Around the Dog Grapevine


As I mentioned in my last post, I have had plenty of time lately to contemplate the mysteries of life, the universe, and other important things. If you recall, last time I was wondering about what dogs think. This led to a somewhat logical next step, that being, what do dogs talk about? Now, I don’t mean with their owners, that is obvious to anyone who has spent any significant time with a dog, but rather when they talk to each other.

I live on a lake, and this time of year, before the ice is thick enough to be on, it can get pretty quiet and peaceful. After a while, you hardly even hear the gentle roar of the interstate. The other day, I began to notice my dog reacts differently to the other dogs that bark around the lake, making me think that each dog is talking about something in particular. (Note: This also happens the rest of the year, but because of the lack of leaves, sounds tend to be more distinct and can be heard over long distances.) Hear (pun intended) are some examples:

  • There is a dog somewhere across the lake who barks, not consistently, but every once in awhile. Sometimes Buttons, my dog, will hear it, perk up his ears, and let out a little “woof”, maybe two or three, then go back to whatever he was doing (usually sleeping). Other times, the same dog will bark and Buttons jumps up and has to go outside, run to the shore of the lake and bark, rather fast and loudly in answer to this other dog. What are they talking about? I can only assume that the first time, the other dog is just saying hello, and the second time he is sending some kind of warning.
  • The dog in the house behind us also has two separate barks to which Buttons reacts differently. Pretty much in the same way as the first one mentioned. Although with this one, Buttons runs to the back of the yard and actually patrols the perimeter. Again, I think this is some kind of warning.
  • There is a third dog we only hear occasionally. I believe this is due to the humans it belongs to only are here occasionally. This dog, with a very loud and deep bark, doesn’t bark much, but when it does, it seems it is only for one of two reasons. The first is to let the other dogs know it is here (since this is out of Buttons’ territory, he just lets out his little “woof”, which I think is kind of like a F*** you and ignores it. The second bark, I believe is in direct response to the fourth and final dog in the neighborhood.
  • The fourth dog, actually two dogs, one male, one female, live in the next house over from me. I don’t know much about different breeds of dogs, other than these two are way outside of my budget and you are unlikely to find them where we found Buttons, at a rescue shelter. Both dogs have remarkably similar barks, however, I can distinguish the two, based upon Buttons’ reaction. One, I assume the male, will bark and Buttons will go outside, to that side of the yard and respond. I assume this is some kind of warning that maybe there is an errant squirrel crossing the line. Both of these dogs are not allowed off their runs so, unlike Buttons, cannot continue the chase very far. It is my assumption this dog is asking for some help, and Buttons will usually take off into the woods. The female, however, is a different story. When this one barks, which is every time it is outside, while it sounds like the other, I can tell it is the female, again by the way that Buttons reacts. At first bark, Buttons will perk up his ears, like with every bark he hears, but with the female, he kind of rolls his eyes and lets out a little snort and goes back to assuming the sleeping position. This tells me, as does the way the other dogs around the lake react, that she is talking nonsense, perhaps spreading gossip, or more likely complaining about her partner in some way. If only the other dogs could be like Buttons and ignore her instead of arguing.

Admittedly, this is an unscientifical study, just based on my observations. By the way, the word unscientifical, while not officially recognized by any known dictionary, comes from another interesting cultural phenomenon I have been studying, the daytime talk shows like Maury, Jerry Springer, et. al.

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