How To Speak Dog

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9781416502265: How To Speak Dog
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Chapter One: Conversations with Canines

The argument was very sound,

And coming from a master's mouth

Would have been lauded for its truth.

But since the author was a hound,

Its merit went unrecognized.


-- Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695)

"The Farmer, the Dog, and the Fox"

It is probably the case that virtually every human being has, at one time or another, wanted to be Dr. Dolittle, or to own King Solomon's ring, so that he or she could understand and talk with animals. For me, the animals that I most wanted to speak to were dogs. I remember one Sunday evening, I was sitting on the living-room floor in front of the big family radio with my beagle, Skippy. I was leaning against the side of an overstuffed chair waiting for a regularly scheduled radio show featuring my favorite movie star. The theme music started -- I think it was actually the folk tune "Green Sleeves" -- and then a few moments later I could hear her voice. She was barking in the distance and coming closer every second...

Long before our current wave of canine movie stars, such as Benji and Beethoven, and their television counterparts, Eddie, Wishbone, and the Littlest Hobo, there was Lassie. She was much more than a dog; she was a friend and devoted companion. She was a guardian of the right, a courageous protector, and a fearless fighter.

The dog that may have done the most to shape the popular conception of dogs and their intelligence was a character born in a short story published in the Saturday Evening Post by Eric Knight in 1938. The story was so well received that Knight later expanded it into a best-selling book in 1940, and in 1943, it was translated into a heartwarming tearjerker of a movie called Lassie Come Home. It was filmed in rich colors and set in Britain, where Lassie's poor family is forced by their financial troubles to sell their faithful collie to a wealthy dog fancier (whose daughter is played by a very young Elizabeth Taylor). Lassie escapes from the Duke of Rudling's harsh kennel keeper and manages to work her way from Scotland to England to get home to her young master (who is played by Roddy McDowall). The role of Lassie was not portrayed by a lovely female dog at all, but by a male dog named Pal. In fact, all of the Lassies ever since have been female impersonators. Male collies were preferred to play the part, since they are larger and less timid than female collies. More important, when an unspayed female dog goes into heat (which they do twice a year), she often loses much of her coat. It would be very distressing to movie watchers, and it would be a film editor's nightmare, to have the fullness of Lassie's coat vary from one scene to another.

Gender issues aside, Lassie had a huge impact on our concept of how dogs think and act. This was partly due to the volume of material about her that we were exposed to. So far there have been ten feature films showing her exploits. In these Lassie managed to upstage some of the greatest stars in Hollywood, including James Stewart, Helen Slater, Nigel Bruce, Elsa Lanchester, Frederic Forrest, Mickey Rooney, and many others. There was also a TV show which ran from 1954 through to 1991 (with a few interruptions), using six different settings and rotations of cast. At times, Lassie's families included such familiar actors as Cloris Leachman and June Lockhart. Many of these episodes are still appearing on television in syndicated reruns today. There was even a Lassie cartoon series (Lassie's Rescue Rangers) that played on Saturday morning TV for the kids.

Perhaps Lassie's most unusual starring role was in a radio series, which ran from 1947 through 1950, and I was one of her young fans. I'll bet that given the media mentality of today, producers of a radio series involving a dog might argue that it was necessary to give Lassie a human voice, so that we could hear her thoughts and know what she wanted to say. It would be a soft female voice, of indeterminate age, perhaps with a slight Scottish accent to remind us of her origin. These early radio episodes, however, were true to the character of Lassie on the screen. She never spoke human language, she barked. It is interesting to note that Pal actually did the barking on the radio show; however, the whining, panting, snarling, and growling were all convincingly done by human actors.

One part of the magic of the show was that Lassie did not have to speak in English, Spanish, German, French, or any other human tongue. Her family and everybody who heard her understood her completely. An episode might typically go like this.

Lassie runs out into the field, barking and whimpering frantically.

Her young master asks, "What's wrong, girl?" and Lassie barks.

"There's something wrong with Mom?" he interprets, and Lassie barks and whimpers.

"Oh no -- she's hurt herself! Dad told her not to use that machine by herself. You go get Dr. Williams. I saw him stopping by the Johnson place just a little bit down the road. I'll go back to see if I can help."

The boy runs across the field toward home. Lassie barks and races off for help. The doctor will, of course, understand every bark and whine and come to the rescue as well.

In other episodes and at other times, Lassie's barks tell of bad men coming, of hidden or stolen goods, or alerts her master that someone is either lying or speaking the truth. It seems that Lassie speaks a universal speech. There is one episode with a boy from France, who comes to live with his uncle after his family dies tragically. This poor child speaks no English. Fortunately, he doesn't have to. Lassie speaks the universal language of dogs (let's call it "Doggish"). He, of course, understands it immediately, since apparently all French dogs use the same language. Because of this, Lassie is able to tell him (with more barks, whimpers, whines, and an occasional muted growl) that he has come to a place where people want to be his friends, although there is one bad boy he should watch out for. Lassie comforts him, integrates him into the community, settles some misunderstandings between him and the local children, and then teaches him his first few words of English, which are, of course, "Lassie, you are a good dog!"

I really felt jealous of Lassie's family and neighbors. They could all understand the language of dogs, and they knew how to make their own dog understand exactly what they were saying as well. I fondled Skippy's long, leathery ears and wondered why I was so linguistically inept.

It's not that I couldn't understand anything that Skippy was trying to tell me. When his tail wagged, I knew that he was happy. When his tail was tucked under his belly, I knew that he was feeling poorly. When he barked, I knew that someone was coming, or that he wanted to eat, or that he wanted to play, or that he was excited... Well, he barked a lot. When he bayed (that little yodeling sound that beagles make), I knew that he was happily tracking something. The linguistic failings were not Skippy's, they were mine. Sometimes my dog would be incredibly innovative in telling me what he wanted. There was the day he deliberately pushed his water dish across the kitchen floor until it banged against my shoe, just to tell me that he was thirsty and the bowl was empty. Still, most of the time I just couldn't understand what he was saying and our lack of communication made me very sad. Now, after many years of research and study, I think I am beginning to understand the language of my canine friends. As a psychologist, I have also come to realize how an understanding of dog communication can affect human-dog relationships.

In humans, language often appears to be the single most important element in determining successful social relationships and general adjustment. When you look at the research on the relationship between children with disabilities and their families, you find that love and affection can be fostered and maintained even though the child suffers from massive problems, as long as the child can speak and understand language at a useful level. The families of children who have many fewer difficulties, but whose language ability is impaired, report more severe social and adjustment problems, and seem to feel less affection and more frustration with the child. Similarly, several studies have shown that the single most important factor in determining whether an immigrant or refugee will integrate well into their new society is the speed and proficiency with which they learn the language of their new country. In much the same way, a human's ability to understand the language of the dog can determine how well the dog is accepted into the family.

Misreading a dog's emotional state can be distressing for its human family, and can even be fatal for the dog. Consider the case of Finnigan, a beautiful Irish setter from a kennel run by a woman named Melanie. I knew Melanie as a careful breeder, whose conscientiousness had allowed her to create a line of dogs that were not only physically handsome but also warm, playful, and tolerant. With that in mind, you can imagine Melanie's distress when she received a phone call from the family that had bought Finnigan. They complained that he was too aggressive. They said he was leaping and snarling at visitors and other dogs. When these problems arose, the family had called in a trainer, but he had found the dog difficult to handle and failed to eliminate these aggressive displays. In the end, he had recommended that the dog be euthanized. The family didn't want to do this, but felt they couldn't keep him under the circumstances. Melanie offered a refund of the purchase price and asked that the dog be sent back to her.

Then she called me up. "I've never really had to deal with an aggressive dog before," she said. "I was wondering if you could be with me when I go to pick him up -- just in case there's something I can't handle."

I couldn't imagine one of her dogs being aggressive, but the worry in her voice was such that I agreed. I was there to help pick Finnigan up. I had brought with me the usual accoutrements for dealing with virtually any type of aggressive dog. There were a couple of strong leashes, a slip collar, a head halter, a muzzle, and even a large heavy blanket in case the dog had to be physically restrained by wrapping him so that some of this control equipment could be applied. In addition, I brought a pair of heavy leather gloves (which have literally saved my skin a few times).

When the truck carrying Finnigan arrived, I bent down to look into the front of his tan plastic carrying kennel. No snarls, no growls, just an excited whimper. Still, caution seemed like the best plan, so we opened the door slowly. Out leapt this happy red dog, who looked around, trying to discern where he was. Then, in a response that was clearly triggered by the unfamiliar surroundings of the loading dock, he showed every tooth in that large mouth of his.

0 My response was involuntary, but I think that I upset Melanie when I began to laugh. I realize that to a person who doesn't understand the language of dogs, this flash of forty-two long white teeth could easily have been interpreted as an aggressive display. However, there are different ways that a dog can show its teeth, and the expression Finnigan was wearing was actually a submissive and pacifying grin. This expression did not mean, "Back off or I'll bite," but rather, "It's okay. I'm not a threat. I understand that you're the boss around here."

The young setter's bounciness did cause him to leap at people and other dogs. But this leaping was done as part of a greeting. He simply wanted to touch noses with those tall two-footed dogs that we call humans, and the only way to reach their nose was to jump up. To ensure that this would not be viewed as a threat, he did it with a submissive grimace. The more he was corrected by the family and trainers for his "aggression," the more submissive he became. The more submissive he was feeling, the wider he "smiled," reasoning that they had simply missed his signal and he truly wanted to pacify the situation. Of course, the wider he "smiled," the more teeth he showed.

Finnigan's first family simply didn't understand what the dog was trying to say; had they followed the advice they were given, they might have put this handsome red dog into an early grave. Finnigan now lives happily with a new family. Melanie tells me that he still smiles and jumps a bit, but she has explained what this means to his new masters. Because they understand his message, they know that he is safe to love.

Unfortunately, mistranslation of the signals that a dog is giving is quite common and can lead to serious problems and bad feelings. A woman named Eleanor came to me with a problem. It involved Weedels, a blond American cocker spaniel, who, according to her mistress, was "driving my husband crazy. She simply refuses to be housebroken, and is now making puddles simply out of spite. Stephen [her husband] says if we can't solve this problem quickly, we'll have to get rid of her."

The period of time while a puppy is learning to be clean in the house is often stressful. It is usually solved within a few weeks, however, if care is taken to regulate the dog's food and water intake, and the owner is alert to the times when the dog should be taken out to empty its bladder and bowels. In this case, Weedels was nearly seven months old, which seemed a bit old not to be housebroken. So I asked what they had done to train her.

"Stephen likes things in the house to be neat and clean, so it was important that we housebreak Weedels early. I read one of those books on puppies and followed its advice, and we got her to make her stool outside. But we still occasionally had 'wet accidents.' Stephen said I was being too easy on Weedels and he would solve the problem. When he found a place where she'd wet the floor, he dragged her over and rubbed her nose in it. Then he yelled at her and gave her a slap on the rear when he put her outside.

"Stephen went away on a sales trip and was gone for nearly four weeks. During that time, Weedels was fine. Maybe there were one or two accidents, but that was all, and I just cleaned it up and put her out in the yard without a whole lot of fuss. The last two weeks, things were absolutely clean. Then, just a few days ago, Stephen came back and everything fell apart. You wouldn't believe what this dog did. The moment Stephen walked into the house, she peed on the floor right in front of him. He got so angry I thought he was really going to hurt her. Weedels just seems to want to annoy him. Whenever Stephen walks into the room, she crouches way down low and makes a puddle in front of him just for spite. Yesterday was the last straw. Stephen walked into the room and Weedels rolled on her back, like dogs sometimes do for a belly rub. W...

Présentation de l'éditeur :

Communication is crucial in any relationship – especially when one of you happens to be a dog. Drawing on substantial research in animal behaviour, Stanley Coren demonstrates that the average house dog can distinguish at least 140 words and can interact at a level approaching that of a human two-year-old. While actual conversation of the sort Lassie seemed capable of in Hollywood myth-making remains in the realm of fantasy, this book shows us that a great deal of real communication is possible between humans and dogs beyond the simple giving and obeying of commands.
How to Speak Dog not only explains the sounds, words, actions and movements which will help owners to communicate most effectively with their dogs; it also deciphers the signs and signals our dogs are giving to us. With easy-to-follow tips on how humans can mimic the language dogs use to talk to one another, original drawings illustrating the subleties of canine body language and a handy visual glossary, How to Speak Dog gives dog lovers a whole new range of essential skills with which to improve their relationship with their dogs.

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ISBN 10 : 1416502262 ISBN 13 : 9781416502265
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Description du livre SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2005. Paperback. État : New. New ed.. 194 x 128 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Communication is crucial in any relationship - especially when one of you happens to be a dog. Drawing on substantial research in animal behaviour, Stanley Coren demonstrates that the average house dog can distinguish at least 140 words and can interact at a level approaching that of a human two-year-old. While actual conversation of the sort Lassie seemed capable of in Hollywood myth-making remains in the realm of fantasy, this book shows us that a great deal of real communication is possible between humans and dogs beyond the simple giving and obeying of commands. How to Speak Dog not only explains the sounds, words, actions and movements which will help owners to communicate most effectively with their dogs; it also deciphers the signs and signals our dogs are giving to us. With easy-to-follow tips on how humans can mimic the language dogs use to talk to one another, original drawings illustrating the subleties of canine body language and a handy visual glossary, How to Speak Dog gives dog lovers a whole new range of essential skills with which to improve their relationship with their dogs. N° de réf. du libraire AAZ9781416502265

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Description du livre SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2005. Paperback. État : New. New ed.. 194 x 128 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Communication is crucial in any relationship - especially when one of you happens to be a dog. Drawing on substantial research in animal behaviour, Stanley Coren demonstrates that the average house dog can distinguish at least 140 words and can interact at a level approaching that of a human two-year-old. While actual conversation of the sort Lassie seemed capable of in Hollywood myth-making remains in the realm of fantasy, this book shows us that a great deal of real communication is possible between humans and dogs beyond the simple giving and obeying of commands. How to Speak Dog not only explains the sounds, words, actions and movements which will help owners to communicate most effectively with their dogs; it also deciphers the signs and signals our dogs are giving to us. With easy-to-follow tips on how humans can mimic the language dogs use to talk to one another, original drawings illustrating the subleties of canine body language and a handy visual glossary, How to Speak Dog gives dog lovers a whole new range of essential skills with which to improve their relationship with their dogs. N° de réf. du libraire AAZ9781416502265

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Description du livre Simon & Schuster. Paperback. État : new. BRAND NEW, How To Speak Dog (New edition), Stanley Coren, Communication is crucial in any relationship - especially when one of you happens to be a dog. Drawing on substantial research in animal behaviour, Stanley Coren demonstrates that the average house dog can distinguish at least 140 words and can interact at a level approaching that of a human two-year-old. While actual conversation of the sort Lassie seemed capable of in Hollywood myth-making remains in the realm of fantasy, this book shows us that a great deal of real communication is possible between humans and dogs beyond the simple giving and obeying of commands. How to Speak Dog not only explains the sounds, words, actions and movements which will help owners to communicate most effectively with their dogs; it also deciphers the signs and signals our dogs are giving to us. With easy-to-follow tips on how humans can mimic the language dogs use to talk to one another, original drawings illustrating the subleties of canine body language and a handy visual glossary, How to Speak Dog gives dog lovers a whole new range of essential skills with which to improve their relationship with their dogs. N° de réf. du libraire B9781416502265

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Description du livre Simon & Schuster, 2005. État : New. 2005. Paperback. A fun and hugely informative guide in which dog expert Stanley Coren explores the amazingly nuanced range of canine expression, reveals what your dog is saying to you with its body language and voice and - just as important - explains how to make yourself understood by your dog. Num Pages: 368 pages, B-w line illustrations. BIC Classification: WNGD. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 199 x 130 x 25. Weight in Grams: 264. . . . . . . N° de réf. du libraire V9781416502265

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Description du livre Simon & Schuster. État : New. 2005. Paperback. A fun and hugely informative guide in which dog expert Stanley Coren explores the amazingly nuanced range of canine expression, reveals what your dog is saying to you with its body language and voice and - just as important - explains how to make yourself understood by your dog. Num Pages: 368 pages, B-w line illustrations. BIC Classification: WNGD. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 199 x 130 x 25. Weight in Grams: 264. . . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. N° de réf. du libraire V9781416502265

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