Interview with a Dog

This fun chat between a Dog and Gill Minter was carried out in January 2000.

Gill: Firstly may I welcome you Dog and thank you for giving your time in this interview?

Dog: Thank you and your most welcome, its refreshing to know so many of your species are willing to understand us further as they choose to live with us.

Gill: As humans we are led to believe that you are a descendant to the Wolf and therefore carry with you many of the characteristics of the wolf, how do you feel about this?

Dog: Well in some respects this is quite true, but we have been selectively bred by man over the years and produced over 400 separate breeds, many of which no longer bear so much physical resemblance to the wolf these days. Each breed has its own traits and characteristics which should be well remembered by any human wishing to live with one of us. If they would just learn about the type of breed they wish to live with, what it was bred for, what its physical requirements are and be more aware of its psychological needs, a lot of confusion and heartache would be avoided.

Gill: Many humans ask me how to stop a young dog or puppy from chewing their valuable items within the home – my answer is to teach the puppy what to chew and reward good behaviour. Is there anything else I’ve overlooked Dog?

Dog: Humans tend to attribute human thoughts and characteristics to us dogs, they expect us to know right from wrong. If we have chewed something up and disregarded it and we are then punished afterwards for this, we are suppose to know why, to be able to think rationally and to understand the humans reason for assigning such quality to that particular object! We do not think like humans.

Gill: If you could choose your own human to live with, what qualities would you look for?

Dog: I think I can speak for every dog here, as our needs are not as complex as yours. We would look for a leader that we could trust. A human that was reliable and consistent in their behaviours towards us, which would make us more trustful of them. Effective communication with our species relies much on the above, not on violence or confrontation. An owner that would be patient and understanding, be aware of our limitations and learn about our breed characteristics. Become more aware and familiar with our body language and vocalisations (thank you Turid Rugaas). We do try to understand some of yours as much as we possibly can, in fact one thing that rather puzzles me is the fact you humans do not use your sense of smell as much as we do, we can not only recognise individual humans by their scent, but also detect different emotional states of you!

Gill: As a whole, which do you feel is the most least understood body language signals between dogs and humans?

Dog: Well I’m always hearing of us dogs giving “unprovoked attacks of aggression” the human complaining that we are unpredictable, which is of course rubbish. The human has usually acted consistently in ways in which indicate to us their subordination, because they do not understand these finely tuned signals in dog communication and then they act in a manner which is perceived as a status challenge by us. It often stems from an underlying situation which has been created subtly and steadily by a series of seemingly unrelated incidents. We are predators so therefore we have a good ability to detect minute movements, I would say we can read human movements better than you can yourselves. My owner often declares that I know exactly what she is thinking, when in fact my learning abilities have enabled me to understand the meaning of very slight body movements, that you yourselves would not have noticed.

Gill: Your way of communicating with one another is mainly based on body language?

Dog: Yes it involves a lot of body signals in our language, although we do not produce the same signals as wolves. I feel to explain a lot to you about our language would be to defeat the object as many of you are learning about us and this is good for us. But I will tease you and give you something to discuss on your forum and think about -> “If not all breeds of dogs produce the same body language signals as wolves, then does it not figure that not all breeds of dogs speak the same body language signals either, that each breed speaks slightly different languages?”

Gill: Why is it that at times your species fight with one another?

Dog: Well I could ask you the very same question, for your species fight with one another much more often and violently than we do. You have a choice whom to live with, you don’t afford us the same choice and at times we don’t always agree especially if we are of a similar status naturally, but we have to remain together, when naturally one of us may have chosen to leave that pack and join another in the wild. We rarely wish to hurt one another but can at times be forced into this because we are not afforded time alone to sort our differences out without interference from yourselves or given the right living conditions and space to divert these disputes as we would naturally.

Gill: What is the worse behavioural problem you have seen in a human?

Dog: I think the worse is based on lack of understanding and not wanting to understand. One of the first owners I ever had wanted me to be a good house dog, to bark when someone approached our den etc. I would always be shown approval at these times and it made my heart proud to think I had pleased my owner. But I soon learned to be careful for if my owner was talking on the telephone and I barked, this would not please them and I would be reprimanded. Most inconsistent and confusing.

Gill: Lastly, if you can give us human owners one tip of better understanding what would it be?

Dog: Spend quality time with us to really understand us, do not be so complex in your thought patterns when trying to understand and be kind and positive in your interactions with us. Talk to us and we will always answer you – listen to us then you will come to understand.