Listening to Our Dogs

This Silky Terrier definitely has something to say. Do you know what it is?

I’ve always had the idea that if I could listen to my dogs hard enough I could maybe understand them. And if I could get what they were saying, maybe they could understand me, too.

I used to love watching Lassie on TV. She was not only was a perfect listener to Timmy but could talk to her owners with a shorthand of one bark for yes, two for no.

Or was it one bark no, two barks yes? No matter, the way she could let Timmy or his parents know exactly where someone was lost or stuck was uncanny. My favorite line of the TV show was someone asking Lassie, “What is it, girl?” Lassie would understand precisely, and bark her response.

There’s a Daniel Koontz book that I love as well. I forget the name but he had a genetically altered Lab in it with an IQ of 200 who could spell using kids’ alphabet blocks. Wow.

Then sometime last year I read a National Geographic article about animal intelligence. The dog in the article was Betsy, a Border Collie from Austria. Betsy can recognize over 200 photographs of objects. By name.

Now I can dream about Lassie, but of course I know that I was actually only watching expert training. And until a Lab with 200 IQ exists, I’d rather meet the fellow who dreamed up such a wonderful dog.

But I want to meet Betsy.

She is the personification of my firm belief that if I can really be listening to my dogs, I can understand them. Betsy also strengthens for me that Shiela understands me when I say to her, as I head out the door loaded with suitcases:

“Shiela, watch the house. Take care of George. I’ll be back.” She only sleeps under George’s desk when I’m not home.

Coincidence? I don’t think so. It would be wonderful if Shiela could answer me with “Sure, no problem. Have a great trip.”

My dogs tell me stuff all the time. What they like, what they hate. How they feel. It isn’t a matter of me projecting myself into them. It’s a matter of me listening to my dogs. It’s only necessary for me to really observe my dogs to "hear" what they have to say. 

I once had a dog that I had trouble training until I observed that at the start of the walk he pulled like crazy. After about 10 minutes, much less so. I realized I wasn’t giving him enough exercise, gave him more and the pulling almost disappeared.

Wouldn't it be great if dogs could really talk? Of course! But even if they can’t speak in words, I can still hear what they have to say.

It’s amazing what I can hear if I really look.

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