Talking with animals

Can humans communicate with some animals?

  • Animals understand nothing. We see only a response to a stimulus

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • They can learn what we want them to do

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • They can sometimes understand our intent or goal

    Votes: 4 23.5%
  • They understand a great deal more than we can perceive

    Votes: 6 35.3%
  • Pets often know exactly what we mean or want

    Votes: 6 35.3%
  • They know our every thought

    Votes: 1 5.9%

  • Total voters
    17
  • Poll closed .
  • #1
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,213
174

Main Question or Discussion Point

How well can you communicate with your pet? Does a legitimate exchange of information exist between animals and humans, or is any perceived communication really just a response to a stimulus?

As a life long pet owner and animal lover, I am confident that Tsunami and I can read [interpret] certain actions and expressions found in both cats and dogs. For example, in most cats it seems that quickly and aggressively licking one’s left shoulder indicates something like annoyance or embarrassment [don’t mean literally but in a cat sort of way]. Several extended blinks made with eye to eye contact means that everything is okay – say when something startles the cat. The spontaneous licking of the backside of the front left leg indicates contentment – maybe a sign of approval of some sort…i.e. the cat is happy with me. Then we have the “I’m too sexy for my fur” hyper-extended strut along with a slow approach…just to make me wait and show me the pecking order. Obviously I can wait for the cat until he or she is ready to move along...even though the cat just ran 100 yards to reach me…up until the last 20 feet or so.

Many dog actions are obvious: Quick panting means I’m happy. Jumping up and down means I’m happy. Running in circles means I’m happy. Peeing on the floor means I’m happy. Removing the stuffing from the couch means I’m happy…etc . Really though, dogs are very much aware of our actions, pheromones [?], tone of voice, expressions etc to a greater extent than one might expect. When I was a teenager I trained one dog to respond to silent signals. All voice commands were given along with some unique aspect of body language. Before long the voice commands weren’t needed. Looking down meant “sit”, a quick upward motions with the eyes meant “come”, a rapidly extended arm to any direction meant “go” [run that direction], slumped shoulders meant “down”. In total I think there were about ten silent commands that Gypsy finally learned.

Oh yes, the eye to eye contact followed by several exaggerated blinks seems to equal “everything is okay” in dog language as well. Both dogs and cats will blink back and then relax.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Evo
Mentor
23,104
2,450
Ivan, I know exactly what you mean! It's amazing what animals can learn from us and we from them. Animals are pretty smart. I've had several dogs that *learned to spell". We started spelling things that excited them like "take a walk" or "go outside" and they learned to recognize the spelling.

You can also distinguish from the sounds they make what they are trying to say.

My spaniel learned that if his water bowl was empty that the quickest way to get it refilled was to scratch at the back door (which was a signal he had to go to the bathroom), but when you went to the door he would run over and kick his empty water bowl. He knew if he sat next to the water bowl nothing would happen, but we would always notice if he needed to go outside. Smart huh?

They can defintely sense our emotions.
 
  • #3
6,265
1,275
I think that people who communicate well with pets are those who pay attention to the way pets express themselves, as Ivan clearly does.

I saw a thing about "horse whisperers" and this was their primary advantage, that they have a detailed and apparently accurate knowledge of what everything a horse does "means", how it reflects their emotional state.

This "language" is not obvious and the horse whisperers have built up centuries of knowledge which enables them to deal with horses on the horses own terms. I found it remarkable.
 
  • #4
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,213
174
You can also distinguish from the sounds they make what they are trying to say.
We had one cat that had two very distinctive calls for each of two other cats. I noticed one day that I could tell the difference. One could almost consider these cat names [for cats only]?

We had a Border Collie that taught the other two dogs how to sneak off at night. After we went to bed they would wait about 20-30 minutes and then very quietly walk past out bedroom window and up the road. They had us completely convinced that they would never do that. I became wise to their treachery only by chance.
 
  • #5
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,213
174
Originally posted by zoobyshoe
This "language" is not obvious and the horse whisperers have built up centuries of knowledge which enables them to deal with horses on the horses own terms. I found it remarkable.
In much the same way Jane Goodall first got close to large apes.

I have an uncle who is friends with a horse wisperer. I have never seen him work but from what I have seen on TV I agree, these people are quite amazing.
 
  • #6
Evo
Mentor
23,104
2,450
I have two cats that taught themselves how to use the toilet, the problem is they don't flush, so I leave the lid down now.

Also, one of them figured out how to turn on the bathroom faucet to drink when he runs out of water. I was freaking out because every so often I'd find the water running. Then one day I saw him doing it.
 
  • #7
Zero
I have a hamster...she knows when it is time to eat, and she knows how to break out of her exercise ball.
 
  • #8
Tsu
Gold Member
371
63
My Border Collie was trained to ONLY run after the thrown ball with the command "Fetch." No matter what word you spoke to try to fool her (feather, fooey, retch, catch...) she would sit and look at you (with those big, brown, pleading eyes) until you said the 'right' word! Then she'd take off like a bat out of h*ll!
 
  • #9
Well, I guess that I should enumerate my communication with my dog:

-When she's out of water, she stands by her water bowl and barks like a mofo. When she sees you coming, she stops and waits for the water.
-When she has to (or just wants to) go out, she scratches at the front door.
-When I'm near the back door and she wants to run around in the back yard, she just stands by the door, looking out and waiting for me to open the door.
-Often, when she wants to go on the couch, she sits right up agains the couch, looking back and forth between the couch and me, begging me with her eyes. When I pat the couch or give an affirmative sound or motion, she jumps up.
-If I'm ignoring her and she wants attention, she's bark or whine.
-When she wants me to do something for her, sometimes she'll snuggle up to me to butter me up.

For both dogs:

-The dogs obviously know their names
-They understand go commands, vocal and/or pointing. They understand me calling them forth.
 
  • #10
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,213
174
Originally posted by Zero
I have a hamster...she knows when it is time to eat
Well, that's not really very amazing if she can see the clock.
 

Related Threads for: Talking with animals

  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
17
Views
5K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
8
Views
2K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
45
Views
6K
  • Last Post
Replies
10
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
7
Views
4K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
49
Views
9K
Top