Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Do You Talk to Your Pet?

By Linda Cole

Everyone I know talks to their pet, but I don’t think all pet owners do. However, those who don't believe animals understand our words are missing an important means of communicating – and bonding – with their pet. Research has shown dogs are capable of learning so much more than once thought. And we can learn what our pets’ whines, yaps, meows and barks mean, if we take the time to listen. Of course they don't understand everything we say, but they can and do pick out the words that mean something to them. Conversations with your pet can help you nurture and strengthen the bond between you and your pet.

My cat Jabbers, pictured above, is a handsome black kitty with a splash of white on his chest and huge emerald eyes. He got his name because as a kitten he jabbered constantly, and still does. Jabbers and I have discussed everything from what's going on outside, to a first base umpire who needs glasses, to what's for supper. He doesn't care what our conversations are about, just that I took the time to talk to him, and he's definitely a cat with an opinion, which he freely expresses during our conversations. And he never disagrees with me; well... at least I don't think he's disagreeing. He rolls over on his back and sticks his front legs up in the air and rubs his head against my hand as I talk to him. Then he whirls around and sits up so he can talk to me. I had a cat years ago who would put one of his paws on my cheek every time he talked as if he wanted to make sure he had my full attention.

I can't imagine not talking to my pets. I tell them I'm sorry if I've accidentally stepped on their paw or tail. My Border Collie Keikei and I discuss why she can't herd the cats. And I just recently had a conversation with one of my dogs on the perils of trying to eat the TV remote and why it doesn't belong inside her mouth. Of course they don't understand everything we say, but that's not the reason why we talk to our pets. Our touch and voice are special to them – just as special as when we are touched by or hear the voice of someone we care about. Hearing our voice gives them a comfortable and secure feeling.

Talking to your pet is one way they learn what we expect from them through informal training sessions. My dogs all learned how to back up not because I set out to train them that particular command, but as a result of conversations with them. To keep them from rushing through the door every time we went outside, I was in the habit of saying “back up” as I blocked the doorway. The full conversation was, “Back up so you don't run over me or the cats.” One day it dawned on me how well they all backed up when I asked them to, and how much easier it was to control them. They learned on their own what “back up” meant. It may have happened because of consistent training, even though I didn't consciously train them to back up, but it was also made possible because of talking to them and letting them know how I wanted them to behave. After all, that is what training is all about – communicating with your pet.

Pets are good at picking out and learning specific words we use in conversations with them and with other people in the home. They recognize words that describe things they want, like their favorite CANIDAE treats. Pets understand when we are getting ready to leave or put them outside because of our actions and what we say. Even when you try to confuse a dog by changing the words you use, sooner or later, they will learn those words too. They are so much more observant than we realize and they are always listening to our voice when we talk.

As pet owners, the most important thing we want to always maintain is a positive feeling of us in their mind. I want my pets to greet me when I return home. I want them to sit beside me on the couch or cuddle with me at night. I love those moments because it gives us a chance for some small talk. It doesn't matter if they understand my words or not, they do understand the moment. Talking to your pet is one way to instill that all-important positive attitude in them, along with trust and respect.

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. I know that I (Frankie Furter) talk to MY pets all the time.. I tell them when I want out.. I tell them when I want my supper and SNACKS. They just LOVE it.. and you would be surprised at how much Language the can really Understand. Stuffs like Feed the Birds and Go to the Mail Box.. and say bye bye.. even quiet like.. they RUN to the Jeep!!!
    Yes, I talk to Mom and Dad all the time. THEY LOVE IT!!!

  2. Jabbers is beautiful!! I talk to my cats all the time. I think Priscilla and me have a psychic connection :)

  3. I always talk to all my sweeties...I told hubby just the other day...people who think their pets do not understand them and like being talked to do not know what they are missing by not communicating with them. We have one cat that is very verbal and loves to communicate with anyone willing. Hugs and nose kisses beautiful cat and dog.

  4. I loved this! I can't imagine NOT talking to my pet(s).
    My first cat, (Bobo) I used to hold in my arms like he was a baby and sing to him.
    I talk to my Sheltie and my kitty now...my Sheltie literally tries to talk as well...it isn't a bark, he literally tries to talk (and mostly, just to me lol)...he also has learned words that we never taught him.
    Cody (our cat) of course knows "NO!" but Dakota's understanding of language is simply amazing

  5. Jabbers, that is so cute.

    I talk to my cat. I believe in addition to words they understand tone. So sometimes they get the meaning just from the tone of your voice. This is a great article.

    I thank our cat often. When I leave I tell her goodbye and to have a good day and to be good.

    She is very responsive when my husband talks to her. Her tail does a little dance. It is very funny. She could be asleep (or at least we think she is) and he will say her name and her tail leaps up into the air and does a little wiggle. It is very, very funny. My voice does not get that response.

  6. I talk to both Hannah and Lucy. Hannah knows every word I say to her and when I sit down she jumps on the arm of the chair and looks me right in the eyes. She comes and finds me several times a day to check if I am OK and have a word!! Lucy doesn't "talk" to me as such but when I come in or she enters a room I'm in she always walks up to me and holds out a paw and stretches it towards me almost as though she wants to shake paws. They both sit on me in the evening and change places regularly so they get equal knee and foot time!! They also both sleep on the bed curled up to me at night!! If I feel low they always seem to make that extra fuss of me. They are not siblings but were rescues from a house which had more than 100 cats there.

  7. Oh yes, I definitely talk to my pets. My famous story is about a tiny little matted kitten that came into my yard at 100 miles per hour,and stopped at the shed outside my fence. So I mewmewed at her for 30 minutes and she looked at me like I was nuts but she stayed there. Then I went and got her some food. She ended up staying and we still have long conversations mostly in her language. Of course her name is Mewmew. Great post.

  8. Not only do I talk to our dog Curly all the time, I sing to him as well! I have several songs I have "created" for him. When I sing these (now familiar) songs, he perks up and his tail wags.
    I have an appreciative audience who never criticizes my singing, and he appears to enjoy it - it's a win-win situation!

  9. I talk to my two dogs and two cats all the time. Sometimes they look at me like I am crazy but I don't care. I keep talking. I also apologize to them if I accidentally step on their tail or feet. People think I am crazy and I guess I am when it comes to my animals. Sometimes I rather talk to them than to other human beings.

  10. Yes, talking is important. We're usually very happy to comply but if we don't agree ... well, we're good at talking too.

  11. I think I'm as normal as everyone here. I talk to them all the time everyday. I'm sure they all understand me because I can see it from their eyes, they like to listen to me and I tell them everything. How could I not to talk to them??? I just hope they won't think I'm too noisy.

  12. Aww! That is so cute. :)
    I also, speak to my dog, and by using her name, or saying something like "Are you sitting?", she can catch on to what I am saying. When she barks, I "bark" back. I say "I know!" or "No way!". It's cute, and we both love it. :) Pets are smarter than some people give them credit for.

  13. I'm always talking Bella's ear off... poor pup! :)

  14. Ever since my Aussie, Ginger, was a puppy I've always talked to her like she was a person. I tell her "excuse me" when she is in my way and she'll move. Or I will ask her if she needs to "go potty" and she will jump up ready to go outside. I will also tell her to "go find Patty" (Patty is my teenage daughter) and she will search the house until she finds her. And when my dad comes over I will tell her "your dad is here" (she thinks he's her Dad because we all call him Dad...lol) and she will run to the front door excited. I've had many pets thoughout my life but my Ginger is unique.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...