Friday, May 12, 2006

Dog Talk

There are all sorts of books out there to teach us how to interpret the body language of dogs. There's even a cell phone service that offers to interpret the sounds of your dog's barks. I don't need anything like that because Scruffybutt is very clear in her commands communications.

What astounds me, though, is the enormous amount of our words and body language that dogs understand. They take it all in.

I didn't know, until I learned this from both of our dogs, Scruffybutt and Sandy, that I take a deep breath through my nose before saying, "Okay" to them. Example: they're beaming "It's time for our dinner," at my brain but I keep working at the computer anyway until I've finished whatever I was doing. Then, I (heretofore unconsciously) take in a deep breath and say, "Okay," which means that I will then get up, go to the kitchen, and give them their dinner. They read me so well that now they don't even wait for my "okay" before they blaze down the hallway to the kitchen, with Scruffybutt coming back to pull on my pants leg a few times just in case I forget what I'm doing on the way (a real possibility.) It took me a while to grasp that they are actually teaching me my own body language!

Another example: Scruffybutt will get out of bed when I do (isn't that sweet?), but she doesn't want to run all the way down the ramp that Tomcat built for her if it's a false alarm (I'm turning over instead of actually getting up), only to have to run back up again. So, if I make a move that looks like I might be getting out of bed, she races to the foot and watches to see if my feet will stick out over the side. If they do, she knows that I'm getting up, and opposed to merely turning over, and she'll scamper down the ramp and try to nip my toes before I can get them inside my houseshoes.

Here are some words that my dogs understand: there's the usual sit, stay, no-no, and come. Those are the ones we taught them on purpose.

The rest are ones they've learned all on their own:



who's-a-good-dog? (meaning who "deserves" a treat, and then I usually say what? two good dogs in the same house at the same time? what are the odds!)

where's your squeaky toy? and variations, like gimme that squeaky toy or whose squeaky toy is this?

go outside

daddy's home


you're too silly (they assume this is a compliment)

nuff (meaning stop already)

go see daddy, or go see mommy (meaning stop bugging me)

PLUS they know each other's names, but will pretend not to know because they don't want the other one to get anything that should go to them. (Incidentally, the best way to get Scruffybutt to come and take her medicine is to call Sandy's name and pretend to give it to her. Or vice-versa.)

They're also good at technically obeying. We might be eating dinner and of course the dogs are sitting there beaming "We're starving," at our brains. After a while, the staring starts to bother us, so we'll say, "No - go away." And you know what? They do! They will turn and walk away. In a circle. Ending up right back where they started, sitting there and staring at us. See? We obeyed! Technically!

Scruffybutt has a few words of her own, but apparently only I can hear them:

Of course I'm a good girl, Mommy. I only wake up that way every day. Duh!


Oh, Mommy, get a grip.