Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dictionary Of Cues

Down with the flu again. Maizey thinks the crazymomlady being sick is a no good deal at all. She is really tired of doing all training from the bed or couch!

But the sickies do give me lots of time to waste on-line and I read an interesting thing about keeping a "dog dictionary" of all the cues and words your four legged friend knows.

I am generally fascinated by words, and always looking for ways to expand my own and the girls vocabulary. Amongst my friends I am pretty well known for tossing out the occasional, "We are really only nonconsenguinously related." You know just to let people know that someone who is your aunts brother-in-laws third cousin is only technically if at all related to you. Or there is always my favorite word, the all purpose, physiognomy. As in, "Meeka has the most peaceful physiognomy." Or I guess I could always just say she "looks peaceful" but it lacks some of the ring to me.

The other reason the idea of language and the dogs piqued my interest had to do with something that happened the other day. I was calling Maizey in from outside with a completely normal, to me anyways, "Maymay comecome. Hey where are you missamay? Comefindmeee!" (Don't ask me why but most of my informal cues to the girls seem to come out as complete run-on sentences comprised of run-together words. They don't seem to mind and just chalk it up to another crazymomlady quirk.)

But back to the amusing anecdote, as she came tearing in to me I heard the little girl from the non-dog house next door say to her dad, "Why does she say, "Maymay come find me?" I had to laugh and started wondering how many other people find it odd when I talk to the dogs. The dogs understand, and respond so it isn't strange to me at all, but I do sort of have my own language for them. They have their own variety of nicknames and words that seem to morph into other names and other words as time passes.

Thus the idea of cataloging the words they know really interested me. Around here cues are basically broken up into two categories, formal and informal cues. Then there are all the every day words the girls know.

The informal cue's make up a lot of the every day language and include phrases like, 'comecome' and 'that's enough'. The very handy, 'settle it' which basically means, "plant yourself somewhere and stay still."

There are the things that Meeka knows and Maizey has yet to learn such as, ''Meeka are you hungry? You are??? Well, get your bucket biggirl. Good girl. Go find your bucket and lets get some dinner." Spoken as a running commentary while she runs all over the house looking frantically for her bucket and brings it to us for her dinner. As for how much of this she actually understands I wouldn't presume to say, but it always results in her finding the last place she or Maizey left the bucket and bringing it to me all the while dancing and prancing around Maizey while the little girl zoomies around the house being no help at all.

Recently I watched an Ian Dunbar talk on Youtube where he talks about how humans teach their dogs to spell. He was using it as a negative example of lack of training. But I thought it illustrated how smart our dogs are when it comes to language. Every dog has those exciting words they just love to hear, be it 'walk' or 'treat' or in Meekas case, "Do you want to go" or "Are you hungry?" With either sentence she will go racing around the house bouncing. So now on occasion you will hear us say, "do you want to G-O?" Or, "Are you H-U-N-G-R-Y?" Of course now she just waits for us to finish this strange spelling thing and then races and bounces around the house. At that point she will usually get a, "settle it." But it does show dogs can spell!

Interesting too is the response to a sound that has become a cue. My friends have long teased me for what they call my "teradactol screech." It's that all purpose handy noise many dog owners resort to when all else fails and your four legged friend is about to roll in a pile of something dead, or any other thing you want to stop immediately. (As an aside one of my friends that has now grown up and started her own four legged family recently admitted what a wonderfully effective noise that was for stopping any and all unwanted dog behavior. Obviously I don't advocate this as any replacement for actual training, but if your in a pinch it is handy.)

Another noise recently added to my repertoire of cues is, "Shhhhh." Used for Maizey's newly acquired and hopefully soon extinct behavior of barking at the windows." Of course the Maizey barking subject is an entirely different post, but again a good example of how many things become useful to communicate information to our dogs.

There is also of course the non-verbal cues we use and these too could be broken into formal and informal categories. In the formal side there is the sit, down, stay etc. hand signals used to illicit those respective responses. But again it is the informal cues that so often fascinate me. A frown in Meeka's direction will have profound effect. While Maizey has developed a beautiful down with the shift of my eyes to the ground. If I can teach the dog to listen so well that she will lay down with the cue of my eyes, what seems to be my difficulty in getting through to humans? Sigh. . .I guess Cavaliers are just much easier to train.LOL

But that brings me to the conclusion and point of this very long, and wordy post. The point being in the form of a 4 legged lesson: if we spend so much time trying to figure out how to communicate clearly and in so many ways with our 4 legged friends, shouldn't we also put some effort into the same with our two legged ones?


Priscilla said...

Love this post.
It just goes to show your dogs have super-doggy abilities!! LOL

katie said...

Thx priscilla! I don't know about super-dogs, but I know I think they are pretty great!:)

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Lessons From and For 4 Legs has moved to a new address: Where we will continue to learn life's lessons from my little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's, Maizey and Magnus. Don't miss Meeka's lessons too, by checking the archives of my big girl rescue Rottie. They all teach me so much!