Archive for the ‘Dog communication’ Category

The Joy of Being a Dog

In Chasing smells, Dog communication, Shelley Widhalm on February 2, 2014 at 11:30 am

I love the smell of spring grass (obviously this is from last year).

I love the smell of spring grass (obviously this is from last year).

Describing the joy of being a dog cannot fit in a blog and would require a volume of encyclopedias.

But I’ll try to summarize it for you.

Dogs see, smell and understand the world different from their human counterparts, experiencing joy from immersion in their surroundings by way of the ears and nose.

They approach the world first through its smells of different types and intensities, using sight as a secondary sense, which for humans is their primary sense. They see in a limited range of colors, those of blue, yellow and green.

They like to track and explore the smells they encounter to obtain information, separating the smells into distinct odors without blending them. When meeting other dogs, they engage in mutual sniffing to greet each other and gather information about sex, breed and mood.

They hear high-pitched sounds and can identify a sound’s direction and source better than humans can. They communicate with the source of the sounds through a variety of barks from whines to growls, each with a different meaning.

When sounds and smells are present, they use the information they gather to interpret and respond to their world.

They require more sleep than humans, partly because they are animals and also because they’re bored. They’re creatures of comfort that need attention and depend on humans for their activities, such as going on walks, playing and eating.

They naturally like to run and don’t need any motivation to do so. They like to run from scent to scent and expel their pent-up energy.

Dogs rely on their sense of smell, their hearing and their need for exercise to live their fullest in their world.

Figuring Out a Dog’s World

In Dog communication, Shelley Widhalm on May 5, 2013 at 11:30 am

Zoey has to work extra hard to figure out the world of her human companion, Shelley.

Zoey has to work extra hard to figure out the world of her human companion, Shelley.

I need smells, lots of them, because I’m a dog, but not just a dog, an extraordinarily cute miniature dachshund.

Call me Zoey.

Understand me as a complex animal that sees, smells and knows the world differently than humans.

My BFF Shelley is reading “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know,” by Alexandra Horowitz, but I don’t think she needs to read a book to get how I operate.

The book advises Shelley to read my behaviors and not to anthropomorphize me and to consider my unwelt, or my subjective, or self-world.

To understand me, Shelley’s role is to figure out what’s meaningful to me, or what I can perceive, plus how I act in the world. Anywhere where I can’t sit, lie down or eat food is not part of my world and blends into my background.

Take food, for example. It comes from some place with a door (a cabinet) and automatically appears in my bowl. I am handed pieces of it when I use the potty box, do something good or sit or obey other obedience commands.

I act, or behave, according to my desire to receive the food, so I sit even though I want to snap up the treat instantly and chow down.

When I go on walks, I smell my way with my nose toward the ground, trying to figure out the news of my environment. I’m a sniff-a-vestigator.

Ms. Horowitz states that dogs make eye contact with humans to look to them “for information, for reassurance, for guidance.”

I stare down the hallway at Shelley when she’s in the kitchen without food smells, trying to find out if she’s going to leave, take me with her or head to the couch, where I can curl up with my favorite human. She doesn’t tell me what her plans are, which I think is unfair. I have to sit there and figure it all out.

What’s even more unfair is Shelley reads all these books to figure me out when I’m right here available for reassuring her that I’m all love and friendship.

The Overwhelming Need for Groups to Which Dogs Can Belong

In All About Me, Dog communication, Dog Writing, Finding friends, Shelley Widhalm on November 11, 2012 at 11:30 am

Please join Zoey’s dog group, so she doesn’t feel so sad. She says bow-thank-you.

I’ve searched the newspaper ads, Meetup.com and anywhere else I can think of, but there just aren’t any dog groups.

Sure, there are dog groups for owners of dogs, such as the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, the Labrador Retriever Club and the National Greyhound Association, as well as the Dachshund Club of America.

As the Cutest Dachshund this Side of the Mississippi, I would like to join the Dachshund Club of America.

But these dog clubs and associations are for people who own dogs. The dog owners want to show off how their dogs compete in agility courses, perform training tricks and compare in confirmation, or how closely an individual dog meets the ideal breed standard.

The dog owners go all crazy grooming us, even taking it so far to vacuum off our loose fur, put mascara on our graying whiskers and brush all body parts, including our teeth. This doesn’t allow us dogs to congregate and bark out a conversation; i.e. these clubs aren’t about us. They are about our owners who want us to look good for their sakes.

I would like to find a dog group that meets once a week, such as in a dog-friendly coffee shop, where we could sit at our own table and howl.

We’d have our dog-friendly cups of water and dog-licious treats to eat as we bark about politics – which for us concerns marking of territory, crossing territory boundaries and acting out of line, such as barking when the smelling of behinds is more appropriate.

We’d figure out whom to elect as president – of our group, not the country – and have a vote, counting paws. I would volunteer to serve as secretary, because I like to take notes and am quite literate, unlike some dogs that don’t blog.

And we would set an agenda about topics to discuss each week, such as issues of the neighborhood, where to find good food and how to be good for the sake of our owners, but not so good that we get bored. Being bad is part of being a dog, because we hear “bad dog” almost as much as “good dog,” or at least I do.

Shelley, my BFF, doesn’t want me to bark at the big dogs, but I do that because I’m inviting them to my new club.

It’s the Dachshund Club of Zoey’s Neighborhood.

Zoey’s Take on the Animal Senses

In All About Me, Being Cute, Dog communication, Shelley Widhalm on August 12, 2012 at 11:30 am

Zoey the Cute Dachshund stops to smell the flowers during her downtown walk.

I am all about the sense of smell, and as a dog that blogs, I can smell my way into good prose.

Narrative writing like I do should engage all of the senses, those of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

I’ll start with smell, because it is my favorite sense, especially when I can smell food. I take that back – I love, love the taste of dog treats, rawhide and human food, particularly cheddar cheese, chicken, turkey, hamburger, eggs, apples and ice cream.

As a member of the canine species, I experience my world first through smells of different types and intensities, instead of relying on visual information like most humans. I track and explore these smells to obtain my information.

When Shelley, my writing partner, takes me on a walk, I have to stop at every brick wall, light pole, street sign and grassy area to check out the smells. I want to find out how many dogs stopped by and dared to consider my neighborhood theirs.

If I encounter another dog (hopefully not a big dog), we’ll engage in mutual sniffing to greet each other, as if shaking hands or exchanging business cards with our essential information, such as sex, breed and mood. I might be friendly, but I still want to tell the dog that this is mine, all of what I can see, smell and touch.

I can separate smells into distinct odors and don’t blend them. If someone is cooking, I can smell the individual ingredients, such as the steak, cheese and onions in a Philly cheesesteak sandwich.

I don’t do so well with sight, because, unlike humans who can distinguish the full color spectrum, I only see blues, yellows and grays; plus, I use vision as a secondary sense to confirm what I already know.

With sound, I am better than my human counterparts. I can hear higher-pitched sounds and am quicker at identifying a sound’s direction.

If you hear me (or other dogs) whimper or whine, I might be telling you that I’m hurt or that I want something.

I like to stand on my hind legs like a squirrel and jiggle my front paws to demonstrate that I want food, adding in a noise when I forget that with begging, there’s “No noise!”

If I yelp, I might be hurt or terrified.

If I growl, it’s likely I’m fearful, angry or demonstrating threat to another animal or human.

And when repeated barking occurs, I’m telling you I’m excited.

This is my sensory world, but when Shelley says about hers, “Avoid using adjectives, such as the pretty girl or the cute dog,” I have to growl.

How dare Shelley say that humans should avoid saying “cute dog.”

As if! I am cute, obviously, as the CEO of Cuteness and the cutest dachshund this side of the Mississippi (or globally, actually).

All right, go see Shelley’s blog, Shell’s Ink, at http://bit.ly/Rv5DSv

A Dog’s Form of Writer’s Block

In All About Me, Dog communication, Shelley Widhalm on June 17, 2012 at 11:30 am

I should be allowed to eat ice cream and not put on a stupid diet!!!!

I don’t get writer’s blog. I get doggie block.

What I mean is that even though I am the cutest dachshund this side of the Mississippi, I don’t always get my way. To block out the pain from this fact, I head under the bed. It has a nice bed skirt that hides me from the rest of the world.

In my under-bed resting spot, I have a ball, a toy and some milk bones, plus a nice cool hardwood floor.

The reasons for going into doggie block are many, including:

  • I’m being ignored.
  • No one is playing with me.
  • I heard the word “bath,” or someone thought the word and I got the message. Or I heard the shower or the sink turn on, emitting water that is used in baths.
  • I need attention.
  • I am not getting what I want from the day.
  • The treat dispenser isn’t working.

I went to the vet last Monday (I was forced to go), and was weighed. Shelley, my pet parent, freaked out because I gained .7 pounds and now weigh 10.2 pounds. And to think that she’s worried about losing 15 pounds, which is way, way more than my weight!

“Are you serious?” Shelley asked the vet tech, trying to get a closer look at the number as I tried to wiggle away. “I’m putting her on a diet.”
I overheard details of this so-called diet when the vet stuck needles into me, telling me what a good girl I was being (I know, I know).

Shelley asked for advice, and this is what we learned:

  • Cut back or eliminate human food (what about cheese?)
  • Cut back on doggie treats (um, excuse me, but what are you talking about!!!)
  • Use carrots and canned green beans for treats (I like that idea).
  • Exercise (I go on walks, but I guess that just isn’t good enough).

I think that given the diet and exercise plan that I’ll stay under the bed for the rest of my life. Well, until I’m hungry.

A Dog’s Poetic Barking

In All About Me, Dog communication, Shelley Widhalm on May 23, 2012 at 1:50 am

When I bark, there is no subtext. It’s simply, “Woof, woof, yip and yap.”

I bark loud when I want to let the big dogs know that I am 9 ½ pounds of toughness.

I bark long when a noise – like a truck rumbling over the alley below my window or the neighbor click-clacks up the stairs – interrupts my quietude.

And I bark yippy and yappy to let my friends, along with any would-be-friends, know that I am here.

My vocabulary of different barks carries a variety of meanings. What I want to say is pretty obvious in the “hello, I’m here and I’m cute” message, though there is a bit of underlying meaning that the listener of my barks has to interpret.

Okay, I was wrong, there is subtext in how I express myself.

If I am engaging in zen with my dog bear, paddling my feet as I bite his neck, I bark with irritation at the interruption.

If I’m drifting to sleep, I bark a soft half-bark, saying, “Go away, I’m dreaming.”

Or starting to.

If I snarl with a bark, I’m pouting because I’m not getting my way. To emphasize my message, I go under the bed and take a timeout.

Shelley, my pet parent, put a rug on my pouting spot, but I walked over it (under the bed) to the spot next to it.

To pout, you need a lot of space. Not plush carpet-y stuff.

I need a blank slate, or floor, to figure out what I’m thinking. Woof! And bark, bark, bark. Sigh-h-h.

A Dog’s Point-of-View

In All About Me, Dog communication, Shelley Widhalm on March 25, 2012 at 10:30 am

Zoey the dachshund poses for a photo shoot as she relaxes atop newspapers.

My point of view is first person. It’s “I,” “me,” “mine” and “it’s all about me.”

The way I think about my life is in terms of me and what happens around me that I see, smell, taste and experience. I’m all about trying to make sure my needs are met.

I’m a dog, so I’m supposed to be self-centered, or at least to a point.

That point is the fact that I’m your best friend. I am your follower as you tell me what you want to do with our day. Go for a walk? Yes! Come outside with me as I bask in the sun? Yes! Pet me and love me and tell me that I am your girl. Of course!

As you can see, my point of view becomes second person when I want something from all of the “you’s” in the world, especially my main, “You.”

My main “You” is Shelley, my pet parent, the one who loves me unconditionally. She tells me so in words, hugs and pets, and way too many kisses that can be kind of embarrassing,

I let her know I love her back with morning kisses and cuddling and eager tail wags when we meet up again anytime she heads off to her stupid work.

I engage in the second-person point of view when I think about others. I think things like: You need to give me some of your yummy looking dinner. You need to pet me. You need to play with me. Now. And if you don’t, I will bark.

And bark again until I get my way. And get noticed. And am acknowledged for my role in our story.

So back to me, I am the center of my world, your world and everyone else’ world as I trot along, looking as cute as ever.

Puppy Skills

In Dog comfort, Dog communication on September 11, 2011 at 7:00 am

Here, Zoey hangs out atop Shelley's bed. She hides underneath the bed when she needs to pout.

Zoey, my cute miniature dachshund, is not blogging this week. She’s under my bed pouting.

For this reason, I thought I would speak on her behalf, since I can’t get her to come out and be sociable.

Almost every week, Zoey waxes poetic about her cuteness factor.

I’ve noticed that, though Zoey is very cute and gets more attention than me, she has other qualities and skills worth noting.

* For one, my dog is a great paper shredder. I give her my junk mail or whatever else needs ripping, and let her pounce. She grasps one side of the paper and makes a long tear, repeating the process until she is sitting in a pile of bite-sized pieces that I get to clean up.

* My dog serves as my backup alarm clock. The trash and delivery vehicles that drive past my building come between 6 and 8 a.m., so I get a barking wake-up call. Aren’t I lucky?

* My dog gets me to go on walks. She needs to be walked, but she can’t take herself out. I walk a mile a day more than I would without her. She walks half that, because when she tires, she plops on her behind and looks at me, as if saying, “Well, aren’t you going to carry me?”

* My dog brings out my playful side. How can I remain serious when we play tug-of-war with a stuffed bunny or chase as she carries a stuffed chick equal to her size all over the apartment?

* And my dog gives me kisses and attention without expecting anything in return, well except for food, her own dose of attention and lots of pets.

Oh wait, there she is coming out from her hiding space. I guess she got over her pout about not getting attention while I worked on my writing. Maybe because I’m done and ready for some more play.

Really, A Good Dog

In Dog communication, Zoey and Sophie on August 21, 2011 at 6:19 pm

I am not a bad dog. If you just read Shelley, my pet owner’s blog, you would think that I am out of control.

But I have some rules that I like my friends and me to follow:

* I am alpha dog.

* My toys are my toys. Your toys are my toys. (Note from Shelley: This weekend, somehow all of Sophie’s toys ended up with Zoey’s toys, including Sophie’s chew bone.)

I protect my property, which includes my house, Shelley’s dad’s house, Shelley’s mom’s house, the coffee shops where Shelley takes me that allow dogs and the great outdoors.

* I will share my food (it’s boring).

* My treats are mine and only mine.

As you can see, I do play nice. Here are some photos of Sophie and I, though a bit dated (from a year ago).

Sophie and I are playing near my toys.

Zoey and I play near but not with my toys.

Sophie and I are engaging in dog wrestling.

Paws-itive Empathy

In Dog comfort, Dog communication, Empathy on June 26, 2011 at 7:34 am

I did my part. I comforted Shelley when she cried by looking at her with a question in my eyes, saying, What can I do? What do you need?

Wiggling my way up to her on our bed, I kissed her and licked at her tears. They tasted good, with that yummy salty stuff. I cuddled in close to her side, and she started petting me.

Sniffle, sniffle, I heard.

And then she got out the cell phone thingy (I hate electronic devices because Shelley pays attention to them and not me) and called her mom.

“Do you want to get coffee?” Shelley said.

Sniffle, sniffle, a nose blow (hey, I want that tissue!) and then my bag got packed up and in the car we go to Shelley’s mom’s house. I gave her mom a kiss party (multiple kisses at once as if on repeat) and turned to make sure Shelley didn’t do that sniffling thing. She didn’t.

I got a treat, and then they were gone.

When they get back, I hope Shelley doesn’t cry because, as they say, the grass is greener on this side of the fence (because that’s where I am). Plus it’s sunny.

Shelley just needs to realize that if it doesn’t work out digging one hole, dig another. If you’re barking up the wrong tree, there are other trees out there. And if a tree’s a little shady, find a tree with better character.