Communicative Aspects of Pets


When I communicate with my dog he understands a lot of words and a couple of spellings.  He knows when I spell the word “treat” or “cookie”.  When he doesn’t understand he tilts his head to the side.  When he wants his belly rubbed he lays on his back.  He whimpers when he needs to go outside to potty.  He brings his toys to you, you know he wants to play. He learned to “sit”, “lie”, “shake”, “speak”, “rollover” and “dance” all within a few days when I taught him at 4 months old.  When he thinks that your mad at him he walks away with his tail between his legs.

Dog’s communicate like children according to researchers.  They think that dogs have an aspect to really understand what a human but just looking at what the human is looking at.  The gestures that we use towards are dogs are having a real impact on our pets and its helps our pets learn to be more human than animal.

Another study proved that dogs learn best when being looked while be talked to, but that they are also very good at following your eyes to what you are looking at if you call them by name. I know when I tell my dog to go find his squeaky he knows exactly what I am saying.

CBC News. Dogs pick up our intent to communicate at a glance 2012, Jan. 5 [online] Accessed 2013 May 20

Kaminski, Juliane; Schulz, Linda; Tomasello, Michael. Developmental Science. Mar 2012, How Dogs Know When Communication intended for them. Vol. 15 Issue 2, p222-232. 


When looking into the communicative aspects of animals I found that while some animals are capable of mimicking human language they do not rely on fully formed language like humans do. Instead animals tend to communicate using a combination of body language and what George A. Kennedy calls rhetoric. Cats for example have several types of body language and described by Adriane Bishko on WebMD. Adriane points out that a cat showing its belly can indicate either that they want attention and are relaxed or she explains that if the claws are extended the cat maybe ready to defend itself. Adriane also mentions additional body language communications like slow blinking as a sign of trust or arched back and bottle brush tail as a sign that the cat feels threatened. Adriane also mentions that a tail held high is a sign of confidence while wrapping their tail around another cat of a person is a sign of friendliness. Adriane also points out that the shape of a cat’s pupil can also express whether they are scared or excited to see you. My cat also expresses similar behavior, however, as I have gotten to know my cat she also expresses other body language such as when angry at me she will turn her back on me and even sit in a corner.

Rhetoric focuses mainly on the vocalizations made by animals. Kennedy talks about several animal vocalizations that he describes as rhetoric. Wolves howling to alert their pack of possible danger and red deer stags which as Kennedy describes it roar at each other to determine who would win in a fight during rutting season. Bishko identifies four types of vocalizations in cats. Purring, high-pitched gurgling or chatting, growling or hissing, and caterwauling. She explains each as follows purring signals contentment and possibly seeking comfort, gurgling signals friendliness, growling, hissing, or spitting signals warnings to stay way, and caterwauling is reserved for when a cat is threatened by another cat. Adriane points out that meowing tends to not be used with other cats but instead is reserved for communication with humans. I know with my cat I get a lot of meows. She greets me when I get home from work. More often though she is articulating a need. For example wanting food, water, play, or to go outside. The type of meow will vary depending upon how great the need is. If not too great she will quietly meow once, however if the need is great she sustains the meow and varies it kind of like a child does when whining at their parent.


People often take for granted the sophistication with which dogs can read human expressions. Even primates such as chimpanzees and Bonobos don’t have the ability to read our facial expressions and gestures in the way that dogs do. Although communication between human and wild dogs (wolves) may have begun through mutually beneficial incentives such as hunting companions, today , it is a much more companion oriented for the most part. Dogs really do have a remarkable ability to pick up on subtle facial cues by their owners. Even a sudden a movement can be noticed. This is probably related to the deep bond that canine companions have with their owners which after all is an essential part of their genetic survival. There is a synergistic sort relationship between dogs and man.

Woods, Brian Hare and Vanessa. “Opinion: We Didn’t Domesticate Dogs. They Domesticated Us.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 03 Mar. 2013. Web. 13 June 2013

“What Your Cat’s Body Language Is Saying” Webmd. May 26 2013 <>.

George A. Kennedy. “A Hoot in the Dark: The Evolution of General Rhetoric” Philosophy & Rhetoric. Penn State University Press, Vol 25 No 1 (1992). Pg 1-21


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s