Did you know that there are a significant number of people in this world being paid to pick your dog’s brain? With so many therapists, telepathists and communicators claiming your pet is talking to you, it’s entirely possible that many people who watched the animated movie Isle of Dogs believed it was a documentary produced by Ken Burns.
Don’t be too surprised if the next time you stick your head out the kitchen window and tell Sparky to shut up, somebody with a clipboard who looks like Sigmund Freud informs you that your dog was just speaking out against interspecies verbal abuse.
Okay, so does your pet communicate with you? Of course. The problem is that with all the whining, grunting, scratching and gas passing coming from the couch where your brother-in-law resides, your pet’s communications often go unheard.
Pet therapists who claim to be able to read your pet’s mind base their research on the theory: “the thing that animals want most in life is to be heard.”
Ah, I don’t think so. I’m no psychic but from my three decades of experience with cats and a dog, I believe the things that animals want most are (and this is a chronological order) a big dump, followed by a big meal, followed by a big nap. If they want to be heard, trust me, it’s the sweet sound of snoring that’s foremost on their minds. In fact, after some exhaustive research, I’ve discovered that that’s pretty much all the things the boys at the Belmont Hotel want out of life as well.
Animal behaviorists at the Christian Albrecht University in Kiel, Germany are spending a great deal of time and Deutschmarks to study why dogs bark. So far they’ve discovered a distinction between the close-range communication of short, gruff, noisy barking and long-range harmonic barking by “virtuoso dogs capable of sonic fancy.” Really?
Sorry, but all dog barking is noisy and annoying. Dogs cannot harmonize which is why all the German Shepherd choir scenes got cut from The Sound of Music. The only virtuoso, musical stuff on record was actually sung by The Chipmunks and I believe it was Alvin on the harmonica.
The same researchers claim to have identified and broken down a dozen variations of dog barking into “dialects.” Dog dialects? Like in the first Pink Panther movie when Peter Sellers says: “But of course, ziss is not my dug.” And the French Poodle replies: “But of course, I would drink zee poison if I was yer dug!”
And how did talking work out for Dinky, the little chihuahua on the Taco Bell ads? Remember him, pulling down ten bones per commercial to say “Drop the chalupa, man.” Well viewers found that commercial got so tiresome they fired his little Latino bum off the set. Today Dinky operates a coffee truck for drug-sniffing dogs at the U.S. Mexico entry point of Nogales.
Here then, are the results of my exhaustive study into language of the common domesticated canid known as dog.
Experiment #1. Controlled stimulus: “Jawannagoforawalk?” Automatic response: “Woof… woof… woof.” Interpretation: “Yes… yes… oh yes.”
Experiment #2. Controlled stimulus: “Jawannatreat?” Automatic response: Automatic response: “Woof… woof… woof.” Interpretation: “Yes… yes… oh yes, please.”
Experiment #3. Controlled stimulus: “Jawannagoforaride?” Automatic response: “Woof… woof… woof.” Interpretation: “Man, I thought you’d never ask!”
Folks, let’s not confuse pet behavior with rocket science. When everything’s fine, the dog naps. When he barks, something’s up. Period.
If your dog stands there staring at you intently for a long period of time he probably wants something. You don’t have to call The Amazing Kreskin over for a personal reading. Give the dog something – water, a walk, a biscuit, a big hug. My favourite was the lecture: “You gotta listen to the manager. No, you’re not! I am the manager, dammit!”
Dogs are not deep thinkers. If a dog walks into a room and looks around suspiciously, he’s not conjuring up dog spirits. If he could talk, he’d probably say: “What the hell did I come in here for? That’s the third time this week!” (Third time for him. How many times for you?)
Dogs have great intuition. They can read situations, they can sense joy and fear and death and food left unattended. They know without having to explain or expound on it all. And that’s the beauty of dogs – they don’t talk or try to make you think too hard. (That’s why they’re man’s best friend and not woman’s best friend. They go easy on our single-tasking brains.)
No, dogs didn’t get to be man’s best friend by barking at him in a certain tone or telling him what he should or shouldn’t eat or saying things like: “You don’t kiss me much anymore.” They got to be man’s best friend because they don’t try to read his mind or communicate with him when he’s watching the Leafs on TV.
Now, can we all – therapists and telepathists, behaviorists and ethologists – leave well enough alone. Or in common dog language: “Jawannajustforgetabout it?”
For comments, ideas and copies of The Legend of Zippy Chippy, go to www.williamthomas.ca