Chien qui parle
All animals have the ability to communicate with each other. The communication behaviors of the dog can be broken down by vocalization, posturing (including facial expressions) and scenting presentation. These behaviors can be expressed in combination with each other, and in a variety of delivery, sequences to convey certain messages.
Some may argue that these qualities would qualify dog communication to be classified as a language. By learning to interpret these behaviors humans can begin to develop a better understanding of what message a dog is sending. When comparing other accepted languages such as the language of a young child a number of similarities can be found to that of canine forms of communication. Young children often use a limited number of words combined with body gestures to mean many different things. For example, a child may say “ball” and point in the direction of a ball meaning “Will you play ball with me?”, similar to the way a dog may bark at his owner, assume a playful posture, wag his tail and direct his head and eye contact to an object he wished to play with. The meaning can be dramatically altered by simple adjustments to the communicational delivery. A child may state in an angry tone, “Ball! Ball! Ball!”, while stomping his foot and pointing aggressively at another child holding a ball. This delivery would obviously mean “That child took my ball!” or “I want that!”. This same meaning expressed by a dog would be exhibited by a straight legged, a pointed ear position with an upright tail possibly with a bark or series of bark, and if not responded to properly may progress into growling and bared teeth. These actions would, of course, be directed at another animal (or human) in possession of the desired object or in this case the ball.
These are just two examples of how what may seem to be simple or uncomplicated methods of communicating can have very complex meanings if the receiver knows how to interpret them.
Dogs are communicating with each other and with humans through their own unique and complex series and combinations of communicational behaviors. Through observation, patience, and skill we have the ability to interpret their behaviors as they have learned to do for ours. Active communication is the beginning of a loving and understanding human-animal bond. If we take the time, listen and watch closely we can speak to our dogs.