If I could talk to the animals

If I could talk to the animals

The kids and I have been reading Doctor Dolittle, one of my all time favourite books, and we’ve been wishing we could talk to the animals.

Never mind! Some animals can understand a bit of what we are saying, even if they can’t quite get the words out to answer back (except the occasional talented parrot). Apparently dogs are up there with your average 3 year old when it comes to understanding language (with the ability to comprehend over 100 words).

I have no doubt it’s true.






My dogs Jazz and Sheba will cock a head, shift ears or raise eyebrows on hearing the following words (sometimes they will even follow an order πŸ˜‰ ):

pigs ears
on your mat
leave it
bath time
stinky bum
fluff buckets
tennis ball
play ball
wee wees
dumb and dumber
leave the #*# kangaroos alone!
you want a smack on your furry ass!







Can your dog or cat understand what the hell you are talking about?

24 thoughts on “If I could talk to the animals

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  1. Don’t have a dog…but my humming birds will fly up to my back porch or buzz me when the feeder is empty…they will literally stop by the back screen, pause and stare in waiting for a response from me like “okay…I’ll fill it”. πŸ˜‰

  2. I don’t think my rabbit understood much except the rustle of a paper bag containing dandelions. She did however like me talking to her…..

    I’m reading a wonderful novel at the moment in which one of the characters, a young boy has two way conversations with his dog.

  3. i bet they do understand a lot more and on a different vibe level. i mean the words
    the inflections and the body language. yeah they do definitely know the sound of their names and certain meanings attached to other ‘sounds’. but its hard to tell what they are experiencing in terms of language recognition the way we know it to be, ours and their language perception is different i think

    1. Yes, definitely different tipota and we will never really know, unless we come back as an animal πŸ˜‰ Is it really the word ‘dinner’ or is it me getting the food ready and the same time each day and the smells etc.,

  4. As you point out, except for parrots, animals have not managed to communicate in ‘human’, not that parrots do more than simply parrot. But what worries me about this post is that your dogs seem to understnd more human language than you understand ‘dog’. Mmmmm.

  5. My dear old pup (nearing 16) is completely deaf and I think he still understands what I am saying… or maybe that’s what living together for 16 years does… either way, we communicate!

  6. I have never seen a hummingbird in real life, either. How amazing that slpmartin has them at the door like that!

    I believe my dog Henry understood everything I said to him. I talked to him all the time. He was a golden retriever and responded to a lot of different things. He also ‘sang’ when I played the piano in that rowr rowr rowr way dogs do.

    My cat Olive could also speak several languages and probably understood the inner workings of quantum mechanics, but just never let on. She never missed a thing, even if you tried to dupe her by speaking in French.

    I do believe though, seriously, that animals understand language more than we think they do. They are also more attuned to vibes and tonalities.

    My friend also thinks her cat is psychic – but that’s a whole other post πŸ˜†

  7. yeah. some a lot. some… not so much. …or… may be they just dont want to understand the particular thing i’m trying to get across at the time.

    what i’ve found is that “talk” the way we think about it, can be way limited – because our version of talk to the animals often uses our language – not theirs. “animal talk” which on our part often involves our words vs their talk which does not involve our words in that they can not speak them, yet they often speak very clearly by their actions, movements and even sounds – but not using our word-speak.

    cool. aloha Gabrielle

    my thoughts:

    some actions are big – like big and bouncy jumpy – i want to play. some actions are much more subtle – like the tilt and crinkle of an eyebrow that asks what you are trying to get at. and some, which are very clear in say dog language are just not figured out by most human beings – like the order designation of position in a pack, which we are part of in terms of our dog companion world. we just dont seem to get it and they’ve learned it’s not much use trying to teach us.

    the key as i see it to “animal talk” and talking with them, is to in some way imitate their language (which is how we learn any language).

    for instance ever notice with two dogs who like each other how one will walk by the other and give a little lick to the snout – or several? no, you dont have to lick a dog snout. but you can lightly stroke a dog’s snout with shot little hand-licks (using your hand as a dog would use it’s tongue – yeah, not all the ways a dog might use it’s tongue – but some of them are okay) – stroke in a similar way to how a dog would use it’s tongue to lick the snout and around the ears of the companion friend.

    dog’s will accept this “speak” in much the same way as a tolerant person will accept the accent of another person who is speaking a second language. so… i do this with Aka (Shadow in Hawaiian – the dog whose pack i am currently a member) when ever i pass her – particularly in the night say, as she is laying on her bed. she often looks for it now and will sleep where she knows i will pass in the night. it’s how she knows what is going on for me – is everything okay? is something going on? what’s up?

    i’ve found she understands 3 basic types of this in terms of how long i pet her – a short quick 5-10 strokes means things are okay, i’m just passing through. 10-15 means, i’m just checking, are you okay?. and 25 or so seems to mean, i care about you and everything is fine. at least that’s the way it seems to me.

    and if you want to tell a dog you want to play, in dog language… get down on your hands and knees in front of them. then extend your arms out toward them on the ground and lower your head down. you can even bounce with your paws a little bit. if you’re in doubt about this move, watch a pup when it wants to play. see if your play signal is responded to with a raised paw as if to tap you – if so, then, your it. or if they do the same bow for you. or if they bounce toward you and back. or if they just pounce all over you. yeah – all forms of play. and in their way they are saying, YEAH i’ll play, what do you want to do? bwahahaha then have fun.

    of course there is a lot more to dog and animal language – but i think it’s important to keep in mind that we can probably learn more of their language than they can learn of ours. ..so… whose language do you speak in when you talk with the animals?

    yeah, silly human beings. and we say we are the intelligent ones, so the less intelligent animals should have to learn our language? hmmmm…. makes more sense the other way round doesnt it? we should learn theirs. then what? wow. talk to the animals. in their own language. cool. and. fun. aloha.

    1. Bwhahahah – wonderful comment Rick and I totally agree. When Jazz was quite young and my boy Michael was a little scared of her bounciness, I got a dog behaviourist to visit and give us some advice and she gave us a rundown on the dog body language stuff. I love the Play Bow and have been known to do that to my dogs – in fact I am often found growling and howling with the dogs (so does my hubby who is very good at speaking ‘dog’ and can get on with the most contrary of dogs). I didn’t know about the dog snout thing – I have been wary of touching their noses (seem so delicate), but will give it a go. Thanks Rick for the great comment – aloha πŸ™‚

      1. yeah, i suppose some dogs my have sensitive snouts. or if they are not used to it or have been hit on the nose as a discipline method, may not like the motion. so, yeah, be gentle, you know your dogs best – if they are not like that between each other then, it may not be the way to go.

        especially with dogs who have been teased hard (the way some kid-adults can do to a dog when they know the dog can not get to them to respond…) it’s probably not such a good idea to approach their mouth with your hand.

        i forget sometimes that dogs are not always treated the way i treat Aka.

        i’ve seen people kick a dog if it doesnt get out of their way. a dog who is used to people who will walk around it will stand still of course. and then that person who expects all dogs to move for them, will actually trip over the dog and blame the dog because it didnt move. i probably go over board the other way and treat animals the way i’d treat a human being, i’d walk around a human being who was standing still… …and i probably wouldnt kick them if they didnt move either.

        the hand-lick on the snout.. now that i think about it… may not be the wisest thing for children to do either…. i’ve seen dogs that were mild with adults, automatically distrust a child because other kids had mistreated it. in which case, yeah, may be i should qualify what i was saying better. it probably does depend on how a dog has been treated as to whether this is an appropriate thing to do or not… and then only if you know your dog is okay with it…

        …. and if the dog doesnt have a sore tooth too. sheesh. may be i better start all over, i dont want someone to get snapped at or bit… yikes.

        1. Hahaha – it’s ok – I’m sure there are not many kids reading this comment thread πŸ˜‰ I taught my kids not to go near the head of a dog (except their own dogs who are fine with that sort of thing) except with a closed hand down low, so the dog can sniff it. What I meant by the sensitive noses is just that they look kind off delicate and squidgy (like it might hurt if you touched too hard) – I tend to scratch behind their ears and masssage around the ears and eyes, which they love heaps.

  8. Most of the time, my three cats understand exactly what I’m saying – absolutely! Unfortunately, when it comes to anything of the command-variety, they inevitably choose to ignore it. On the other hand, if it involves, “treets!” “kibble!”, “armpit” (some explanation may be required), “earwax” (ditto to that one), they are most compliant.


  9. I forgot to mention that I love that movie with Rex Harrison. I still remember the enormous shell that he rode in. That made a particular impression on my young mind in the Sixties.

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