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Furry Friday: Say WHAT? Silent Communication R Us

9-2 seren
This past week has been a strain–on my emotions and my communications. I’ve over-used and abused my voice, and the strain showed up last Thursday and 7 days later has only slightly recovered. About the same time our landline telephone went out (quelle ARG!) but it didn’t matter so much because I have no voice.

No. Voice. At. All.

For someone who communicates for a living, that’s pretty darn disruptive and frustrating. We’re in the fine-tune stages of KURVES rehearsal and I’m the music director. That means coaching (that is, singing a demo) with the actors for everything from the low baritone to 1st soprano parts. I’ve got a pretty good range but combine that with a cold (I mean FREEZING! as in NO HEAT!) rehearsal space, and the vocal chords hadn’t a chance.

No phone and no voice means recording the new ASK AMY videos were put on hold, along with any new PET PEEVES radio shows. I couldn’t even croak “happy birthday” to my mom this week. I had to rely on Email and texting, and hope folks weren’t frustrated with the funky phone

!@#$%^&*!@#$%^& Verizon!  Eleven days to wait for service ain’t funny. If I had a voice, they’d get a piece of my mind!

Wait–did I actually say that? You know what I mean.

Yet while moping around the house for 3+ days without any vocalization above a whisper, it occurred to me I had no problem whatsoever communicating with the cat or dog. There was no need to say, “want to go out?” to Magical-Dawg for him to read my mind/body language and beat me to the door. Seren-Kitty anticipated the bed-spread-chase game without an invitation. Both critters assumed the position to beg tastes from my lunch plate. And neither had trouble deciphering my mood when they picked at each other like teasing siblings (as they often do), yet responded appropriately to my silent cease-and-desist scowl-‘o-doom.
magicface7-08

How often do we humans chatter on, making words a meaningless soup when we have so many more pointed ways to communicate? Do words devalue when spent without thought? Have we lost the ability to understand subtlety when shouting becomes the norm–and we become tone-deaf to nuance?

Seren flicks her tail. A small thing, but it brings about an attitude change in Magic. He knows. And when his ears twist just so, the cat runs, while giving him the feline finger with her nether regions. Sure, dogs have a whole repertoire of communication that includes vocalizations. And so do cats.  The cat-gods (and dog-demons) know they can make noise when they want to. But with them, there are no wasted words.

I’ve received valuable feedback on my thriller WIP so this weekend I’ll be up to my own nether regions in edits. The book includes dog viewpoint as well as a cat character. So I’ll be channeling my inner critters while continuing to give my home crew the “silent treatment” while my voice heals. I hope I do them justice–both the fictional pets and the real ones.

How do you communicate with your pets? With your kids? Significant other? Do you have a secret language, or “insider” jokes and words that can bring you to tears–or blows? Is it all words or do you also have other ways you communicate? Do tell!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!  NOTE: the Pet Peeves newsletter will have a special VALENTINE’S DAY ISSUE you won’t want to miss!

Furry Friday: Channeling Your Inner Fur-Kid

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What are you TELLING me?

How the hell does she swing from the drapes and seek out the highest spot in the house? Why in doGs name did he roll in dead fish—and then share by rubbing clean against my socks? Does shedding itch? Is that cute innocent look for real, or just an act?

Are you passionate about pets, too? Do you ever stop thinking about them? For more than twenty years, I’ve puzzled over their actions, behaviors, motivations and care, nearly 24/7. Pets rule.

Okay, so according to the pet-less, I have no life. Some folks write to change the world. They do so with passion, dedication, and great skill, and I admire them greatly. But I’m not the only writer obsessed with fluffy subject matter.

Amy Shojai with Golden

Westminster Kennel Club dog show after the DWAA events, where you can meet the most glorious dogs and dedicated pet people!

Pet writers also write to make a difference, and sometimes manage to save lives. After reading several cat-egories to judge a recent CWA contest of outstanding work, this hits home with me in a big way. Cat Writers Association members as well as Dog Writers Association of America folks rarely know what impact the work has, because those who most benefit from pet writing never read it. In fact, some of ‘em probably baptize it.

Please don’t leave my Petiquette newspaper columns on the floor. It’s disheartening. And if you use them to line the bottom of the parrot cage, let that be your little secret. I don’t need to know. Really, I don’t.

FAN? Really, a FAN?!

Last week I received a letter–yes, a real hand-written-and-printed-in-pencil letter–from a fan. It seems that an eleven-year-old wannabe kitten owner had been told by her Mom she needed to learn about taking care of kittens FIRST before adopting a furry baby. So the little girl decided to write to me after reading my kitten book. WOW-WOW-WOW! and hurray for Mom!

It’s worth it. Every bit of the sleepless nights. Pet writers get paid with more than $$. What made your day/week/month worth the angst?

kitten with typewriter

Cat writers channel their inner kitten...

Of course pet writers wish their audience had pocketbooks. In this economy that would help more of the furry-inclined to spend more time doing what makes writerly hearts go pitty-pat. But if pets could read and had wallets, they’d spend hard-earned kibble on Kitty Kaviar, Puppy Crunchies or fuzzy squeaker toys to disembowel (or hump) at the most inappropriate time. At least, that’s what Magic and Seren would do. What would your fur-kids buy with their spare change?

My illiterate furry audience “reads” in very different ways–puppies communicate one way and cats talk another. My true readership will never ask for a pawtograph, or care if I have initials after my name. But they will do back-flips for the right treat, and wag and purr with delight should a human finally understand that tail-talk.

What about you? are you different? What’s your obsession? Writing? Sparkly objects? Gerbils? Cheetos and M&Ms? (that’s writerly brain-food, ya know!).

As for me, until my audience comes out from under the bed, or tires from dog-earing one of my books and actually SPEAKS in language most owners understand–and puts me gloriously, wonderfully out of business–I’ll keep typing, blogging, fiction-ing and radio-ing away.

Wait, I’m channeling a message now. It’s coming clear, yes, it’s…I see it all now! what I absolutely, without a doubt, know to be the meaning behind all the howls, hisses, yowls, and wags. The fur-kids of the world sit up and beg and howl their message loud and clear:

BUY AMY’S BOOKS!

Trust me. I’m a professional. And pets never lie.

What do YOUR pets tell you to do? I’ll give you a moment to channel the fur kids. Go ahead, I’ll wait . . . . everybody here? So ask ’em. What does the cat say? Is her fondest desire to doze in front of the fan? or eat mouse morsels off a crystal plate?  or have you give up your job to scritch her itchy spots all of the time? If your fur kids could have their most favorite wish come true, what would it be?

One of my wishes would be for all the pets of the world to get along with each other and their people. I think the critters in the video, below, are on their way to making that happen. What do YOU think?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Translating Animal-Speak, There’s An Ap for That

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Serious bizness, this chewing

"Grrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!" means "@#$%^&*(!!"

About a week ago the Woof Wednesday featured a bunch of information about translating dogma and what all the woofs, wags and growls mean. Imagine my embarrassment to discover we don’t need any of that anymore.

Want to understand donkey-talk? In a flap about what all the chicken clucking means? Yearning to ferret out furry translations? No worries, Grasshopper, there’s an AP for that!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Say WHAT?

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Blk poodle w-owner

What's the dog saying?

Do you speak “dog?”

Many of us get by without truly understanding what all the woofs and wags mean. We make do for two main reasons:

  1. Dogs are so smart they learn to understand us.
  2. Dogs forgive human stupidity.

Still, there are many problems caused by miscommunications. Some of ’em can get you bit–or your dog labeled “dangerous” or worse–sentenced to death.

Sammy the Westie

A raised paw means...what?

Dogs really have done it to themselves. They’ve become so loveable, and so attentive and willing to please, that humans begin assuming they’re just tiny ‘people’ in fur coats. (Never mind that’s incredibly politically incorrect and offensive…) Hey, I’m guilty, too. Calling pets “fur-kids” makes it easy to slip over that invisible line and hold them to human standards instead of–well–letting ’em be dogs.

People are primates. We’re touchy-feely, we want to hug and touch, and don’t always understand why our dogs don’t always welcome such things. And when the dog throws us all kinds of conciliatory gestures–ears down, cutting eyes sideways, wagging and slinking with a goofy grin in that “aw shucks” expression–we assume they’re guilty or apologizing for something.

Because that’s what a HUMAN would do–act guilty. And NO, “wagging my tail” is not how I threw out my back. Harumph.

min bull terrier

Another raised paw--mean the same thing?

Anyway, the pet owner in this Ask Amy installment assumed the pawing dog was apologizing. Was that right?

What do all those tail wags mean–that he’s friendly right? Yes…and no. Tail talk has many meanings. So do woofs, whines, growls and howls. Even fluffed fur can speak volumes and oh-dear-heaven, don’t get me started on Pee-Mail! (or is that pee-male, LOL!). So what do you think “pawing” might mean? Here’s a hint–it’s part of the peace-keeper pooch repertoire!

What else does your dog do that makes him look guilty? I know lots of dog-savvy folks read this blog, so what am I missing? Please add more info in the comments and we’ll make this installment super-share-able!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesdays: Ask Amy “What’s Up With Wags?”

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CLUMBER SPANIEL

Does a short tail on the Clumber Spaniel cause doggy mis-communications? Hmnnn...

Yes, I know I know, the blog is LATE! You can thank Verizon for that. Since Tuesday about 3:30 pm, the Internet coverage went away and the “help desk” guestimate of a four-hour fixed stretched into a 16-hour outtage. You can be sure, my happy-wags were lacking. And as I type this, the Texas skies blackened and winds stirred up the roses into a frothy mess so not sure how long I’ll be online.

Welcome to all my new subscribers! (~~~virtual waves~~~) I know lots of y’all came to check out the pictures and comments from the OWFI conference, or the list of helpful Ebook links.   I’ll be adding more info on the Ebooks in the weeks ahead. But each week you’ll also find furry info about cats, dogs, puppies and more.

For instance, before I lost connectivity yesterday I managed to blog at the puppies.About.com site. One of my Sweet Tweet friends asked me to mention safety issues of puppies in cars.    But I’d already prepared an Ask Amy (below) about canine wag-icity.

BASENJI

How does a curled tail affect the wag on a Basenji?

Dogs are social creatures that live together, and so they need a dog language in order to get along. How dogs communicate—what I like to call “dogma”—is based on a system of common signals. Tale wags are part of that language. Dog language not only allows dogs to communicate and understand each other. It also is a system used for conflict resolution.

What prompts your dogs to wage wagging conversations? Do they wag just part of the tail, or do their entire buttresses become wigglebums? What would you add to the Ask Amy video? Are there certain breeds or individual pets who wag (or not) in unique ways? What about cats and their tails? My Seren-kitty’s tail talk never stops (she talks from both ends). Hmnnn, that’s fodder for a future Ask Amy.

Guess I need to get future blogs up ahead of time before the powers-what-be (weather, God, Verizon…not necessarily in that order) zap my creativity.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Have You Howled Today?

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Magical-Dawg with a favorite bear toy--when not shaking the stuffing out of it, he sucks on 'em.

Living in Tornado Alley keeps North Texans alert to the weather changes–and the past week has been a doozy. My phone went out last Friday. This morning (6 days later!) the fine folks at Verizon fixed it. Wind, rain, hail (some the size of golf balls) grabbed and shook those phone cables like a terrier with a rat–or my Magical-Dawg with his stuffed bear. At least this time the electrical downed lines didn’t spark a grass fire.

Still had my cell phone. And the DSL line for the computer and email worked. In this “connected” world we’ve got so many ways to communicate–emailing, texting, faxing, FB-ing, twitter-icity–could you go back to basics? What are the options? Smoke signals? The fire marshall would throw cold water on that notion. Tom-tom drums? Gotta have rhythm for that. Why not howls!

We’ve got lots to howl about, actually.  The horrifying “train your virtual dog to fight” Android Ap created lots of raised hackles in the pet writing community. My colleague Steve Dale’s recent blog details the objections–and the REMOVAL of the Ap. ArrrrrrrroooOOOOOOOOOO!  (p.s., just learned it’s risen from the dead in another incarnation, hisssss!)

Another colleague, Gina Spadafori of PetConnection.com is on the road with my one-time co-author Dr. Marty Becker on a 7-week book tour. They arranged with Marriott for stays along the way–including a place for the tour’s spokes-dog McKenzie, a highly trained and easy going Flat Coat Retriever. Well–at the very first stop in Houston on the 30-city tour, Gina and McKenzie got evicted…no dogs allowed, never mind it’d been cleared by Corporate. Same thing happened at the next stop. ArrrrrrrrrrrrrrOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! The powers-what-be are working on it–meanwhile, McKenzie aka McKutie-Dawg spends time in the big bus rock star suite with Gina.

A howl works for celebration, for lamentation, for communication–and lots of other  “ations” including the canine n-ation. High tech human conversation loses lots in translation without the natural audible inflection, not to mention (pun intended!) the silent body language that goes with it. And I am NOT referring to elevated digits in rude salutes–although being without a phone for nearly six days tempted me to flex my fingers. Harrumph!

magic & instruments

Howls are canine singing--sorta kinda in a way...

Dogs know how to communicate. You gotta go “low tech” to really connect with doggy wags, growls, whines and more. My Paw Nation article on doggy communication hit the high spots. Do your dogs howl? When do they howl–and why? Have you howled today? Try it–for a terrific stress relief (and you might get your canine’s singing along). Lately the tornado sirens have stirred up the canine chorus at my house. So I thought this Ask Amy was timely, enjoy!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Monday Mentions: Dog Communication and Pet Connection

 magic w red roses

This past Friday, the blog covered cat talk, with 12 ways cats communicate over at Paw Nation. It’s only fair that dogs get equal time, don’t you think? After all, when our pets try to talk to us, they’re doing more than a “Monday mention” and literally throw their whole body into the effort. (By the way, that’s my Magical-dawg in the picture—can you tell what he’s “saying?”)

People who love dogs want to understand canine communication. But growls mixed with tail wags can be confusing. Though people rely on words, dog talk combines vocalizations, body language and smells. It goes beyond woofs and wags. Here are 12 ways your dog tells you what he thinks.

Thanks so much to Red Room’s Gina Misiroglu, my connection with the kitty and doggy people at Paw Nation. She’s been sniffing out opportunities to send readers to Red Room and its authors—paws-itively awesome! 

Another Monday Mention shout out goes to my friends over at Pet Connection—there’s a whole team that offers fantastic pet care and animal news including my buddy and co-author Dr. Marty Becker and colleagues Gina Spadafori, Kim Thornton, Arden More, Christie Keith…a whole slew of ‘em! I know that I’ll miss some…so just go over and check out the blog and see for yourself!

Purrs & Wags,

amy

To stay up to date on all the latest cat-egorical or dog-matic content, subscribe to this blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!