Monday, November 24, 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

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    News

    Heard over the back fence: It’s Toys for Tots time

    By Bob Billingsley | From Page: B1

     
     
    Plane crash kills Cameron physician

    By Larry Weitzman | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    New hearing date set in murder case

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Sacto area unemployment unchanged

    By Michael Raffety | From Page: A3

    Water only weekly

    By Mary Lynn Carlton | From Page: A3

     
    2nd murder suspect sent to Yolo

    By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A3

    Horsetail Falls hikers rescued

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A3

     
    Brief lockdown at PHS

    By El Dorado County Sheriff's Office | From Page: A3

    Suspects nabbed after homeowner thwarts theft

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A3

     
    .

    Opinion

    Eisenhower memorial

    By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

     
    The rural life : Forever young…and deluded

    By Jennifer Forsberg Meyer | From Page: A4

    California rambling: Cooking the bird

    By John Poimiroo | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Letters

    CAO research

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

     
    EDHS student behavior response

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

    Plastic Bag Challenge for Sarah Coffin

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

     
    One if By Land

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

    Republicans in charge

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

     
    Suicides rise with increasing psychiatric care

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

    Common Core, Chapter 1: Where did it come from?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

     
    .

    Sports

    Hi 5 taekwondo athlete brings home bronze

    By Special to the Democrat | From Page: A6

     
    Schedule: Nov. 24-28, 2014

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

    Lady Trojans fight for it but fall short

    By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A6 | Gallery

     
    Heinz-sight: Makings of

    By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A6

    Roundup: Nov. 24, 2014

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: A7

     
    35th annual Apple Hill Harvest

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery

    .

    Prospecting

    Camino continues to care thanks to youth

    By Wendy Schultz | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Time to step up for the kids

    By Pat Lakey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Foothill gourmet: Winter warmers

    By Donna Brown | From Page: B2

     
    Historic houses get ready for the holidays

    By Pat Lakey | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    As we were: Supervisor hopes for cooperation

    By Ken Deibert | From Page: B3

     
    After 5 Club support group to meet

    By Senior Day | From Page: B3

    SAR honors members for service

    By Sons Of | From Page: B3

     
    Arbor Day gifts for the holidays

    By Arbor Day | From Page: B4

    Coat collection to keep students warm

    By El Dorado County Office of Education | From Page: B4

     
    Enlightening family tradition returns in Old Sac

    By Old Sacramento | From Page: B4

    .

    Essentials

    Crime Log: Oct. 31-Nov. 4

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

     
    Building permits 11/3-7/2014

    By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

    .

    Obituaries

    Mason John Hopkins funeral notice

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

     
    Nino “Tony” Montegna

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

    .

    Real Estate

    .

    Comics

    Sudoku

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

     
    Rubes

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

    New York Times Crossword

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

     
    TV Listings

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

    Speed Bump

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

     
    American Profile Crossword

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

    Tundra

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

     
    Horoscope, Tuesday, November 25, 2014

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

    Horoscope, Monday, November 24, 2014

    By Contributor | From Page: A8

     
    Shoe

    By Contributor | From Page: A8