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Sunday, August 5, 2012

A dog can’t speak English.


A female German shepherd was the smartest dog I ever lived with. Her vocabulary was in the 100 English words range plus a few guttural sounds I occasionally produce. She knew the difference between front door and back door, I could tell go to my bedroom and she would. In general I have noted that female dogs are smarter than male dogs. This is not always true but the two smartest canines I had the pleasure of living with were both female. Most dogs have small vocabularies, sit, down, stay, heel and maybe another half dozen words.
Dogs don’t speak English very well but they do speak body language. Dogs are precisely tuned to our body language. It is said that dogs can smell fear. I think not, they read the body language of fear. I can even read the body language of fear. Actors can portray fear on a screen without any words and certainly no smell is available to the audience. My current two year old female Chow knows my mood the moment I get out of bed in the morning. She has bonded with my wife and can read her like an open book, if something scares my wife the Chow will immediately go into a protection mode. A close friend of mine entered our house unexpectedly, quickly and loudly. This startled my wife and the Chow placed herself between my friend and my wife, this 185 pound male in good physical condition was suddenly faced by 40 pounds of claws and snarling teeth, he is another dog aficionado and responded correctly by not moving. I entered the room shook his hand did the male chest bump and the situation was defused, the Chow’s aggression dropped to a guarded watch. I try to teach my dogs that when they sense stranger danger make lots of noise and leave any required action to me. To date none of my dogs have bitten anyone but they did tree one stranger, he escaped by climbing a tree in my back yard. He did not have a creditable reason for being in my yard and I dialed 911 to have him removed by the county sheriff. All in all I was pleased by the way the dogs handled the incident and rewarded them with ample scraps from a nearby BBQ restaurant. It turned out that the stranger was wanted as a “peeping Tom”.
Dogs don’t speak English so I had to learn how to speak dog. The dogs speak for “there’s a cat in the front yard” is different from the bark for “there is a stranger in the front yard”. A dog can tell me they need to go outside for their nightly constitution or they need fresh water in their bowl. Somehow they know what time it is, never missing dinner time, always reminding me if I am only a little late. They speak with grunts, modulated barks, pawing, head butts and groans.
Dogs don’t speak English but you can’t lie to a dog. We should allow dogs to vote, I am certain this would result in a much better selection of elected officials.

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