CR4® - The Engineer's Place for News and Discussion®


Animal Science Blog

Animal Science

The Animal Science Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about scientific and technological topics related to pets, livestock, and other animals. See how cutting-edge advances help - or hinder - species around the world.

Previous in Blog: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials   Next in Blog: Three Ways to Fight Fleas
Close
Close
Close
22 comments

Chatting with Canines

Posted July 17, 2013 9:36 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: dogs pets technology translation

I have one particular family member who is a rather quiet sort. No matter my attempts to levy conversation, she'll just sit there quietly and stare at me. Make no mistake, she lets me know when she's hungry or displeased with a house guest, but she otherwise spends her days freeloading and napping.

At least it's a cute face; I'm clearly talking about my dog.

As our technology progresses to the point where it becomes almost impossible to fathom the next breakthrough, our canines have been left rather low-tech. Overall, that's a good thing. I feel as though nothing needs to complicate to beautiful simplicity of the human-dog relationship. I often say one of my favorite traits of my dog is actually her silence. If we start trying to improve our pets too much, it won't be long until we end up with a real-life CatDog.

Despite not having verbal speech, our dogs communicate and interact with humans and other dogs in a very sophisticated way. Dogs are the only other animal besides humans which understand pointing with the index finger; not even chimpanzees understand the clue. When communicating primates focus on the right side of another primate's face for emotional clues since that side of the face is intrinsically linked to the right hemisphere of the brain, and dogs are the only non-primate to exhibit this behavior. Dogs and humans are so compatible in their communication styles that DogTV, the first television channel aimed at dog viewers, has become successful enough to expand into new markets. Dogs communicate with each other by a series of body and facial movements, odors, whines, yelps and growls. Seemingly, barks do very little as a means of communication, but dogs are able to determine the size and intent of another dog simply by listening to its growl - and furthermore no dogs have been observed as 'lying' about their size.

However, several sources believe that better animal-human communication is on the verge of a breakthrough, and that decoding animal language is shortly to follow. A team of inventors are currently working on a system called FIDO, or 'facilitating interaction for dogs with occupations.' The project is part of a recent trend of wearable computing, and the concept team includes one of the inventors of Google Glass. The pup is outfitted with a harness with four different odor sensors that the dog has learned. Each sensor indicates a different signal to the handler, who is wirelessly linked and nearby. The idea is that a drug-sniffing dog can indicate different concepts to its handler, a search-and-rescue dog can report different patient conditions, or your household pal can tell you it's thirsty. While we're not quite to the point of Dug the dog, it's at least a step in the right direction.

Previously, a Japanese company released Bowlingual. This one-way communication device features a microphone transmitter attached to the dog's collar which feeds a handheld computer its recording. The dog's bark is compared to a library containing thousands of reference barks. The computer provides the dog's emotional state, as well as the message behind the bark. However, this product is strictly for "entertainment purposes only," so its interpretations should not be heavily considered. One veterinarian notes that BowLingual is untrustworthy and nonsensical.

Con Slobodchikoff, an animal behaviorist at Northern Arizona University, believes that the day when we decode the language of dogs, and cats as well, is only a decade away. Slobodchikoff and his research teams have decoded the complex language of prairie dogs. Their research indicates the 'chatter' prairie dogs emit is a type of verbal language which can even form short sentences. Examine the video at right for a more in depth explanation by Slobodchikoff himself. He believes that many other animals utilize verbal language as well, but that our understanding of how they use it and what information they convey is still developing. Slobodchikoff feels that humans have also largely ignored the potential for verbal animal languages due to our species hubris.

It seems as though we're only a few innovations away from fully realizing the communicative powers of our pets. In the case of my Labrador retriever, I'm rather sure the ability to talk to me would result in nonstop requests for food, 24/7. But at least I'd be able to shut the device off for some peace and quiet, something quite unobtainable when there are other family members around the house.

Resources

Pop Sci - FIDO would enable...

The Atlantic - Animal Behaviorist: We'll Soon Have Devices...

Wikipedia - Dog; BowLingual

PC Tech Mag - New devices let's dogs 'speak'...

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.
Guru
United States - Member - Lifelong New Yorker Popular Science - Biology - Animal Science Technical Fields - Technical Writing - Technical Writer CR4 Admins - CR4 Admin - CR4 Community Manager

Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: NY
Posts: 2418
Good Answers: 59
#1

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/17/2013 10:57 AM

Great post! I recently saw a TV show about a study that cataloged types of dog barks. They tested some people to see how good they were at deciphering the barks. (Kind of like this.) Most people are pretty good at it.

Dogs are great communicators. For the most part it's easy to tell what they want and they're also great at reading people. My dog knows when I'm sad and tries to cheer me up. Likewise, she can tell when I want to play or take a walk, and gets excited!

Also, I love Dug and CatDog. Dug is what I picture my setter sounding like (well, a female version). I think our beagle was trying to make some CatDogs (or pittens) with our cat at one point...

Reply
Guru
Popular Science - Evolution - New Member Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member

Join Date: May 2006
Location: The 'Space Coast', USA
Posts: 11172
Good Answers: 921
#3
In reply to #1

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/17/2013 1:31 PM

The other mechanism dogs use extensively is body language.

Also, most people misread what those body language signs mean - sometimes with devastating results.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 944
Good Answers: 15
#18
In reply to #1

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/21/2013 10:55 PM

I saw that, one person got all the dog barks right as far as the situation the dog was in when it barked.

Actually, they are capable of communicating as much as the person they are with is capable of understanding.

My Plott Hound now talks to me in full short sentences and won't shut up some nights.

Example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naueyHyj6tM&feature=youtu.be

Reply
Guru
Popular Science - Evolution - New Member Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member

Join Date: May 2006
Location: The 'Space Coast', USA
Posts: 11172
Good Answers: 921
#2

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/17/2013 1:30 PM

"However, several sources believe that better animal-human communication is on the verge of a breakthrough..."

Yes, it is called education.

Unfortunately, most people are simply clueless about dogs (or any other animal). I discovered that myself after buying a German Shepherd Dog puppy 8 years ago.

This Web Site is about the most comprehensive web site on dogs and living with them. They have both free information and DVDs for sale, as well as a large selection of dog related accessories. Highly recommended.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: at the beach in Florida
Posts: 18962
Good Answers: 1104
#4

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/17/2013 6:01 PM
__________________
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. A.E.
Reply
Guru
United Kingdom - Member - Indeterminate Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: In the bothy, 7 chains down the line from Dodman's Lane level crossing, in the nation formerly known as Great Britain, and now disconnecting as Little England and Wales (not too sure about Wales bit, either). Kettle's on.
Posts: 26628
Good Answers: 699
#5
In reply to #4

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/18/2013 4:31 AM
__________________
"Did you get my e-mail?" - "The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place" - George Bernard Shaw, 1856
Reply
Guru
United Kingdom - Member - Indeterminate Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: In the bothy, 7 chains down the line from Dodman's Lane level crossing, in the nation formerly known as Great Britain, and now disconnecting as Little England and Wales (not too sure about Wales bit, either). Kettle's on.
Posts: 26628
Good Answers: 699
#6

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/18/2013 5:25 AM
__________________
"Did you get my e-mail?" - "The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place" - George Bernard Shaw, 1856
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Mumbai, India
Posts: 1992
Good Answers: 25
#7

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/18/2013 6:36 AM

I had female Pomeranian she died 5 years back. You can see her pic in my avatar. She was cute little honey. We had 12 years company with her. I could communicate with her very easily as I had learnt her response to her various moods. She would understand my instructions easily. When she died we almost lost one family member.

__________________
"Engineers should not look for jobs but should create jobs for others" by Dr.Radhakrishnan Ex President of India during my college graduation day
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 580
Good Answers: 5
#8

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/18/2013 2:43 PM

Yes. And this extends to other animals if we take the time to interface with them. Lower mammals and birds don't seem to have the facial expression capabilities that cats and dogs do, but there is a level of consciousness detectable via the eyes of lower creature forms.

I interface with birds and squirrels whenever I walk outdoors. I'm sure that people seeing this think I'm nuts. Well, maybe I am, but I enjoy the "communication."

No long ago there was a thread here on CR4 about bird nests and the subject of bower birds came up. I tracked down the videos I had seen many years ago, "Flying Casanovas," and "Bower Bird Blues," both PBS broadcasts. They seem to only be available as VHS tapes, currently. (Or one can buy the David Attenborough DVD, Attenborough in Paradise and Other Personal Voyages, which has a section on them.) "Flying Casanovas," is my favorite of the two. The behavior of building a "bower" to attract a mate seems based solely on an aesthetic appeal to the female brain. We don't normally think of birds as "thinking" but one can only wonder what is going on the the male's brain as he builds his bower.

People who have had pigs as pets say they are equally smart as dogs, and as personable -- just differently.

I have a friend who told me that when her dog died, she couldn't speak the dog's name for 5 years! These relationships can become very deep and are based not just on "personalities," but our interaction with them. With dogs, in particular, it is easier to ascribe emotions to their facial expressions and body language. (i.e., "He was so happy to see me." or at other times, "He seems so listless and sad.")

There have been numerous books about the emotional lives of animals and other books of animal stories implying a consciousness and emotional state to animal behavior. Parrot owners would definitely say their pet has a personality.

To me, the best communication with animals will always be eye-to-eye and face-to-face, rather than via any instrumental aids that might be developed, unless we develop a Dr. Doolittle capability. That would be the best.

(I had typed another, first post similar to this but it seemed to go away in never-never land, so if it somehow appears again and seems redundant, you'll know how it happened.)

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: at the beach in Florida
Posts: 18962
Good Answers: 1104
#9
In reply to #8

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/19/2013 3:12 PM

Can you guess what the bird is saying to the squirrel??

__________________
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. A.E.
Reply
Guru
Popular Science - Evolution - New Member Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member

Join Date: May 2006
Location: The 'Space Coast', USA
Posts: 11172
Good Answers: 921
#10
In reply to #9

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/19/2013 3:58 PM

Yes, "Please tell us again, Chip, how is it you became a Monk."

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Earth - I think.
Posts: 2021
Good Answers: 155
#11

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/19/2013 5:05 PM

All I know is that between the 2 Border Collies I have had, the only thing I couldn't teach them was "at ease". To paraphrase a song: "Every step you take, every move you make; they'll be watching you". I could swear the one I have now sleeps with one eye open!

__________________
TANSTAAFL (If you don't know what that means, Google it - yourself)
Reply
Guru
Popular Science - Evolution - New Member Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member

Join Date: May 2006
Location: The 'Space Coast', USA
Posts: 11172
Good Answers: 921
#12
In reply to #11

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/19/2013 5:10 PM

It's the genetic nature of the breed (herding dogs).

My German Shepherd Dog always positions itself in the house so that it can watch every member of the pack.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Earth - I think.
Posts: 2021
Good Answers: 155
#13
In reply to #12

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/19/2013 6:01 PM

Yep. It helps to give them a job (true for any dog, but critical for "working" breeds). They are going to have a job regardless; the only question is whether it's one of your choosing, or theirs. If they choose the job, I guarantee you won't like it much.

I take my dogs (Border Collie, Sheppard mix, & Cairn Terrier) on a walk every day. It's their job to chase after the lizards, chipmunks, and rabbits here in the desert. That not only gives them a job, it's a hunting job - with people. Once you tie into that ancient instinct, it is amazing how motivated they are to listen, learn, and obey.

__________________
TANSTAAFL (If you don't know what that means, Google it - yourself)
Reply
Guru
Popular Science - Evolution - New Member Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member

Join Date: May 2006
Location: The 'Space Coast', USA
Posts: 11172
Good Answers: 921
#14
In reply to #13

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/19/2013 7:24 PM

My dog needs a job, badly, but she also has a serious heart defect (stenosis of the pulmatic valve) and can not get too worked up or she passes out.

A very frustrating condition for both dog and owner.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Earth - I think.
Posts: 2021
Good Answers: 155
#15
In reply to #14

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/19/2013 10:58 PM

I understand. The Border Collie and the Cairn Terrier are 13.5 and 12 respectively. The Shepherd is 5, so I have a real problem giving her what she needs without over stressing the other two dogs. Weekends aren't a problem; I just take her for a pre/post walk that the other 2 skip. During the week it's another story. It isn't that I don't have the time, it's the heat. A 1/2 mile walk for the old guys is about their limit when it is 107 DegF for the after work walk (as late as possible since it is ~117 when I get off work). Since I live by the Colorado river, I can take them down to the water to get a drink and a cool swim, but even that is still hard on them.

When it is cooler they still go on 1-2 mile walks. Of course the 5 year old still needs more, but that is something I can deal with easily.

__________________
TANSTAAFL (If you don't know what that means, Google it - yourself)
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Mumbai, India
Posts: 1992
Good Answers: 25
#16
In reply to #14

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/20/2013 6:37 AM

My dog developed kidney failure at last month before her death. All efforts to save her could only extend her life by 15 days. Very hard time for both of us.I do express my sympathy with you. Also prey for her well being.

__________________
"Engineers should not look for jobs but should create jobs for others" by Dr.Radhakrishnan Ex President of India during my college graduation day
Reply
Guru
Popular Science - Evolution - New Member Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member

Join Date: May 2006
Location: The 'Space Coast', USA
Posts: 11172
Good Answers: 921
#17
In reply to #16

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/20/2013 7:47 AM

Thanks. Sorry about your loss. As my girlfriend says, dogs are the best people. I can't disagree. My dog's trainer put it this way, dogs are on loan to us from God, but you have to give them back.

Our GSD had another collapse last night when someone came to the door.

I have to call the vet when they open this morning.

Reply
Guru
United States - Member - Lifelong New Yorker Popular Science - Biology - Animal Science Technical Fields - Technical Writing - Technical Writer CR4 Admins - CR4 Admin - CR4 Community Manager

Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: NY
Posts: 2418
Good Answers: 59
#19
In reply to #16

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/22/2013 7:28 AM

I very recently lost my beagle to both kidney and heart failure. Cannot treat one without making the other worse. It's very hard! We've got to make the best choices for our faithful friends even if they are tough on us.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Mumbai, India
Posts: 1992
Good Answers: 25
#22
In reply to #19

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/23/2013 6:39 AM

Sorry to hear about loss of your dear pet. I had gone through same kind of pain.May God give peace to departed soul and strength to you to bear the loss.

__________________
"Engineers should not look for jobs but should create jobs for others" by Dr.Radhakrishnan Ex President of India during my college graduation day
Reply
Guru
United States - Member - Lifelong New Yorker Popular Science - Biology - Animal Science Technical Fields - Technical Writing - Technical Writer CR4 Admins - CR4 Admin - CR4 Community Manager

Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: NY
Posts: 2418
Good Answers: 59
#20
In reply to #11

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/22/2013 7:28 AM

Here's another take on that song:

Reply
Guru
United Kingdom - Member - Indeterminate Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: In the bothy, 7 chains down the line from Dodman's Lane level crossing, in the nation formerly known as Great Britain, and now disconnecting as Little England and Wales (not too sure about Wales bit, either). Kettle's on.
Posts: 26628
Good Answers: 699
#21
In reply to #20

Re: Chatting with Canines

07/22/2013 10:02 AM
__________________
"Did you get my e-mail?" - "The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place" - George Bernard Shaw, 1856
Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 22 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

129CBRider (1); Anonymous Hero (6); Kilowatt0 (3); Passerby (1); PWSlack (3); SavvyExacta (3); SolarEagle (2); suresh sharma (3)

Previous in Blog: Unusual Bird Nest Building Materials   Next in Blog: Three Ways to Fight Fleas

Advertisement