MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lack of Language Doesn't Mean Dogs Don't Communicate & Understand

Today is a continuation of dog guardians discussing the question:

Have you had experiences with your dogs, past or present, where they seem to understand you or read what you're thinking where you can't attribute it to training?

I do think we give off cues at times that we may not be aware of that our dogs read in our behavior. I want to distinguish between those cues we exhibit and when our dogs just "know" without any outward signs from us. Certainly our dogs learn certain words if we use
them regularly. One possibility I raise in my book is, "did Maggie somehow receive the vision I had in my mind of what I was about to do, or what I wanted her to do?" Do your dogs do the same?

Bonnie from DogRead shared her special story about her black lab, Ruby, who Bonnie felt recognized her deep desire for a black female puppy:

"Oh so many times this has happened to me, but I will speak of only one. We raise/train Labrador Retrievers... After 10 years, I decided to breed a wonderful girl I had purchased four years before. She is known as my girl, Ruby... I finally decided with some nudging from Ruby to take the plunge and let her become a mother. My intention, of course, was to get another Ruby - YES - silly I know as that just cant be, of course, but our minds work in funny ways sometimes. We did the breeding and waited with baited breath for the day of delivery. My husband and I assisted all through the night but, alas, in the wee hours of the morning, I finally spoke the words out loud. 'We are not meant to keep any of these puppies as there is no little black girl.' We had black boys, yellow girls, and yellow boys, but no little special girl for me to wrap my arms around and once more feel the joy of being a Mom.

No sooner than I spoke the words -- Ruby got up and looked at me -- tired from her night of labor... She turned around, actually hunched over in front of me and delivered a little black girl into my hands. To say the roof came off the house is minimal. How did she know? She seemed to be done with her birthing. No one will ever tell me she didn't understand the ache my heart was feeling. To this day all of us, including Ruby, cherish the presence of our 'new' little girl, ... Cabot."

Sometimes I think our dogs try to make a point of communicating to us in ways we can't miss, as Ruby did by plopping Cabot in Bonnie's lap, that tell us "yes, I understand what you're saying. I get the ache in your heart and what it is you want. I KNOW!" And all they want at that moment is for us to get it that they know. Sometimes our canines make it so obvious, as Ruby did, that we can't miss it. Or like my Maggie did when I sadly said, towards the end of her life, "I haven't heard her bark today..." -- and she turned around and barked, then looked at me as if to say, "I get it! I do understand you! Please get this before I have to leave you!"

I did get it with Maggie at that point, and wished I'd realized it much earlier in her life. How is it that they know? Perhaps they do receive images we have in our minds. Or perhaps they receive information from us energetically, in a way humans can't yet understand. The important thing is for us to recognize that just because our animals can't speak doesn't mean they don't understand us -- our words, thoughts, and emotions. Maybe we can enhance our dog's lives by tuning in to the ways they are communicating to us in their own language.

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

"There are only two ways to live your life: As if nothing is a miracle, or as if everything is a miracle." -- Albert Einstein


retriever farm said...

I know our dogs read our body language much better than we ever could. I really try my best when training them to be aware of what I am doing, but sometimes they do suprise us by jst knowing. I recently had a sick yorki in my office. He is 15 and belongs to a family who has no kids so he is their baby. The famliy just lost their other yorki to heart disease a week ago and now this little guy is very critical. He wasn't eating anything for anybody. I half heartly put 3 cheerios in his cage and silently pleaded him to eat them not really believing he would, but I turned around and they were gone. I started giving him more and he kept eating. Did he hear my silent plea to not make this poor family suffer anymore than they already had to?

Dawn Kairns said...

Although I believe our dogs are masters at reading our body language, I sure do you think they hear our silent pleas and other thoughts at times, also.

Your compassion for this family is beautiful. My heart goes out to them after just losing their dog so recently. I can't help but wonder how their little fellow is doing now.

Dawn Kairns
Author of Maggie: the dog who changed my life

Shari said...

So often I can tell my dogs are utterly frustrated by my lack of ability to understand them. They quite clearly understand me but I have to communicate with them on a remedial level. Rocky (an 8-year-old Westie) will come wherever I am and stare at me until I finally get up and say "show me." Then he either goes to the back door, or toy basket or treat jar or whatever and looks back and forth with that "oh for heaven's sake will you figure it out already" look. Thankfully, he's very patient.

I've also had that experience of deciding to go for a walk and they know and are up and at the front door before I've even twitched a muscle. Same thing with giving them a bath - I think it and Rocky's gone for three hours in hiding.

If I only had a nickel for every time they tried to talk to me... sigh.

Dawn Kairns said...

I know that frustration you refer to, Shari. My dog stares at me often just waiting for me to get it. I like your "show me" idea--I'm going to try that with Maddie. Thanks for sharing your experience of how your dogs just seem to know what you're thinking sometimes. Nice to hear from you!

Dawn Kairns
Author of Maggie: the dog who changed my life