by Barry KuKes
Do you talk dog or cat or bird? Additionally, potbelly pigs, chimpanzees, and elephants all understand some human language. Scientists believe we may even be able to talk to dolphins one day! Some animals are very good at communication.
Although you wouldn’t want one to balance your checkbook, dogs can count. They can also understand more than 150 words and intentionally deceive other dogs and people to get treats, according to psychologist and leading canine researcher Stanley Coren, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia.
Cats can understand about 25 to 35 words. This often leads people to believe that dogs are more intelligent than cats, which would again be wrong if you only base intelligence on understanding. (Some people think cats understand plenty but choose to ignore us anyway.)
Similar to people and especially teenagers, pets have selective hearing. They only hear you when they feel what you are saying is valid. My dog Bentley will lie on the couch while the doorbell rings, a truck drives by, or a neighbor knocks on the back door, but if I try to open a bag of chips as quietly as possible, he is there in a second.
Once, he walked out of our backyard to explore the neighborhood. I called and called him, but he ignored my requests to return. I then grabbed his glass treat jar with the metal top and clinked the lid on the jar. Bentley was back in the house in less than 30 seconds.
All my dogs are rescues and were strays, so I have very little background information about them. For all I know, they were raised by a German-speaking family and do not understand English. Sometimes, it seems like that is the case. Most German Shepherd police dogs are trained their commands in German.
If you have a pet with an unknown history, maybe try speaking to it in a different language. You can easily ask Siri or Alexa for the Spanish or German translation of sit down and see if your pet responds. By the way, sit down in Spanish is siéntate, and in German, hinsetzen.
Lastly, there is also body language to consider. If a dog places its tail between its back legs and displays whale-eye, they communicate that they are scared and would prefer you did not bother them. They may even become aggressive if provoked. Pets also read our body language. They can usually tell whether we are happy, sad, angry, depressed, etc. Many pets will often come to their owner and offer comfort if they sense an emotion or hear crying. As in life, communication with your pets is key to a successful relationship.
Remember, adopt, don’t shop.
Barry KuKes is the Community Out- reach Director for the Halifax Humane Society in Daytona Beach. He can be reached at 386.274.4703, ext. 320, or at firstname.lastname@example.org