Ever hear a couple of dogs barking back and forth and wonder what they’re talking about? Are they angry? Are they having a conversation? Are they singing? Or is it just noise?
What about a cat and a dog? Is it two different languages in their world? Well, it looks like they can understand each other very well actually. Dogs and cats know when the other is upset through the cat’s aggressive meows, and a dog's growling. Just like a dog or cat learns on how to respond to human signals, they learn to do that with other animals’ body language and tone.
Signs That Dogs Understand Other Animals
There are signs that show that animals are communicating with each other using their body language, tail wagging, and aggressive or friendly mannerisms. Dogs will wag their tails to show they’re happy and have a friendly appearance, whereas if a cat is wagging its tail it's letting the dog know they’re annoyed.
If the animal the dog is interacting with is small, dogs will try to get down on their level and be very gentle with them to communicate that they are trustworthy with the other animal—almost like they’re bowing down to them.
Have you ever seen a dog sniff another animal? That’s also a sign of communication! Also known as pheromones, dogs rely on scent to understand and process information. The communication between a dog and another animal is learned, they have to be around them to understand the animal more. Similar to humans, the dog can pick up on the signal the other animal is showing and understand whether it means danger, praise, or happiness.
Technically, dogs can communicate with other animals but it’s not like the cartoons we see on TV; it’s a process and their vocal tools aren’t easily interpreted. Alas, the idea of dogs being able to have full on conversations through barking isn’t true, and although it’s hilarious to lip sync what we think they are saying to the animal beside them, it just isn’t reality.
History of Dogs Understanding Other Animals
There’s no start date as to when dogs began understanding animals - unless we want to go back to the day God created them, then maybe that’s where it all started. But realistically-speaking, animals have been communicating with each other for decades! Dogs weren’t always domesticated, so their means of communication were different when they were in the wild.
Since being domesticated, their means of communication have changed to involve human interaction which has also allowed them to develop problem-solving skills and communicate with other animals in a similar fashion. Normally, dogs in the wild would communicate with their “pack” in search of food, and generally, that did not involve communicating with the other species but rather hunting them.
As time went on, dogs became domesticated and have been taught different communication skills. It is humans who assisted in this evolution, and in the dogs’ ability to process this information. Not every dog is as intelligent as the next, but if taught well, the dog will not only be able to communicate better with humans, but they will eventually become more domesticated with other animals.
Science Behind Dogs Communicating with Other Animals
Studies have been done to see if doggies can actually understand the concept of communication and know what’s being said to them, and it actually transfers the information in their brain in a similar way as humankind.
Dogs are able to distinguish the feelings, and information that is being communicated to them through brain waves! Ever wonder if your dog can understand that your cat wants to be left alone? Well, they can, through the cat's body language and hissing they are able to process that information in their mind. Amazing animals they truly are!
Training Your Dog to Communicate with Other Species
Dogs learn language mainly through humans, so if we are teaching them when to know if we are mad, sad, or happy then they will transmit that information and use it with other animals. The best way to teach them how to communicate with other animals is to have them around each other often enough that they will pick up on their signals. The signals that the animals send out, like body language, pheromones, and vocal communication allow the dog to get to know the animal and understand what they want.
Like humans, dogs have emotions and they actually use the right side of their brain to process this emotion - especially through praising moments like “good boy!” If a human is around while the dog is interacting with the other animal then they can teach them the language. This is often done with babies so that dogs know how to be gentle around them and playful without harming them.
Of course, dogs can quickly pick up on another animal's energy, but getting them in the habit of being around each other will allow them the time to learn about each other.
To help this process, having treats available when the dog and the animal are having positive forms of communication will assist in the learning process and enable them to get closer to one another. Also, if they are constantly giving out hostile forms of body language, petting each animal to show they are trustworthy will also help, because you as the human are the neutral party. Pretty amazing that you can teach your dog another language, that not even you understand!
By a Dalmatian lover Katrina Kryza
Published: 02/05/2018, edited: 04/06/2020