Monday, September 29, 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

South Tahoe wildfire reduced to 20 acres

By Tahoe Tribune | From Page: A1

 
Where are the homeless now?

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
King Fire nearly contained, thousands of personnel sent home

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Q and A on Forebay, other projects

By Mary Lynn Carlton | From Page: B1

 
Belting out a hit: SlideBelts business growing in EDH

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
.

Opinion

California rambling: The Shelties in our lives

By John Poimiroo | From Page: A4

 
The rural life: Life’s little half-halts

By Jennifer Forsberg Meyer | From Page: A4

Vote no on disastrous Measure M

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

 
.

Letters

Dig into issues

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
King Fire weather blessing

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Efforts against the King Fire

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
Climate change

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Support Measures M and O

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
Junk DNA?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

The rain maker

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
.

Sports

Oak Ridge sticks it to T’Wolves

By Mark Devaughn | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Grizzlies crush San Juan

By Brandon Anicich | From Page: A6

D’backs overwhelm Lincoln

By Scott Warden | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Water polo: Bruins edge Cougars twice

By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Schedule: Sept 29 – Oct. 4, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

 
Roundup: Sept. 26, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A7

Tennis: Bruin tennis defeated by Roseville

By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
Tennis: Lady Trojans pound former section champs

By Mike Bush | From Page: A7 | Gallery

Ponderosa drops league opener

By Mike Bush | From Page: A7

 
.

Prospecting

Burke Junction train keeps chugging

By Pat Lakey | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Foothill dining: National Kale Day

By National Kale Day | From Page: B2

Union Mine to host Regional College Fair

By El Dorado Union High School District | From Page: B3

 
Temple of Terror haunted house to thrill guests

By Hands4Hope Youth Making A Difference | From Page: B3

IT presents an elegant evening of entertainment

By Imagination Theater | From Page: B3

 
Life as I know it: Two proms and a farewell to Peggy

By Robert F. Boggus | From Page: B4

Ponderosa FFA steps to help

By Special to the Democrat | From Page: B10

 
STC’s 2014-15 season opens with classic

By Sacramento Theatre Company | From Page: B10Comments are off for this post

.

Essentials

Crime Log: Sept. 12-14

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

 
Crime Log: Sept. 15-17

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

Crime Log: Sept. 10-11

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

 
.

Obituaries

Keith Kaufman

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
.

Real Estate

.

Comics