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When Dogs Talk to Us.

Once you get your attention tuned in to the way dogs talk, you suddenly “hear” much more. The “hearing” is more about seeing what they say if that makes sense. Without speaking English words, dogs obviously have to “talk” in a way that uses other senses and signals, but the language is definitely there and so are the vocal cords.

At the time of writing, I sit here in my home-office with three German Wirehaired Pointers fast asleep in their Tuffies nests. They all have nests with the full nest cover on and they look very snug indeed. Once I get up from my chair, however, they start getting alert and one or two will get out to start pacing in anticipation. This time of the morning holds promises of a run with me, so they don’t want to miss the chance. If I then get my cycling or walking kit on, there is no doubt about the language they speak. It is as vocal as you like. The tail wagging is extreme, but because I don’t seem to get my helmet and gloves on fast enough, they get impatient and the “Auwauwauwauoooooo” starts. It really is as if they are experimenting in speaking like they hear us speak. With her gaze set on my eyes in intense eye contact, Gaia expresses her Auwauwauooooo while moving her mouth. I can completely understand what she is saying, which is “Get a move on!!!”.


Reporting Back.

I work my pointers on grouse moors where they hunt vast areas, scenting the air for sitting birds. As the process goes: The dog will, if he finds the smell of birds sitting in the heather, stop on point. When the hunters see that, they load their guns and when they are ready to shoot, I give the dog the command to flush the birds out of the heather for them to shoot. An experienced dog knows that this is the routine and you can find that some pointers will report back to their handler if they find birds. This happens especially if the point happens out of sight of the handler. The dog will leave the birds sitting in the heather and run back to find their handler to “tell” that he has found birds. So how do you know if the dogs is just running and hunting and when it is saying “Come with me, I know where there are birds”. You do it by “reading” the dog. When this happens, the dogs comes straight towards you with its gaze determinedly at yours. When you return the gaze, the dog comes up to you and turns around with a body language that you just can’t help understand as “Follow me”. Amazing it is to follow the dog and see it run ahead and settle in to the same  point again. Once you are ready, you ask the dog to flush and up come the birds. Fantastic to see the dog talk.


Words in the House.

I think we all read our dogs’ language every day in the house. The classic one is the “I need out for a pee” or “Please can we go for a walk?” and “Is my dinner still not ready?”.

In our house we have Tuffies nests, but we also have a Durasoft mattress bed with a Dog Dryer cover sitting on a puff. The dogs like it because they are at a more human height for conversation. I was sitting one evening recently and I noticed that Gaia was staring at me. I looked back at her and she started to talk with a low, almost whispering, voice through her mouth shaped like a little triangle at the front. I found it very amusing, but I couldn’t make out what she was saying. Usually, if she wants out in the garden, she will talk a little bit like that, but louder and she would normally be standing in the other room, looking at me through the glass door. She was definitely saying something to me. I got up to see if she could elaborate a bit on this speech by taking me somewhere. She did get up and made me walk along with her out to the room beside the kitchen, where she led me to the empty water bowl. She stopped by the bowl and looked at me. I filled it up and she drank.

I found it interesting that she was able to sit in the living room remembering that the water bowl was dry and decide to attempt communicating this fact to me. She knew she needed my help to get water in the bowl.

I had a similar experience with my old Tippex, a little German Wirehaired Pointer, who has now passed on. I was at Scone Gamefair and took her for a walk around the show.

It was a hot day and suddenly she stopped, so I looked back at her. She was on the lead and dug her heels in. She just stood there intensely looking me in the eyes. When I looked back, she started shifting her eyes from me to the fire-bucket full of water and back to me. Back and forth several times. It was a clear sentence “Please let me go over there for a drink”.

It gives me such a thrill to understand what it is the dog is saying to me. Obviously I said “Water?” and led her over for her to drink.


Rattling the Door Keys.

The same dog, Tippex, had a funny way of getting the attention for getting out in to the garden. She would go to the door and, with her nose, make the keys in the key hole rattle so I could hear it. If I was in the room, she would rattle, then look me in the eyes, then rattle again and so on and on.


Dogs Talking to Each Other.

The funniest of dogs talking I have seen is when one dog is sleeping in his or her nest and another one wants to get in. I have seen one dog standing beside the nest with a wagging tail saying “Wowuououou” gazing hard in to the eyes of the occupier. The dog that is already in the bed will first look away pretending not to “hear”, but expressing a subtle growling. The one trying to get in then ups the speaking and really gets in to the “WOUWOUOUOU” and the odd “WOOF”. In the end, when this can’t be ignored any more, but the occupier still doesn’t want to share, he will stare back in to the eyes of the intruder and just sit still, holding his fort. One of two things then happen: The occupier is steadfast and the intruder gives up and goes off to sleep somewhere else, or: The occupier just lies down with his back turned, which signals that he will not be aggressive if the intruder decides to creep in. Next thing is that the two are sleeping together.

Inevitably, after a while one of them feels too hot and gets out. Usually the original occupier….