Can People Learn Dog Language?
We lack certain physiological abilities that dogs have, like super dog hearing and scent, making it impossible to understand parts of dog language. But think about some of the more obvious signals that play to our strengths: vocal sounds like barking, and body language.
As a species our senses kept us alive and we were good observers because we had to be. Our senses are there to help us “make sense” of the world around us. We lived in small groups, and observation of each other was a means to survive. When we started creating cities, close proximity to each other made us aware of others observing us and we grew sensitive to it. We have become “observationally lazy.”
Who here is an introvert? *raises hand* Introverts have great advantages: listening, observing and forming empathetic relationships. I happen to be an introvert, and some of my best skills are listening, then observing, but I believe a skill is something that can be learned.
Luckily we still observe subconsciously much of the time, however these are usually a mixture of inference and observation. What does that mean? A wagging dog tail means happy, right? This is an inference.
“Never trust to general impressions, my boy, but concentrate yourself upon the details.”
Separating inference from observation requires reflection and adjustment on your own thought processes, which can seem like a big task. Think about the idea of a “dominant” dog. We observe and infer rather than observe and question to get to the truth. We notice behavior that fits our stereotypes. It's exactly the same problem caused by the anthropomorphic dog. By learning to separate observation and inference we can see what is truly going on and add context to the process, as well.
With keen skills imagine how much better you can help your dog in challenging situations. Imagine how understanding how your dog learns can affect how you can train them.