Lhasa Apso puppy yawning

Do humans really understand dogs?

If only dogs could talk.

Let’s be honest. Most of us have made that statement when we are trying to find out what our dogs are thinking or how they’re feeling. However, dogs are different from humans because they don’t really care about making us understand them better. As far as dogs are concerned, we either do or we don’t. Research carried out in Hungary by Ádám Miklósi, founder of the Family Dog Research Project, has thrown more light on this subject. He discovered that dogs have a wide range of ways to solve problems with humans and can understand our gestures. They learn through observation of what humans do.

Can we understand dogs?

Veterinary surgeons have been understanding the signals for a very long time. Our own dog, Poppy the Lhasa, is able to make her wishes very clear to us. For example, when requiring a space on the sofa where no space exists she will vocalise her intentions with a single bark. She then repeatedly taps one of our knees to get us to move out of her way. This always works because we understand her meaning. It could not be clearer.

Interpreting a bark

Dogs use the bark in a number of different ways. The tone of the bark tells us what the dog is thinking and the emotion invested in it. It is up to us to interpret these signals. We all know when our dogs are happy and in a confident mood because it shows in their facial expression. Their eyes are bright and they will often show their teeth in what appears to be a smile. When a dog’s ears draw back we know that the dog is listening to us. How many times do you see the ears move when you mention your dog’s name.

A bark with a difference

The Lhasa Apso is descended from the sentinel dogs of Tibetan monasteries and has a very high pitched bark when strangers are about. This type of bark is unmistakeable and differs greatly from the many different ways our dogs bark. There is the aggressive tone when your dog is ready for a scrap or the more passive tone when your dog is perhaps a little bit concerned and fearful. It is all there if we care to make the effort. When Poppy is taken to the beach and released from the lead, we know she is happy by her reactions. She is not too keen on the water yet but we are working on that. The fact is we have to interpret the way our dogs interact with us and other humans to understand all the things we are being told.

Eric Armstrong

Eric is an author, content writer and dog owner from the UK.

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