Dog Speak


This is Bear. Her sleeping position says, “My life is good and I feel safe enough to expose the soft underbelly of my being to the creatures in this room .” I WANT my dogs to feel this way.

One of my readers asked me how I know what my dogs feel and think. There have been a lot of books written on dog/human communication and I’ve read some of them, but the reality is that dogs are very easy to understand.

The first thing is understanding that your dog likes to be with you. Dogs don’t like solitude because they’re pack animals. Some breeds have this trait in a more pronounced degree than others. Siberian huskies, for example, really need to be with at least one other dog — preferably another husky — if they’re going to be happy. This should be obvious if you look at how the breed was developed — it was developed to work in harmony with many other huskies pulling a sled. I’ve known huskies who, compelled to live alone in their yard, left their yard and family and found someone more simpatico with whom to live.

Dogs left alone too much, too long, too often, will tell you of their misery by destroying something. Most people who’ve had a dog, and found training it to be a POA, think two dogs will be twice the POA but often the opposite is true. Bringing home a pal for your well-trained first dog will give your first dog a chance to teach a puppy (something dogs love to do and do naturally) and make your life easier. Chances are you won’t even have to house train the second dog.

Many dog “behavior” problems are dogs talking to you. The smarter the dog, the more statements you’re likely to “see” and sometimes hear. Most dogs (and some not all huskies) understand that their primary duty is taking care of you, the pack leader. They understand very well that their survival is a lot easier with you around. They are truly grateful for a place to live and food to eat. They need the chance to hunt, however, which, in human terms, is going for a walk or something similar. I’ve had many dogs who became very stressed when too many days go by without hunting. I’m sure they are just restless, but I think this restlessness is partly due to their sense that without hunting there’s no food.

Reasoning with a dog is not the same as reasoning with a human, but dogs DO reason. For example, my puppy, Bear, was having a hard time learning “Down, stay down.” She just plain didn’t want to do it. She knew I wanted her to, but. I never engage in a battle of wills with a dog. I know the dog wants to please me and if that dog isn’t pleasing me, I just “go away.” I might not deal with the dog for a little while or I stop attempting to teach a behavior. This is where having more than one dog is very useful — I asked Dusty, “Down, stay down” and rewarded him like crazy and praised him like he was god’s gift to dogs for doing that.  I figured 1) Bear may have been too young to get it, or 2) it upset her somehow and I didn’t know why. OK.

A month or so went by without my asking her to “Down, stay down.” One morning, as she was begging for a treat, she looked at me, cocking her head one way then the next (this is a common sign that the dog is thinking) and suddenly she went down and stayed. She knew how; she knew I wanted her to show me that she knew how, she knew it was a thing a good dog would do. That’s just one example of a dog reasoning through something, one of hundreds in my life with dogs.

Dogs tell you they love you in a million ways from demonstrating over-the-moon joy when you come home, putting their head on your lap when they want to show and get affection, curling up to sleep at your foot, looking at you with love in their eyes (yeah, just like people), or just doing what they know you want them to do.

While most dog communication with people (and with each other?) is through actions, I also believe dogs communicate telepathically with each other and with us. I can’t give any hard evidence to prove this (who could?) but there have been moments in the lives of many of my dogs that I’ve seen them “get” something. For example, my Siberian husky male, Cody, understood perfectly that the man I was living with was bad for me and tried a couple of times to break up embraces between the two of us. He’d lived in a home where the husband beat the wife and I think he was tuned in to a certain dynamic between people and recognized it as wrong. Even though there had never been any overt abuse in my relationship with that man, it was not a happy relationship and was certain to escalate if it lasted much long.

Anyway, maybe during the snowy days of the coming winter I’ll write more dog stories. It would make an interesting blog on its own to those who love dogs.



16 thoughts on “Dog Speak

  1. This was such an informative post. Lot of things about dogs. 30 years is a long time to spend with canines. A blog on dogs is definetly a good idea. Your reader will be so happy.

  2. I often think me and Touch read each other’s mind. She seems to know what the next move is more often than not. I do wish she could talk though. I’d love to know why she goes to hide in the bathroom when I open the freezer. It’s the only time she does that. When I go and tell her it’s ok, she comes back out.

  3. Love this post and I think that I have commented in the past that I really enjoy your dog stories. I am in total agreement with all that you have written.

    I’ve been with dogs since I was a toddler and the only time that I’ve not had a dog with me was in nursing school. So I’ve always had a (dogs) for over 70 years. That’s a very long time.

    I just saved one from the streets and have an ad for found dog on (3) web sites including FB for this mixed breed, cute dog. Thus far I’ve not heard from anyone. He has no microchip and is un-neutered, had no collar. Very sweet and loves my dogs. About 2 years old. I will get him all “fixed up” and then turn him over to a friend that does adoptions at Petco in Temple, TX. The adopter/s will be carefully vetted out. Of course I’m still hoping someone is going to claim him. Folks in the area said he was “new” to them and that they think he was a dumped dog.

    • When I was a kid, I wanted a dog more than anything in the world. Finally, when I was 35, I got a dog. She turned my life around for the better! I hope your new rescue finds a very loving family that wouldn’t dump him and will love him forever.

      • I will be very careful to place him in a caring and forever home and plan on inspection and repeat visits if his owner does not come forward in the meantime. I have Nov. 30th set as his “de-nutting” day, better known as neuter and in the old days it was called castration. 🙂 He is such a sweet dog and deserves an ideal family. My friend put his general Id in Craig’s list and a man called asking about his breed. My friend asked him to send a pic and she has yet to get one. I have to be careful for there are crooks hoping for somebody to release a purebred dog and then they will say the dog is theirs. They then sell a purebred dog with fake papers for several hundred dollars. It is a racket that has been going on for a long time. Or they will sell to a laboratory for big money.

        • A dog was recently picked up out here — a female Pyr/Aussie mix Bear’s age. I think she could be Bear’s sister. She had been shot in the hip and had a badly infected foot. They had to trap her. Coyotes were after her. Some nice nurse living on the edge of a small town had been feeding her three times a day but the dog remained too skittish to come to the woman. Now she’s been taken to the vet and is on the mend. I hope she finds a home. If she’s Bear’s sister, she’s going to be a great friend to someone. I wish I had the space because I’d go get her right from the vet (1/2 mile from here) and bring her to live with us. It seems for every evil person there are three good ones. I have hope…

  4. This was such a beautiful read, Martha. And the one before it. It makes me miss my Daisy and Muffin so much. I have cats now. Yeah, try getting into a cat’s mind. 🙂 But I do love them.

    • I love cats, too. I’d have a cat but I live on a very, very busy street and couldn’t bear for my cat not to climb trees and hunt birds. For a few years I (and my ex, the good ex not the evil one) had 10 cats. It was crazy and fun both. Some were real pets — some were very “cat like” some had been strays and semi-feral, all were rescues. Some came to live with us as adult cats, some were kittens. I wrote about them in a bunch of poems I wrote for my niece back then. When I found the poems last year before I moved, I put them into a book with the few drawings I still had and published it through Lulu. It’s “Cats I’ve Known.” 🙂 Not trying to sell books, but you might like it.

      • You amaze me, Martha! Yeah, my cats have all always been indoor cats. There have been some ‘issues’ with cats in my neighborhood and talk about coyotes and foxes at night. They sleep with me and I feel snug as a bug in a rug that way!

        • Definitely if I had coyotes and foxes where I lived, I’d have indoor cats too. I also slept with mine, or, rather, they slept with me. One of them — a Siamese named “Naggy” — was as good a “dog” as any I’ve owned. She even defended me from my first husband who was abusive — he was about to throw the phone book at me and she jumped from the top of the fridge (her lookout spot) and dug all four feet into his back. She was a champion. I rescued her when she was a little kitten and she always slept under the covers with me. ❤

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