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