Communicate with Your Canine

Where DogSpeak Began

Before there was DogSpeak, there was the eloquent language of wolves, who depended on all of their highly developed senses for survival. Their senses of smell and hearing alerted them to prey as well as to danger. Vocalization was used as an alert call, a plea for help, a warning, a lonely wail, a statement of status, or a highly social group chorus. A clear and readily understood body language established and maintained the pack hierarchy. All of these same hyperacute senses, passed down from wolves to your dog, make up the vocabulary and grammar of DogSpeak. In order for you to understand what your dog is saying, you first must understand the sensory components that make his language possible, some of them so evolved as to be nearly incomprehensible to us mere humans.

Just like wolves, dogs communicate in a language that every other dog understands perfectly. They use their keen sight, their extraordinary sense of smell, their hypersensitive ears, their eloquent voices, their responsive muscles, their skin, and even their hormones and glands to convey the most subtle nuances of meaning. Dogs also have an exquisitely tuned sixth sense that lets them intuit, long before the actual signal is sent, what's coming. Have you ever studied your dog as he was sleeping? Did you find it remarkable that he usually awakened and looked at you as if to say, "Yes? What's up?" If you haven't, try it sometime and witness a perfect example of how dogs pick up on signals we haven't really delivered, the result of intuition developed by their wolf ancestors eons ago as a protective device. (It helps to know when a predator is in the vicinity!) This uncanny sixth sense is at work when your dog seems to know the exact time you're due to arrive from the office, or senses your approach while you're still blocks away. There are countless documented cases of dogs who could time, to the minute, when their masters or mistresses would walk in the front door. I have a client who tells me her dog knows when I am entering her building, even though she lives on the thirty-first floor.

We humans could profit considerably by this intuition and, I'm happy to say, we can develop it to a large degree by tuning in to, and communicating with, our dogs. First, we must begin with the canine equivalent of the alphabet, with me and your dog as interpreters. I'll show you the meaningful gestures, expressions, sounds, and postures that make up the language called DogSpeak. After that, we'll explore the fascinating dialects that make one breed's "accent" slightly different from another's, as well as the subtle differences that occur from dog to dog. But first things first. Let's begin by learning a new alphabet -- the one that will make you the Alpha. The best way to do that is to begin where DogSpeak began: with the language of wolves.

Primal DogSpeak, the Language of Wolves

The language of wolves is many--faceted, yet crystal clear to any other wolf or to any one of its canine descendants. To understand this complex language, one first must understand just how wolves use not only every one of their senses but their skin, their glands, their muscles, and virtually all of their bodies to convey amazingly precise meanings. When you understand the acuity of a wolf's (and a -dog's) sensory system, you'll undoubtedly develop new respect for them and the language they speak.

Read another excerpt from DogSpeak:
The Sense of Smell
The Sense of Hearing
The Sense of Sight
Body Language

From DOGSPEAK by Bashkim Dibra. Copyright © 1999 by Bashkim Dibra. Reprinted with permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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