A Dog’s Perspective on How People Communicate Reply

Author Otto_cropped 

By Otto                           

One of life’s daily joys is laughing at all the people who act like I can understand anything you say.

Hello? I am a German Shepherd puppy! I have two functioning brain cells and they are focused on important things in life – like chasing cars, cats, and rabbits. I do NOT speak English!!!

That said, I am a master at nonverbal communication. When you first see me after coming home from work, you squat down and make that funny face when you speak. I know you are happy to see me and want to hug me and rub my head. I also appreciate the occasional tummy rubs.

But truth be told, I am responding to your body language and the pitch, inflection, speed, and volume of your voice. I have no idea what you are saying. When you speak, all I hear is the teacher’s voice from the old Charlie Brown cartoons (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ss2hULhXf04).

Don’t believe me? Okay, try this. You always come home and happily say “Good Otto. Who’s my boy? What did my good boy do today?”  Tomorrow, walk in and say: “Otto you idiot. You pooped on the rug again! You are such a bad boy.” If your vocals sound the same as they do normally, I won’t have a clue that you are mocking me.

By the same token, when you yell at me to stop chewing on the cat, I’m responding to your angry sounds and gestures, not your swearing.

As a dog, I understand the importance of nonverbal communication better than most people. Our entire relationship is founded on my ability to comprehend your diverse range of messages. Your words convey the message’s content, while the nonverbal behaviors convey the intent. I am 100% dependent on the nonverbals. The amazing part is most people don’t understand their communicative success is almost as dependent on the nonverbal cues as it is for me. So, who is the dumb dog now?

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