Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Does Your Dog Talk or Sing?

By Tamara McRill

I have to admit to a bit of pet envy when it comes to dogs who are able to speak a few words or “sing” a song. It's not that my three guys aren't smart—they are—but they don't have any linguistic skills to speak of (pun intended) when it comes to verbalizing anything in English. So while we do plenty of dog dancing, we won't be down for any karaoke duets anytime soon.

It's not that I need my dogs to actually be able to tell me, “I wub you,” but imagine how cute it would be! As it stands now, I can get my fix of doggie talk from YouTube videos and my parents' dog, Rascal, who has some verbal talent. His favorite phrase involves getting just “one more” dog treat or more when showing off his words.

Do Dogs Really Talk?

According to scientists, dogs only talk if you count barking. Research has been done that proves what most pet owners have figured out on their own: that dogs communicate with each other and even attempt to speak to us through specific barks and tones. It's this sensitivity to tonal nuances that make it seem as if dogs have learned to talk when they are really just imitating human speech patterns. Even dogs who master certain phrases aren't thought to know what the words mean.

Are the Voices In Our Heads?

Scientific reasoning and research are all well and good, but it's hard to coincide that with what we hear and experience. I'm not saying I don't get that repeating a word and offering a yummy CANIDAE dog treat as a reward are stacking the deck, but imitation seems to be a fairly important aspect of how we learn to speak a language ourselves. And I would double dog dare you to tell a parent that the first word their child utters doesn't actually qualify as talking.

What about canines who actually give “hellos” and such in the correct situations? Aren't we all conditioned to some extent to automatically respond in a specific way in some social scenarios? That's why the most common response to “how are you?” is “fine.” Ditto for “I love you” and “I love you, too.”

Repeating back what someone says and validating their thoughts and feelings are desired actions in excellent communicating. Maybe our pets are better at this talking thing than we are...

So What About Dogs Who Sing?

There are some extraordinarily musical dogs and that extends to those who can howl a tune. Singing is basically using tone and rhythm to produce a musical sound. Some dogs freestyle, while others have been known to try to warble what's on the radio.

Of course it gets a little dicey when considering that our pets aren't much for lyrics, but I'm willing to throw a dog a bone here and say that they do sing. They just might not be ready for a world tour. Then again, my off-key singing skills and lyric botching aren't much better.

Does your dog have any special words or favorite songs? How do you get them to speak?

Photo by Jeffreyw

Read more articles by Tamara McRill


  1. If howling means singing, Mika does sing a lot and Eva is a good soprano too :))

  2. Finn can barely get a bark out when we command her to speak. She is the quietist dog I have ever seen. I can't imagine her singing at all!

  3. The only time our dog Jasmine sings is when she is asleep and she is sort of howling. But no, the dogs here do not talk except to bark at strange things of cry to go outside.

  4. Mom says she has no idea what we are saying but when we all start howling, we can woo up quite the concert:)

    Woos - Phantom, Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning

  5. Yes my kitty Meetso has various meows, chirps and murrrr sounds he uses. He has a "happy to see you" meow, a "where are you?" meow, a "what or huh?" meow and you can actually here the question mark in it, a "oh boy its a fly" meow/chirp, and a separate "oh boy its a bird or other large toy and food" meow chirp and the common "I want" meow.
    Now when I mirror a meow/chirp sound at like a fly, he'll come running, do the same thing and go at the tasty snack I found for him since he associates that sound with the obvious.
    There are also more subtle body language signals I learned to read over a life time of cat ownership that I recognize for certain things.
    In other words lots of animals have their own way of communicating and not just dogs.


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