Five Ways Dogs Use Body Language to Talk with Humans
Your dog has better communication skills than you might think; new technology may help dog trainers understand how dogs use body language even more
We know dogs use body language as one way to communicate with us humans, but have you ever wondered what your pet was really thinking?
I’m sure you’d agree that life as a dog owner would be a lot easier if we could all read a dog’s mind.
Scientists and professional dog trainers alike are researching ways to help us better understand our dogs’ wants and needs.
The Duke Canine Cognition Center is a leader in such research. Dedicated to investigating “the flexibility and limitations of dog cognition,” the Center (part of Duke University’s Department of Evolutionary Anthropology) invites dog-owners in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina to enroll their pets in problem-solving game activities, with dog treats as rewards.
The Center’s researchers have found that dogs have “an unusual ability to read human communicative intentions. Just like children, dogs are highly attuned to our gestures, and they can use this ability in novel situations to flexibly assess what we want.”
Since a dog can probably pick up on a human’s body language and cues faster than a human can learn all the dog’s, here are five ways to help us humans catch up on our clairvoyance…
How Dogs Use Body Language
- Watch your dog’s ear position, facial tension, tail carriage, pupil dilation and other physical clues to learn whether he is angry, submissive, calm or frightened.
- The wrinkles in your dog’s forehead are particularly revealing. A tensed-up or relaxed brow can indicate confusion or comprehension.
- Your dog’s stance is important. He is showing submission if he is crouching or lying down. If his head is held high he is alert and ready for action. Angry dogs shift their weight forward to intimidate enemies.
- A wagging or limp tail is an easy clue to a dog’s mood. A rapidly wagging tail means he’s happy and ready to play. A drooping tail indicates weariness or depression.
- A hanging tongue or a slightly opened mouth means happiness. Clenched teeth and a wrinkled nose are signs of anger and aggression.
We may not learn all the nuances of dog language anytime soon. But pet owners and professional trainers can only benefit from noticing the many ways dogs communicate with us.
New Technology Could Improve Mental Telepathy with Your Dog
Since human speech is probably impossible for canines to master (except maybe Brian the dog on the animated “Family Guy” TV show), and people don’t usually bark very well, improving mental telepathy between man and beast might seem like the best avenue to pursue.
Taking it another step further, how about if your dog’s thoughts could be were translated into human speech by some kind of high-tech electronic device?
Sound like the stuff of sci-fi, doesn’t it?
Not to the Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery (NCID). They’re working to do just that right now.
This Scandinavian research unit is developing a device called No More Woof that analyzes a dog’s brain waves and translates them into intelligible thought patterns.
Its headset – available in small, medium and large sizes – fits on your pup’s head and picks up basic mental states like hunger and tiredness. Then the device spells out the thought patterns in human language using a small loudspeaker.
NCID has been raising funds for this ambitious project and posted a promotional video explaining its goals.
It remains to be seen if new technology like this can truly unlock the secrets of dog training. Meanwhile, we’ll just have to rely on learning our dogs’ body language.
Barry Alfonso has written songs recorded by Johnny Cash, Pam Tillis and Olivia Newton-John, contributed articles to Rolling Stone and the Los Angeles Times and earned a Grammy Award for music journalism. He is currently active as a personal historian, freelance author and faithful servant to his cat Clarence.
Article: Five Ways Dogs Use Body Language to Talk with Humans
Category: Pet Training Tips
Author: Barry Alfonso