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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Talking to dogs

I've always regarded people who speak to animals as if they're humans as particularly idiotic. And those who speak to them as if they're cute little babies are even worse.

My wife is away for a week, so all the dog-walking and feeding duties have fallen on me.

When trying to get Tyke to come inside, or get him away from some particularly alluring smell by the roadside, I've found myself talking to him -- in English, which he doesn't understand -- using an emphatically expressive tone of voice. Somehow it just seems like the most natural thing to do.

I don't talk to him as if he's a cute little baby, though, but more as if he's a recalcitrant three-year-old.

Gotta draw the line somewhere.


Anonymous said...

i'm pretty positive that animals, in particular pets, do understand certain things. I guess you experienced that yourself when you found yourself talking to Tyke.

As for the talking as if they're cute little babies, i would say.. some of them really are!:)

i personally don't understand the people who speak to babies. i think it's the worst.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Well, I think pets understand a tone of voice, anyway. And yes, puppies are undeniably cute.

But I have to disagree about human infants, at least there's a purpose there: eventually they're supposed to pick up the language. (So that they in turn can speak to animals, I guess.)

Steven said...

Clever dogs can build up a decent vocabulary. Come here, sit, stay, ball, rope, tyre, bring it here, drop it, up, down, Steve (she thinks this means that somebody is at the door), shut the door (yeah I taught her to shut the door for me...a fair amount of effort at first but now I don't have to move from the sofa). She's half border colly, so she's pretty bright. And I'm sure she could learn tonnes more words.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Border collies are opposed to be the smartest dogs. I suspect most dogs wouldn't understand that many words/commands.

Steven said...

An average dog can learn numerous commands and tricks.

Border Collies are in a class of their own. I knew one and it was freaky how intelligent it was, significantly more so than my dog. A colly called chaser learned over a thousand words:

Mine is brighter than average but it took me days to teach her to shut the door whereas my friend taught his colly in five or ten minutes. oh I forgot, I can ask her if she wants to go the toilet, and she barks if she does. That's pretty cool.

One of the things I'm interested in is animal intelligence. While I think humans are way smarter than other animals, I think many animals are way smarter than we thought. For one thing, I think they have more sophisticated communication with each other than we give them credit for. Check this out, prairie dogs use nouns and adjectives in their own language, and we haven't even decoded most of what they are saying:

John Craig said...

Steven --
That border collie was amazing: 1022 toys? The weird ting about it was, it actually LOOKED intelligent from its picture. It's eyes seemed clear and focused, and the size of its head above its eyes seemed larger than normal. Or maybe that was just my perception.

The prairie dogs were pretty cool too. And cute, in an anthropomorphized sort of way.

Steven said...

Glad you liked. The bright eyes and focus is a common collie trait. It makes sense because they have to focus on the shepherd who gives them instructions; they are keenly attentive and very biddable. They enjoy it, though they tend to ignore other dogs. In the absence of sheep, they become absolutely obsessed with playing fetch and have been known to herd children or family members. Your post abut liberals and dogs was very interesting and collies are definitely a case in point. A lot of what they do, even sheep-herding technique, comes naturally to them.

Incidentally, Chaser knew the difference between 'to ball take Frisbee' and 'to Frisbee take ball' so he had some grasp of grammar.

"The findings closely match the data obtained in dolphin studies involving sentences consisting of three elements of grammar."

John Craig said...

Steven --
Stop it! You're starting to make me feel that our dog is retarded.

Steven said...

Its not my fault if you've got a retarded dog haha.