The Art of Communication

Today during our mourning constitution, we passed a convention of sorts going on at a very ungodly hour. Nope, it wasn’t a bunch of canines, cats or coyotes howling at the moon. Instead it was an intersection with very large trees on each corner that was occupied by a very large gaggle of blackbirds–there must have been over a hundred of them dispersed between the 4 trees. I’ve heard that blackbirds are extremely intelligent so I stopped to watch them while Sam sniffed to his heart’s content (hey priorities, I get it–the dog’s gotta read his pee-mail and check Facebook paws-tings, right?). They were cawing and squawking up a storm and for a moment I thought perhaps our presence had disturbed them (mind you it was shortly after sunrise and most of the world hadn’t quite woken up yet). Then I realized they were ‘talking’ back and forth from one tree to one across the street and then one catty-corner. At one point, a bird on our side of the street took flight and join his feathered friends on the other side and the racket grew in volume.  Then another bird did the same thing, and then another. The noise was almost deafening and I began to wonder how residents deal with all this racket first thing in the morning? Were these crossing birds the equivalent of diplomats trying to suss out what the issues were, or just the normal rift-raft spreading noise from hither to yon? Was I witnessing bird gangs calling each other out? What was their mission and what were they saying to each other? On the one hand I was fascinated by it all and on the other, I couldn’t help but recall that Hitchcock movie, The Birds and was kind of freaked out. Or maybe it was something like that story circulating lately about a marauding owl in Oregon attacking joggers and stealing their hats. See how my mind works first thing in the morning, it’s kind of weird, huh? 😉

The_Birds_original_posterAnyway, all this bird watching made me think about dogs and how they communicate. Is it just noise or is it communication? Sam’s not much of a barker, but he always will backup a storm whenever he sees our mail person delivering the mail. He’ll raise such a ruckus until I open the door to take the mail from her. Then he turns into a butt-wiggling, attention-seeking hound because she is one of his favorite people in our ‘hood. I’m not sure what goes through that little pea brain of his; one second he’s acting like the Great Protector vanquishing an evil-doer who no doubt is hell-bent on killing or robbing me and then the next moment he turns into a cuddly squish looking for ear scratches.

Sam has different barks for different occasions. The mail lady bark is one. It’s ferocious and if you didn’t know better you’d think that hound was vicious. You know the kind, low-pitched and full volumed. A super bark. His second kind of bark is more ‘yip-py’ in nature, high pitched and usually comes out at moments of sheer joy when he sees someone he especially adores and really wants to visit with them. It cracks me up since you usually expect a dog of his size to not sound so sissified. Silly ‘Nancy boy.’

Then there’s the “I absolutely want to come into the house…now!” bark. Higher in pitch and more tonal than the ‘mail lady is ready to murder the family’ bark and usually is just a single bark, not in clusters unless of course I don’t let him in immediately. 🙂 Then the volume turns up and becomes more frequent. Once I let him in, he’s no doubt thinking, “Wow, that barking stuff is really magic…I do it and lo and behold she comes and let’s me in…man, am I a powerful dog or what?!” And to a certain extent, he’d be right with that logic.

His ‘play’ bark is similar to the “I want to come into the house now bar.” It’s also high in pitch but usually occurs in clusters instead of in a single bark. When he’s in the house and he play barks, it kind of confuses him because he’s not sure he’s supposed to do that inside. It seems to escape his mouth before he realizes what’s just happened. I personally love it when he does the ‘Oops, I probably shouldn’t have done that in the house look.’ So adorable.

Barking is definitely a language that dogs use and has it the potential to convey specific information and instructions (stay away, let me in, etc.) to both people and dogs. Sure it’s not like the words we use to describe a situation but you definitely learn to identify what your fur-kid is trying to tell you and others.

So what kind of bark comes out of your fur-iend’s mouth? Is your dog’s barking more of a woof, an arf, or a ruff?

Live, love, bark! <3

12 thoughts on “The Art of Communication

  1. Besides barking, one of my dogs has a series of vocalizing exercises to differentiate displeasure, jealousy, food cravings and the need to go out. He sounds like he is trying to imitate our voices. Then, when a fire truck goes by, he will howl like a wolf at the sound of the siren. Only fire trucks – not police cars….

  2. Love reading about Sam 🙂 Mom’s Poodle Jessie James (all 5 1/2 lbs going on 85lbs in his mind) has many of the same barks too. Mazie has her “killer” bark for when there is another dog she can see outside, which she has (sadly and recently) taught the Puffs the joy of. Then there is her deep and quite scary “don’t mess with my house” bark, when she feels threatened. The Puffs only other bark is actually a yodel that Abbe does when she sees me come home after work 🙂

  3. Hi Monika & Sam,
    We were staying in Jindabyne, about a 45 minutes drive from the Australian ski slopes at Perisher and right before sunrise as you described, it sounded like a heavy metal rock band of screeching crows has set up at our window…hundreds of them although from the cacophony….thousands!!! I reckon that were having a great joke playing let’s wake the humans up so we can get some breakfast (ie the roadkill kangaroos produced by speeding manic skiers). Not happy Jan! (This is an Australian catchphrase which was made popular from this Yellow Pages ad: )
    In terms of barking dogs, well you described Bilbo’s reaction to our Posty to a T except he never warms up. He is just ferocious but the Posty is quite cavalier about it and while Bilbo is frothing at the mouth, we’re joking about it. Bilbo also barks as the kids are getting out of the car when I drop them at school and he barks when anyone leaves and he also reserves that vicious posty-style bark for anything on two wheels that goes passed. I will hve to get back to you after he has his clip tomorrow. I’ll be doing a post. His bath 2 weeks ago didn’t go well. xx Rowena

  4. A while back I wrote about a dog that was reported to understand over 1,000 words.
    Of course it was one of those know it all Border Collies. But in terms of dogs speaking to us, Max is not much of a barker but he has a funny howl that he uses when happy to see someone he likes or when we return home after an absence. His mouth forms a perfect circle and this drawn-out “Ah-Woooooooo” comes out.

  5. I love watching the birds here too..they do communicate ..we have white winged choughs who chatter as they forage on the seems to me of all birds the ground feeders seem to rely on this chatter more than those that feed on the wing or from the trees….interesting 🙂 I wonder why ? loves Bev xxx

    1. Blackbirds are the absolute noisiest birds here and have increased in numbers significantly but tiny little sparrows are probably the scrappiest–they’ll hide in a shrub and chirp up a storm till you get close and then they go completely silent but will chew you out after you’ve passed.:) It’s always lovely to hear the more melodic ones first thing in the morning while the day is fresh and sweet.

      1. The choughs her are super noisy but I must say the bossiest bird we have is the willy wagtail…I have seen him dive bomb wedge tail eagles heads..the nerve!! he sends them packing and makes it hard for me to get shots….haahahha 🙂 and I love the morning chatter and the dusk chatter…beautiful 🙂 xx

  6. My dogs have different noises for different things they want to tell me and it is very clear what they are telling me. Good post

  7. that’s an interesting topic, I think dogs must be multi-multi-lingual, they talk with their voice, their paws, via pee-mails even with their fur :o)
    I agree for the birds, sometimes they remind me of Mr. Hitchcocks masterpiece too :o)

  8. A little of each. And my brother Sherman LOVES to howl at the faintest sound of sirens. That gets the other two howling, and before you know it there’s a chorus of howls in the living room. Dogs….

Feel free to bark your thoughts...but no growling please.

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