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Old 09-11-2012, 12:16 AM
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Renee750il Renee750il is offline
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Default Dogs and Language?

The side convo in the "what not to call your dog thread" reminded me of some articles I'd read quite awhile ago regarding dogs and whether or not they learn to understand the language of the people they live with.

Seems the old "dogs only understand tone and body language" school may be going the way of alpha rolls and newspapers?

http://www.wired.com/science/discove.../2004/06/63792

This one's even more impressive

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/18/sc...pagewanted=all

Interesting, although I question whether they're measuring actual intelligence in their rankings as much as they are desire to please/perform, especially since it doesn't seem to take into account understanding and using cause and effect, problem solving, inductive or deductive reasoning or initiating actions based on observation of situations.

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/p...ogs/index.html
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Old 09-11-2012, 12:20 AM
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I fully believe that language is learned -- they don't come knowing what it means. Or else you wouldn't have to teach them what sit means Just as you have to teach a kid what a word means.

I mean, again, if they came fully understanding it, they'd have to know every single language, cause they wouldn't know what language their future owner speaks.

ETA: I guess really, I meant that as it's all an association thing. Teach your dog what a ball is... it associates a ball to the word. They don't know if you say "I'm going to a ball tonight" you mean you're going to an event.
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Old 09-11-2012, 12:22 AM
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Oh, it absolutely is learned. But they do learn to understand our language and other ways of communicating a lot better and faster than we do theirs.
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Old 09-11-2012, 01:04 AM
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^^ I really agree with that. Just because dogs cannot talk back doesn't mean they don't know what we're saying. Fozzie especially understands every word we're saying in a conversation. If we talk about him, without mentioning his name at all, he will walk in, sit in the middle of the room, and cock his head or beg. He KNOWS what we're saying, I swear. Fozzie also knows when my Mom calls me, idk how. Every time she calls he runs off. Probably because I've had some unsavory convos with her.

I think that being around us talking all the time inadvertently teaches our dogs so much more than we even realize.
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Old 09-11-2012, 01:16 AM
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Definitely.

I'm constantly underestimating how much Kaia "gets", and then she does something to remind me how much she really perceives.

For the past couple of weeks I've mentioned that I really want to get a dog that's more suspicious of random strangers coming in the house. At the very least, "a dog that will bark when people go by the house or come in the yard."

One week ago, she started barking at people. She's NEVER barked at people. She's not a barky breed at all. She's really pretty quiet except some whining and squeaking. It's not even a reactive bark either. It's her gazing out the window until someone goes by, then she says a single, "WOOF." In her very deep, composed, borzoi voice. Then she looks at me over her shoulder in an elegant way and grins like, "is that what you want me to do?" She's a good grrrl, bless her heart.
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Old 09-11-2012, 02:27 AM
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Quote:
“She still demands four to five hours a day,” Dr. Pilley said. “I’m 82, and I have to go to bed to get away from her.”
That poor man.

I've always thought that because dogs grew as a species alongside humans, they learned to read us and our bizarre way of communicating a lot better than we realize. I taught Chewy to differentiate between three different toys in a day, and she would go grab them when I told her the specific word like "hamburger." I pretty much did what the guy in the Times article did: held the toy, repeated the name, tossed it, repeated the name and told her to get it. Later I escalated to hiding them in a pile. I didn't go past that because I was little and my attention span was shorter than hers, apparently, but I still remember how amazed I was. It definitely differs with dogs though. She was never a dog to respond to "vet" or "walk." It's like the ability was there, but she needed a catalyst.

Super interesting stuff though. I hope one day we can understand the complexities of their minds better, since it seems like there is always more to them than we think.
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Old 09-11-2012, 02:56 AM
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My dogs must understand sarcasm then.

I can call them bad dogs for doing something bad and they will show appeasement behaviors because they know they did something to make me upset.

But I can also say "oh, you're such a bad dog" playfully and they'll start wagging their nubs and wiggling and attention-seeking. Totally different behavior.

That tells me that my body language and tone means more to them than the words "bad dog."
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Old 09-11-2012, 06:03 AM
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Has anyone here ever read Dogs of Babel? Its a very interesting novel that looks at the relationship between a dog and her owners, and how it relates to language. I definitely recommendit.
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