Dogspeak: How to Learn It, Speak It, and Use It to Have a Happy, Healthy, Well-Behaved Dogby Bash Dibra
From teaching basic training to eliminating destructive habits, Bash Dibra has turned dogs of all breeds and dispositions into well-mannered, obedient companions. Bash has worked with the four-legged friends of Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, and a host of other celebrities. With DogSpeak, his $300-an-hour lessons are now available to you. The secret of Bash's success is his uncanny ability to speak to dogs in their own language. With clear and simple guidance, Bash shows you how to interpret their unmistakable vocabulary, including:
- Facial expression: reading a dog's emotions, state of health, and intentions by watching for signs like narrowing of the eyes or wrinkling of the muzzle
- Body language: learning the meaning of body stances and tail positions, including the "I'm top dog around here, don't mess with me" and "I'm feeling low" poses
- Vocalization: understanding why dogs bark, how to satisfy their needs, and how to prevent problem barking
Filled with Bash's inimitable warmth and humor, as well as fascinating facts about man's best friend, DogSpeak turns dog training into a game that both you and your dog will enjoy.
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- First Fireside Edition
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)
Read an Excerpt
Chapter Two: DogSpeak for Beginners
Dogs always keep things simple. Their communication with each other is clear, direct, and easily understood, with no mixed messages. It's the genetic heritage of their wolf ancestors, who depended for survival on a close-knit familial society in which every pack member communicated easily and immediately with every other member. The hierarchy was understood, as was the language that accompanied it, and when the Alpha gave a command, it was obeyed. So it is with dogs. Dogs never misinterpret another's signals; humans often do, creating the problems that result in the dog's being abandoned or banished to a shelter and the euthanasia that often follows. And that's truly tragic, since dog language is precise in its meaning, clear in its message, and easy to speak, once you've learned its vocabulary. I am here to help you do that, to guide you into the mind of a dog and help you explore its unique abilities, its subtle signals, the remarkable ways in which a dog uses its entire range of senses and virtually every part of its body to express its thoughts, moods, needs, and emotions.
Seeing Your Dog for the First Time First, please set aside all preconceived notions about dogs and how they communicate and examine their signals in a new and different light, seeing them as your dog does. You should be as alert, intense, and aware as your dog, and the best way to achieve that is by observing him. What's he saying to you right now? Are his ears pricked up, curious to know why you're watching him? Or are they lowered and slightly slanted as he looks up from his bed to see what you have in mind? Can you read his eyes? Are they bright with anticipation, sparkling with delight, or perhaps half-closed, indicating he's a bit unsure about this sudden interest in him? Does his mouth seem to smile, or does it have a sad expression? Is his tail wagging wildly, lowered and relaxed, or tucked between his legs apprehensively? With every one of these signals, your dog is telling you something. I know that many people scoff at the very idea that a dog exhibits many of the same emotions as people. I might too, if I hadn't spent my entire life around dogs whose vast range of expressions taught me that what I see is what they feel.
Dogs speak to us humans plainly and clearly in their language. It's up to us to hear them. When you've learned DogSpeak, you'll know exactly, by his gestures, his sounds, and his facial expressions, what your dog is saying. You'll know whether he's happy or depressed, energetic or under-the-weather, lonely, frightened or on top of the canine world. By observing closely the body language, facial expressions, and gestures that are DogSpeak, you will be able to communicate with your dog on a new and higher level. Then you're free to listen in on your dog's canine conversations, look over his shoulder as he sniffs out messages on the doggie Internet, understand which dogs are his friends and which he perceives as his enemies (useful knowledge for heading off potential problems), and assume your rightful role as the Alpha of your family pack. And once you're fluent in DogSpeak, you and your dog will develop the unique, unbreakable, and enviable bond that makes the dog/owner relationship the strongest, most enduring relationship on earth.
Where DogSpeak Began Before there was DogSpeak, there was the eloquent language of wolves, who depended on all of their highly developed senses for survival. Their senses of smell and hearing alerted them to prey as well as to danger. Vocalization was used as an alert call, a plea for help, a warning, a lonely wail, a statement of status, or a highly social group chorus. A clear and readily understood body language established and maintained the pack hierarchy. All of these same hyperacute senses, passed down from wolves to your dog, make up the vocabulary and grammar of DogSpeak. In order for you to understand what your dog is saying, you first must understand the sensory components that make his language possible, some of them so evolved as to be nearly incomprehensible to us mere humans.
Just like wolves, dogs communicate in a language that every other dog understands perfectly. They use their keen sight, their extraordinary sense of smell, their hypersensitive ears, their eloquent voices, their responsive muscles, their skin, and even their hormones and glands to convey the most subtle nuances of meaning. Dogs also have an exquisitely tuned sixth sense that lets them intuit, long before the actual signal is sent, what's coming. Have you ever studied your dog as he was sleeping? Did you find it remarkable that he usually awakened and looked at you as if to say, "Yes? What's up?" If you haven't, try it sometime and witness a perfect example of how dogs pick up on signals we haven't really delivered, the result of intuition developed by their wolf ancestors eons ago as a protective device. (It helps to know when a predator is in the vicinity!) This uncanny sixth sense is at work when your dog seems to know the exact time you're due to arrive from the office, or senses your approach while you're still blocks away. There are countless documented cases of dogs who could time, to the minute, when their masters or mistresses would walk in the front door. I have a client who tells me her dog knows when I am entering her building, even though she lives on the thirty-first floor. We humans could profit considerably by this intuition and, I'm happy to say, we can develop it to a large degree by tuning in to, and communicating with, our dogs. First, we must begin with the canine equivalent of the alphabet, with me and your dog as interpreters. I'll show you the meaningful gestures, expressions, sounds, and postures that make up the language called DogSpeak. After that, we'll explore the fascinating dialects that make one breed's "accent" slightly different from another's, as well as the subtle differences that occur from dog to dog. But first things first. Let's begin by learning a new alphabet the one that will make you the Alpha. The best way to do that is to begin where DogSpeak began: with the language of wolves.
Primal DogSpeak, the Language of Wolves The language of wolves is many-faceted, yet crystal clear to any other wolf or to any one of its canine descendants. To understand this complex language, one first must understand just how wolves use not only every one of their senses but their skin, their glands, their muscles, and virtually all of their bodies to convey amazingly precise meanings. When you understand the acuity of a wolf's (and a dog's) sensory system, you'll undoubtedly develop new respect for them and the language they speak.
The Sense of Smell The olfactory center is the most developed part of a wolf's brain, as it is of your dog's, and it's where DogSpeak begins. A wolf's acute sense of smell lets it identify airborne scents from a distance of several miles and alerts to the presence of prey (the next meal) as well as to their only dangerous enemy, man. The sensitive nose of the wolf can track its prey through the animal's scent on freshly crushed vegetation or can locate an injured animal through the scent of just one drop of its blood. Wolves even can pursue prey through water, using as little as a single drop of urine or blood within 10,000 gallons of water to stay on track. This keen nose, by the way, has been bred selectively into today's scent hounds.
Wolves use their highly developed sense of smell in social ways as well. Within their pack setting, wolves can recognize, by their unmistakable scents, each and every member of their pack, distinguishing them from intruding members of other packs. It's a faculty which helps maintain established boundaries, allowing no interlopers. Their keen noses tell them when females are in season or when a fellow pack member is ill and wants to be left alone. And when the Alpha female produces a litter, each pack member sniffs every pup, imprinting permanently on their consciousness the scent that says "I'm one of you." This remarkable olfactory sense is genetically hard-wired into your own dog, making up the most developed center of the brain and controlling, to a great degree, your dog's behavior. The olfactory center of a dog's brain is fourteen times larger than man's, making its nose a hundred times more sensitive. Wolves can recognize scents at a mile and a half downwind! Dogs, like wolves, can detect substances in concentrations up to 100 million times lower than what humans can detect. Understanding the mind of your dog means acknowledging a sense of smell so highly developed and formidable that it is almost incomprehensible to us humans. But for dogs, it's just the A in the DogSpeak alphabet.
The Sense of Hearing Some scientists believe that wolves track large prey more by sound than by smell. The wolf's range of hearing, coupled with its keen powers of auditory discrimination, make hearing its most powerful sense. Research has shown that wolves can hear sounds up to a high frequency of twenty-six kilohertz, well beyond human hearing and close to the range of bats. Their ability to detect these high-pitched sounds lets wolves locate small prey such as rodents, even under snow packs, by sounding out their high-pitched squeals. Wolves can hear and identify a fellow wolf's howls from a distance of more than four miles. The wolf's highly sensitive hearing, with its equally developed sense of smell, make up the two most important tools to the survival of the wolf species. It's this same finely tuned auditory sense that lets your dog hear thunder from miles away (ever see him hide under a bed long before a storm struck?), bark protectively at an outdoor sound you can't hear at all, or pick up another dog's low growl that is undetectable to you. It's also this keen sense of hearing that makes your dog a valuable protector of your home.
The Sense of Sight A wolf's vision was designed for efficiency. With fewer and less concentrated color cones (those sensory organs of the retina that govern both color and close vision) than the human eye, a wolf's eye perceives color less vividly than humans and doesn't see detail in close-up objects. Instead, the wolf's eye was designed for extraordinary clarity and definition both in low light and at great distances, allowing it to move easily by night and track its prey by the slightest motion the twitch of a rabbit's tail, the tremble of a leaf that betrays the squirrel.
Since visual cues are an essential element of body language, the wolf's keen sense of sight allows it to read accurately the pack status, moods, or intentions of other wolves. This acute visual sense, coupled with the wolf's speed, was passed down to domestic dogs and used by breeders to develop what we know today as "sight hounds" hounds that spot and bring down prey primarily through their extraordinary sense of sight and their enormous speed. It is through your dog's visual senses that the two of you can communicate most effectively in DogSpeak. The visual cues that your dog gives you are the key to what he is seeing, recognizing, focusing on, and responding to. Just as with humans, his eyes are the windows to his interior universe, and by looking into them and understanding what he's seeing and saying, you'll have your first and most important conversation in DogSpeak.
Vocalization With wolves, vocalization serves a variety of needs: howls often represent a gala social pack "sing"; whines may indicate concern or discomfort or serve as a call for help; yips, growls, and barks alert to intruders, establish status according to pack hierarchy, let pack members stay in touch with each other even from a distance, and help lone wolves develop new packs with other loners. With their sharp sense of hearing and their ability to discern nuances in other wolves' sounds beyond human comprehension, wolves have developed a very vocal language that is understood clearly by all other wolves. In dogs, vocalization has evolved to another level. Certain breeds, such as hounds, have transformed the wolf's howl into a "bay," used to spur other hounds, as well as the hunter, into the chase. This same vocal message is given to you by your dog when he barks to get your attention, to say "Follow me!" For us, vocalization is the most obvious form of DogSpeak. To a dog, it's just one more grammatical tool.
Body Language Long before dogs evolved, wolves had perfected a clear and easily understood body language. Using every highly developed sense at its disposal, the wolf used every part of its body, from muscular system to glandular system, to convey precisely to any other wolf its rank, territory, relationships, physical state, needs, and emotions. The wolf's eyes telegraphed dominance or submission, friendliness or aggression, suspicion, playfulness, pain, or just plain exhaustion. Ears stated clearly "Stranger approaching!," "Glad to see you!," or "We've found our prey!" The mouth, just like that of humans, parted lips in a "smile" or bared teeth in a universally recognized snarl. Meanwhile, the wolf used its stance to reinforce facial expressions ("I'm Alpha here, and don't you forget it!"), intimidate would-be interlopers, indicate a desire to play, or show romantic interest. The glandular system plays a part in territory marking. It's a language that is and remains, to this day, perfectly understood by your dog, the primal essence of DogSpeak. It's also the best possible place for you to begin learning to speak your dog's language! But first, let's get you the dog you really want.
Copyright © 1999 by Bashkim Dibra
Meet the Author
Bash Dibra is an internationally acclaimed dog trainer and the author of Teach Your Dog to Behave and Dog Training by Bash. He lives in Riverdale, New York.
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