Teaching Dogs Language: Applying Research from Dogs Decoded

A while ago I watched Dogs Decoded, a documentary produced by Nova, which explored our relationship with dogs. It drew attention to something I knew about my relationships with my dogs, but was not consciously aware of.

[Above] This is a really quick overview of Dogs Decoded. The full length version is toward the end of this post.

I have deliberately developed the sophistication of understanding for every dog I’ve ever owned. I teach them words. And I use that vocabulary to build concepts.

When traveling across the US back around 1989 or so, I stopped at a State Park in West Virgina. There was a lovely little creek that rolled past boulders smoothed by higher waters. I set off with my German Shepherd, Gaol and my camera. “Gaol, Go out on that rock,” I said pointing to one of the larger boulders in the creek. She hopped out the the designated rock. “Turn this way,” I instructed again. She turned.

A boy, perhaps 10 or 12 years old watched us. His attitude expressed a rolling eyed, “Yeah, right. The dog knows what you’re talking about” expression.

“Look upstream,” I instructed. Gaol looked upstream. “Gaol, you look like a coyote. Stretch out and look like a German Shepherd.” She took a step forward and looked like the poster girl for the GSD breed. The boy’s jaw dropped. I snapped some beautiful images that day.

Have all of the dogs I’ve ever had been able to do this? No.  Could they? I am not sure– Probably not without a lot of training, and it would have been a command for this and a command for that in most cases. Gaol was exceptional. She set a high bar in terms of an aptitude for language acquisition and sophistication of application of that language to various situations.

The most challenging dog I’ve ever worked with was Wil. He came to me– a former beauty pageant show dog– with no socialization, no vocabulary (not even his name), no training on which to build. He was angry. No. He was furious, livid. He was PTSD wracked. Finding a starting place from which to build a partnership was a challenge.

When I watched Dogs Decoded, I noted there were skills most dogs intuitively have that Wil lacked. For example, the film reviewed a study of the way in which dogs and humans study faces in order to assess the emotional status of a human. Both humans and dogs compare the left and right eyes of their subjects. By subconsciously comparing the disposition of those eyes they gather data from which to determine whether the human is happy, sad, angry and so on.

Wil could make no eye contact.

I had been doing a “watch me” exercise with him for some time, but I had not insisted that he take the plunge to look me straight in the eyes. I began to work on this. It took over a year for him to be able to sustain eye contact for up to 5 seconds. As we did the work outlined in my book, The 3 Essential Commands, I noticed that he was beginning to make eye contact voluntarily. And the more comfortable he became making voluntary eye contact, the better he was in distinguishing between friendly people and those who were “off.” For example, there was one young man who came to my ranch whom Wil clearly did not like. I was uneasy with the guy too, so rather than put Wil up, I snapped a leash on him and kept him close to me. In retrospect, I suspect that young man may have been affected by Methamphetamine and I believe that he left because he feared the dog would eat him.

The eye contact lessons have helped Wil make a connection with people that he lacked before. While there is a “what came first: the chicken or the egg” question here, I think that the eye contact cracked Wil’s ability to access language.

A friend and I were reflecting the other night about how much Wil’s vocabulary has grown.

He now knows the words for a list of commands: sit, down, come, heel, stay, wait, here, come by, away to me, get up ahead, that’ll do, easy, steady, get in the car, okay.

He has a growing list of nouns: Horse, cow, sheep, car, truck, bed, couch, mat, kitchen.

One day we were at a veterinary clinic when Wil heard a horse whinny. He perked up and looked in the direction of the sound. “Did you hear the horse, Wil?” I asked. He danced and jumped all around. “I did! You heard it too!” he seemed to say.

And the night that my friend and I were discussing his vocabulary, Wil was nosing around the dining room table. His head popped up by my plate. “I’m not done eating my supper, Wil, but Betsy is.” He turned his attention to her immediately. We laughed. She gave him her plate.

[Above] Here is the full version of Dogs Decoded. See what educational tidbits you can use with your dog!

I encourage you to enhance your relationship with your dog by deliberately teaching him vocabulary and to practice those words in conversational English.

Extension: you can use your dog to help you learn a new language too.

I love you, my good dog. Te quiero, me buen perro.

This is my bone — Esto es me hueso.

This is your bone — Este es tu hueso.

If you’re an old dog like I am, your dog will learn his second language faster than you will!

Good luck– and let me know how it goes!

44 thoughts on “Teaching Dogs Language: Applying Research from Dogs Decoded

  1. a fantastic read

    I just want to tell you that I am new to weblog and honestly enjoyed this web site. More than likely I’m planning to bookmark your blog post . You surely have remarkable articles and reviews. Regards for sharing your web-site.

  2. Stan Pemelton

    With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright violation?My blog has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either written myself or outsourcedbut it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my permission.Do you know any techniques to help stop contentfrom being stolen? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  3. Waneta Raulino

    UndeniablyUnquestionablyDefinitely believe that which you statedsaid. Your favorite justificationreason appeared to beseemed to be on the internetnetweb the simplesteasiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitelycertainly get irkedannoyed while people considerthink about worries that they plainlyjust do notdon’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well asand alsoand defined out the whole thing without having side effectside-effects , people cancould take a signal. Will likelyprobably be back to get more. Thanks

  4. Valentin Countee

    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will definitely return.

  5. Corey Gadbois

    For example, tried his turn in the property business, was so successful in his enterprise that, afterhaving a few years, he eventually started his own bureau, one man dropped his occupation.

  6. Bertie Chittick

    I keep listening to the news bulletin lecture about getting free online grant applications so I have been looking around for the top site to get one. Could you tell me please, where could i get some?

  7. Emeryeps

    Emery EPS is a Search Engine Optimization company that provides SEO Services. Their proprietary SEO strategies help struggling websites and aspiring business owners to rank their websites higher in multiple search engines like Google , Yahoo and Bing. They provide local and gmb map ranking for businesses in Coasta Rica, New York, Los Angeles, Portland, Sacramento, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, Houston, California and many other local areas. Find more at https://www.emeryeps.com.

  8. Minecraft Education

    Thank you a lot for providing individuals with an extraordinarily splendid chance to read in detail from this web site. It really is very useful and full of a good time for me personally and my office acquaintances to visit your site at the least thrice in 7 days to read the fresh items you have got. And lastly, we are certainly astounded with the eye-popping concepts you serve. Selected 4 points in this article are particularly the very best we have had.

  9. Online Payment

    Wonderful web site. Lots of helpful information here. I am sending it to a few buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks for your effort!

  10. Holiday Packages

    I like what you guys are up also. Such smart work and reporting! Keep up the excellent works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my site 🙂

  11. Fashion

    My brother suggested I might like this website. He was entirely right. This post truly made my day. You can not imagine just how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

  12. News

    I truly appreciate this post. I have been looking everywhere for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You’ve made my day! Thanks again!

  13. Home Repair

    I was just seeking this information for some time. After 6 hours of continuous Googleing, finally I got it in your web site. I wonder what’s the lack of Google strategy that don’t rank this kind of informative websites in top of the list. Usually the top sites are full of garbage.

  14. News

    Thanks for sharing superb informations. Your web site is very cool. I’m impressed by the details that you’ve on this website. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for more articles. You, my pal, ROCK! I found just the information I already searched all over the place and simply couldn’t come across. What a perfect web-site.

  15. News

    I like the valuable information you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I’m quite sure I will learn plenty of new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!

  16. technology articles

    Hello, you used to write great, but the last several posts have been kinda boring¡K I miss your tremendous writings. Past several posts are just a little bit out of track! come on!

  17. Business

    Very nice post and right to the point. I don’t know if this is truly the best place to ask but do you guys have any thoughts on where to get some professional writers? Thanks in advance 🙂

  18. company news

    hey there and thank you for your information – I have definitely picked up something new from right here. I did however expertise a few technical points using this website, since I experienced to reload the web site many times previous to I could get it to load correctly. I had been wondering if your web host is OK? Not that I am complaining, but slow loading instances times will very frequently affect your placement in google and can damage your high quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords. Well I am adding this RSS to my e-mail and could look out for a lot more of your respective fascinating content. Make sure you update this again soon..

  19. business news

    Fantastic goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you are just extremely wonderful. I actually like what you have acquired here, really like what you are saying and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it smart. I can not wait to read much more from you. This is really a tremendous site.

  20. Technology

    I¡¦ve learn several excellent stuff here. Definitely worth bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how much attempt you place to create this sort of excellent informative website.

  21. style

    I have been reading out some of your stories and i must say pretty good stuff. I will make sure to bookmark your website.

  22. News

    What i do not understood is in fact how you’re not actually much more well-appreciated than you may be right now. You are very intelligent. You recognize therefore considerably relating to this subject, made me for my part consider it from numerous varied angles. Its like men and women are not interested unless it is one thing to do with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs outstanding. All the time take care of it up!

  23. Kristofer Simson

    I visitgo to seepay a visitpay a quick visit everydaydailyeach dayday-to-dayevery day somea few websitessitesweb sitesweb pagesblogs and blogswebsitesinformation sitessites to read articlespostsarticles or reviewscontent, butexcepthowever this blogweblogwebpagewebsiteweb site providesoffersgivespresents qualityfeature based articlespostscontentwriting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.