, a quick sit, a dropped head, or a big yawn, is a dog trainer who can work to make a huge difference for a stressed dog.
A human who understands what it means when a wolfdog gets up from his spot by the desk, walks all the way downstairs to find “something,” and returns just a few moments later to place a dog food bowl in said human’s lap…well…
Yeah. I got up from my desk and fed the dogs breakfast.
Sometimes animal communication is anything but subtle. Sometimes the language gap is bridged rather brilliantly.
Well done, Kainan, you clever boy. I heard you loud and clear.
Interested in learning more about how dogs communicate? This is a brilliant article written by Turid Rugaas on calming signals. She also has a great book entitled “On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals.” Anyone who wants to learn to work with dogs…or just improve your relationship with your own dog should read this book.