The dog may be man’s best friend, albeit a subordinate one, but to his credit our underdog (yes…pun intended) of a friend does have one significant advantage over us…and that is that dogs have a single universal language understood by dogs the world over. That is to say that a dog which travels from America to Africa would have no problem understanding what the dog from Africa is saying; something that certainly cannot be said for homo sapiens (human beings) and their plethora of languages and dialects! This extremely useful ability is a trait inherited by dogs from their wild ancestors, the wolf.
Even to this day, dogs and wolves are able to communicate exceptionally well if the occasion ever presented itself. Actually in some parts of the world livestock guardian dogs still have the odd encounter with wolves and in many such encounters rarely does it end in physical conflict for the reasons are outlined below.
For a wild animal such as the wolf, the ability to communicate properly with other members of its species is an invaluable and essential trait because it is through this means that unnecessary conflict is avoided. From the wolf’s perspective conflict is a counter-productive activity because it could very well result in serious injury to one of the individuals involved in the conflict. And injury in the wild is something best avoided because it could seriously undermine an animal’s ability to perform certain activities necessary for survival such as hunting. And unlike us humans, in the wolf kingdom conflict is never associated with something as esoteric as saving face illustrating yet another reason why conflict is counterproductive.
Conflict Resolution Is A Desired Attribute For a Dog
Luckily the wolf has conferred that very same trait of conflict avoidance and conflict resolution down to the domestic dog, the only problem being that somewhere down the line, due to a number of factors, many of today’s dogs are no longer able to properly interpret many of the signals required to resolve or avoid conflict. Listed among those factors are improper socialization with other dogs, and socio-cultural confusion that may arise due to isolated interaction with only people.
Consider the following account; although not specifically related to the topic of dogs, it does emphasize the importance of proper socialization no matter the species concerned!
For thousand of years rhinos and elephants have co-existed in harmony side by side on the plains of Africa. Both these large creatures are herbivores so neither predates on the other. Both animals possess enormous mass and enormous strength but overall the elephant considerably out matches the rhino in every aspect including intelligence. Recently researchers in the field have observed a very disturbing phenomenon. In increasingly more and more frequent occurrences, young adult bull elephants were attacking, killing and raping rhinos. Such bizarre and often fatal attacks were unheard of in the past.
Further investigation into this disturbing trend revealed that those young bulls perpetrating the attacks were doing so because they actually knew no better (something akin to a maladjusted and destructive teenager acting out; one who had no proper family social structure during the formative years).The reason why those elephants were behaving in the manner that they were was because they had never been properly socialized or taught correct elephant behavior. That unusually violent younger generation of elephants became that way because most of the older elephants that would have schooled them how to behave were no longer around to do so. Most of them had fallen prey to the harsh and cruel ivory trade!
Your Dog May Be Acting Out Because He Is Frustrated And Anxious!
But enough of elephants and back to our topic of dogs! Like the young bull elephants mentioned above many dogs today find themselves in a somewhat similar situation; unable to cope appropriately with the daily demands of everyday modern life. Such dogs tend to be aggressive both to people as well as to other dogs. Unlike the elephants however the maladjustment of such dogs cannot be blamed solely on improper parental socialization, or lack thereof as the case may be, and it is more likely that the cause of such errant misbehavior is due to a stressful and frustrating relationship with the owner of the dog.
When you talk to your dog although you are communicating with him/her you evidently aren’t talking “dog speak or dog lingo”. When your dog “talks” to you (barking, whining, growling etc) he is communicating with you to the best of his abilities but in his own language of dog speak. A livestock guarding dog communicates with its wards (for example a flock of sheep) in a similar fashion, and although the two species do not speak the same “dialect” they can still communicate with one another. If the livestock guardian dog could not communicate with its flock then it would be unable to control and protect them.
Lost In Translation
Miscommunication between owner and dog is probably the single biggest reason that the sweetest of dogs becomes a nuisance overnight! I mean imagine how you would feel every time you tried to communicate with your so-called best friend (dog’s owner) and all you got in return for your efforts was a disapproving glare, harsh words and a scolding! Think of how a child would respond to such parenting…not good right? There’s a very good chance that somewhere down the line that child is going to start acting out. So it isn’t too far of a stretch to see how your frustrated misunderstood dog could also start acting out; in many cases such acting out will manifest as an overly aggressive dog.
The real tragedy of this situation is that many dog owners are unaware that far too often they are completely misinterpreting their dog’s responses to any given request. You see other than the obvious forms of vocalizations that dogs commonly exhibit, such as barking, whining, growling, yelping etc., dogs actually possess a myriad of signals that make up a good potion of their everyday vocabulary. Unfortunately your average dog owner is completely clueless of this unvocalized “dogspeak” so that when he or she tells their dog to do something and the dog in turn responds in doggie lingo with an unvocalized response which happens not to be the desired response the owner was looking for, and so the owner responds in a harsh scolding voice BAD DOG!
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