No words needed

One of the big differences between humans and dogs is the meaning we give to words. Humans seem to have an agreement about what words mean, no matter what the circumstances. For example: ‘walking’ always means moving the legs to get somewhere. So when a human tells another human she had a nice walk, the other human understands what she means.

For dogs this is very different. We do not listen to the meaning of a word, for us it is the attached action or mood that counts. This means humans can use words in a different way when communicating with us. Take my friend Kiesja. She likes to do doggy dancing. When her humans says ‘strawberry’ she pivots. That is the way she learned it. Her human could have learned her to pivot on the word ‘turn’, but she thought it would be more fun to use another word. To Kiesja this is not important, because she reacts on the intention of her human. They trained this a thousand times, so the meaning of the word ‘strawberry’ is ‘pivot’ to her.

This knowledge about the difference in the use of words for humans and canines is important, because it explains a big misunderstanding. Humans seem to think that they can use words and we will understand what they mean, like other humans do. But that, as you can see by the example of Kiesja, is not true. We dogs connect a word (or a sound or a hand signal) to an action. When this is repeated, we will perform this action when the word is spoken. Like pivoting on the word ‘strawberry’. Or barking on the word ‘quiet!’. Because, you see: we don’t get the meaning of the word ‘quiet’, like humans do. When we bark and our human tells us again and again to be quiet while we bark, we will connect the word ‘quiet’ to barking. Get it?

I will give you another example. We have some new dogs on the block, a couple of golden retrievers. They aren’t too bad, but when they see another dog they start barking like mad and pull their leashes. Their human is not very strong, so he gets dragged over the street by his dogs. He is shouting ‘hey! hey!’ to his dogs when they are doing this. It is all very embarrassing, really.  My point is: these dogs probably think by now that ‘hey! hey!’ means ‘bark and drag me!’, because this happens all the time. I guess this human wants to make clear to his dogs that he does not like their behavior, that is why he is screaming. But his dogs obviously do not get his meaning. Mind you, I do not have a solution for his problem (why would I? It is not my problem), although I do think Nicoline, my personal trainer, will know what to do about it.

Nicoline and friends

Anyway, the point of my story (which needs a lot of words, sorry about that) is this: please know that humans and dogs understand words very differently. Once humans know this, they can start communicating with us in a different way. They can use fun words for actions they want us to perform. Or not use words at all, but sounds or hand signals. We react to those as well as to words. It gives humans a break, because they have to talk so much already, to other humans. With us they can be quiet, because we will understand them just as well. Or even better, because words tend to muddle intentions and energy. In the silence we can tune into each others energy and be together. No words needed.

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Beach play

I had a great morning. The sun was shining, it was as warm as springtime. Although of course it is autumn, the air smells of old leaves and earth.

We went to the beach and P and M threw ball for me. My favorite ball, the one with a hole in the middle. Great for catching.

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I am not only the fastest dog on the beach; I can jump pretty high, too. I just stretch my long body and push myself with my hind legs, up.  Easy.

Bad news

Look what happened:

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Chuck left the sofa. M took him and put him on my bed, telling me that he does not belong on the sofa and should lie on the doggy bed, just like me.

Both Chuck and I are very disappointed. We are thinking about Plan C, but our creativity runs low at this point. Maybe you have any suggestions? We definitely want to lie on the sofa!

Plan B

I am content with my life with M and P, most of the time. Although there are a couple of things that need improvement. Being allowed on the sofa is one thing. On Facebook I see pictures of happy dogs on sofas and sometimes I meet a dog who is boasting about the couch cuddles he receives from his human, happily sitting on the sofa together, watching tv. Then I mumble something like ‘yeah I know what you are barking about, our sofa is gloriously soft too and I sleep on it for hours and hours’.

But alas, that is not so. I was allowed on the sofa when living with my foster family. As soon as I entered M and P’s house and jumped on their sofa to test it, they put me back on the ground. Again and again. Friendly, but persistent. So I know what it is like, lying on a soft sofa, but I am denied that luxury now.

That is why I made up a plan. You can call it Plan B, since Plan A – jumping on their sofa the moment I entered the house – did not work. Plan B involves Chuck, my new prey. When M and P weren’t looking, I positioned him on their sofa. Like this:

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When I came in the living room this morning, he was still there. This can only mean one thing: M and P don’t mind to share their sofa. With Chuck, yes. But that is a start. Once they get used to the idea of sharing the sofa, they won’t mind if I use it too. I will modestly lie in a corner of the couch at first and then I will gradually increase the space I am using until I can lie gloriously in the middle of the sofa, between M and P. It is big enough for that, you know.

I strongly believe in my plan. I mean: when they let Chuck lie on the sofa, why wouldn’t they let me? It would be totally unfair if I still had to lie on the floor.  And M and P are fair humans, I am certain about that.

So I hope that the next selfie I will publish will be a selfie of me on the sofa. A sofaselfie! I’ll keep you informed.

An adventure for every dog

There is one more picture of our hike in Germany that I’d like to share with you. To me it makes clear how wonderful it is to be with your humans and have adventures together. Walking in a wood with trees this big was truly an adventure.

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I wish all the dogs in the world can have adventures like this. Yes, also the little ones that get dressed up and are carried around in designer bags. Because no matter how tiny dogs are, they need adventures! Maybe you are reading this and you are such a dog. You want to go out on an adventure too, but you have to persuade your human. Because your human prefers shopping malls over woods, right? Well, you can tell her that for going on an adventure together you will need gear to survive in the woods. Like…. outdoor designer clothing! For her and for you! Which means more shopping, so she will definitely like that.

And then, after hours of shopping and preparation, you are finally out in those woods. You will have a happy walk and ignore the squirrels roaring with laughter about your fashionable canine outdoor gear. They are just dumb squirrels. Enjoy your adventure!

Gift: a hike!

Alas, I did not get the mountain cat I asked for on my birthday. Instead M and P gave me something else, which was pretty awesome too: a hike! We hiked for three days in Germany and it was really nice. The woods there are huge, with lots of mysterious paths.

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I first thought my mountain cat was waiting for me there but nope, there were none. I did see some squirrels and a lot of birds. There was a myriad of smells for me to discover and nice views for M and P to enjoy.

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We saw a lot of mushrooms, like these (not inhabited, they are too small for that):

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And huge trees everywhere in the woods. Home to squirrels and unfortunately not very suitable for climbing by dogs (I should do something about that and get me some training on how to climb trees. It could be handy when chasing squirrels).

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There were big trees in the little villages we visited too!

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It smelled of autumn and a little bit of winter too, with a cold tinge in the air. I am glad we slept in hotels that were cosy and warm, so I could snooze in the sun while processing all the smells and sounds I gathered during the day.

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I had a great birthday!

Birthday!

This weekend is my birthday! I am so excited because I asked for a very special present. I really really want to have a mountain cat. All for myself. We met them this summer and they looked juicy and furry and a very good sport to play with. There were loads of them where we saw them, in the mountains, so I gather it won’t be a problem for M and P to get me one. This is what they look like:

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My last big wish (for Christmas) were hair extensions, which I did not get because my hair turned out to be too short to weave these extensions into. I hope I will be more lucky this time and get my own personal mountain cat!