Friday, September 19, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Rock doc: Talking with Fido

By
June 19, 2013 |

Buster Brown, my big mutt from the dog pound, is now 10 years old. Perhaps because he’s a senior citizen it took him a full week to learn how to operate the dog door I had installed last winter. He was used to going to the back door and barking to be let in or out. Once the dog door was there, I held it open, showing him the great outdoors, and encouraged him to go through it. I had to repeat this maneuver many times, patiently making happy noises when he ultimately would hop through the small door.

I thought back to that week-long effort when I was reading Sean Senechal’s book Dogs Can Sign, Too. Senechal believes dogs can do much more than operate a simple dog door. Using signs a person can make coupled with ones a dog can make, the idea is that people and their dogs can communicate with one another in a much richer way than we are used to with basic commands like “come” or “sit.”
The system that Senechal has developed is called K9Sign language. Even with a young and willing dog, one teamed with a dedicated teacher, Senechal warns it takes a long time for a dog to learn signs he or she can make to communicate with a person. But of course it’s also true it takes humans years to learn language.
Although nothing about teaching animals a full language is uncontroversial, many people have thought that primates can learn sign language. Koko the gorilla and Washoe the chimpanzee are well known animals that mastered at least the basics of a sign-based language. But I hadn’t thought about a similar language for canines until I read Senechal’s book.
K9Sign language is taught to interested people and their dogs at the AnimalSign Center in California. Skeptics can joke that only in California would there be such an institution, but Senechal takes the approach that she will presume our canine friends can learn language until it’s proven that they can’t. And it seems to me pretty clear that whether or not dogs can be taught a “true language,” any signs they can give us of their thinking is useful — and quite fun!
Because dogs stand on their four feet, not having anything like hands available to make signs, the K9Signs have to differ quite a bit from American Sign Language. K9Signs are relatively few and simple. Foods are indicated by movement of the front left leg. Living animals are indicated my moving the rear left leg. Toys and other smaller movable objects are denoted by moving the right front leg. Large, inanimate objects are represented by movements of the hind right leg.
Teaching dogs to use the signs is an art Senechal tries to explain in her book. Maybe if I read it aloud to Buster Brown we could get started learning how to communicate better – and about a wider range of topics than the dog door.
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. 

Comments

Subscription Required

Thank you for reading the MtDemocrat.com digital edition. In order to continue reading this story please choose one of the following options.

Current Subscribers
If you are a current subscriber and wish to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com, please select the Subscriber Verification option below. If you already have a login, please select "Login" at the lower right corner of this box.

Subscriber Verification

Special Introductory Offer
For a short time we will be offering a discount to those who call us in order to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com and start your print subscription. Our customer support team will be standing by Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm to assist you.

Call and Save! (530) 344-5000

If you are not a current subscriber and wish not to take advantage of our special introductory offer, please select the $12 monthly option below to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com and start your online subscription

Help?

E. Kirsten Peters

.

News

 
King Fire briefing in Camino attracts a large crowd

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Arson arrest made in King Fire; Swansboro evacuated

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Suspected arsonist nabbed

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1

 
GDPUD considers forming ag committee

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A3

G’town residents briefed on fire

By Michaela Johnson | From Page: A6

 
Help offered for dislocated workers

By News Release | From Page: A7

Scheduled breakfasts cancelled

By News Release | From Page: A7

 
Volunteers sheltering animal evacuees

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: A8 | Gallery

.

Opinion

Invaluable donation

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

 
Something to think about: Not so fast lane

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: A4

Rock doc: How hard is that?

By E. Kirsten Peters | From Page: A4

 
.

Letters

Lumber mills

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
Society’s need for instant gratification

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Winds of war

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
Traffic jam

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Kid Obama vs. Little Bear Putin

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
.

Sports

King Fire cancels Civil War

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A9

 
Final nonleague games for some squads

By Mike Bush | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Bruins get split

By Mike Bush | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Roundup: Sept 17, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A9

On tap

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A9

 
Lady Trojan harriers edge new league foes

By Mike Bush | From Page: A9

Ponderosa spikers prevail in 4

By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
.

Prospecting

Roll out the barrels at Oktoberfest

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Things to do: Sept. 19, 2014

By Democrat Calendar | From Page: B2

Enter an artful world

By Pat Lakey | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Myra Cooper Holmes is enmeshed in her work

By Pat Lakey | From Page: B2 | Gallery

‘Spamalot’ auditions move to Vets Hall

By Imagination Theater | From Page: B3

 
Come out for EDH summer finale

By Julie Samrick | From Page: B3

Extraordinary Collections on display in Folsom

By Folsom History | From Page: B3

 
See travel posters at Railroad Museum

By Railtown | From Page: B4

Placerville Clayworks launches new Website

By News Release | From Page: B4

 
Independent film in pre-production

By Left For Dead Productions | From Page: B4

Bands to play for peace

By Spiritual Center For Positive Living | From Page: B5

 
Apassionato—A toast to the arts

By El Dorado Arts Council | From Page: B5

Exhibition celebrates PPIE centennial

By Fine Arts | From Page: B5

 
Stunning acrobatic feats to wow audiences

By Harris Center for the Arts | From Page: B7

Railtown celebrates working on the railroad

By Railtown | From Page: B12

 
Learn pirate speak at Fairytale Town

By Fairytale Town | From Page: B12

Tall Ship to arrive in Sacramento

By Grays Harbor Historical Seaport | From Page: B12

 
Wining in downtown Amador City

By Amador City | From Page: B12

Run for Courage to raise funds for awareness

By Run For Courage | From Page: B12

 
.

Essentials

Lake levels 9-18-14

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

 
Crime log: Sept. 4-5

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

.

Obituaries

Jeanine Rae Henderson-Hodges funeral notice

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
William “Bill” V. Miller

By Contributor | From Page: A2

.

Real Estate

Why buyers will either love or hate your home

By Ken Calhoon | From Page: HS2

 
Putting a sense of place in your space

By Marni Jameson | From Page: HS4

.

Comics

.

Home Source

Why buyers will either love or hate your home

By Ken Calhoon | From Page: HS2

Putting a sense of place in your space

By Marni Jameson | From Page: HS4