"Good stop! I really liked that halt, guys."
August 3, 2019 9:32 AM   Subscribe

"Things People Say to Their Dogs" by Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, a cognitive scientist who studies dogs, in The New York Times. Dr. Horowitz discusses things she has heard people say to their dogs, and what we are doing when we talk to dogs. Examples: "Somebody has a bagel, and it’s not you. And it’s not gonna be you with that kind of behavior." and "Let's lead! Leader! YAY!"
posted by brainwane (47 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

I absolutely loved this article. Of COURSE people talk to their dogs ( and their pets in general)!
Every morning when I’m getting ready for work I talk with my cat, Phoebe, about her plans for the day ahead. Her days don’t seem to vary too much—eating, napping, bathing, litter boxing, bird watching—but she always seems ok with it.
posted by bookmammal at 9:50 AM on August 3, 2019 [12 favorites]

Of course she's okay with it. See the comment above yours.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:52 AM on August 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Read this earlier and loved it! Counting down the 2.5 weeks till I’m back home and see my lovely hectic springer.
posted by ellieBOA at 9:56 AM on August 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

I loved this SO much! My favorite parts of volunteering at my local humane society as a dog walker is overhearing all the conversations potential adopters, staff, and fellow volunteers have with dogs.

The dogs enable the speaking; they are not really the spoken-to.
I’m very socially anxious and I definitely use narration about my dogs to ease social interactions. It’s also a way for me to acknowledge “hey I promise gonna pick up this poop but I’m not yet because I know this guy is gonna take awhile” or “yes my Great Dane is very dog reactive and doesn’t want your dog coming close I’m going to talk to her about that because talking to you, the other dog owner, usually ends with you assuming I am not actively working on this reactivity with her everyday.”

It also usually preempts conversation which I am so grateful for, having now adopted two Great Danes people are so excited to talk to me about my giant dog (100% understand!) but when I used to take my wonderfully elderly Dane out for a potty break when I lived in Seattle while working 80 hours a week I just didn’t want to talk to anyone, I just needed to get her in and out as fast as possible or if we went for our evening long walks I wanted to keep moving and not have to manage another social interaction after a long day. So I would talk to my dog about how we have to keep moving or how we better find our favorite spot to do our business since we have to go back inside soon and it worked! If I didn’t talk to her it was guaranteed someone would want to come up and ask how old she was and whether she was a Great Dane and wow aren’t they such gentle giants, how much does she eat, etc, and god I love talking about dogs but it was too much to deal with during the five potty breaks she needed a day.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 10:02 AM on August 3, 2019 [35 favorites]

Sorry that was all a weird humblebrag about having a giant dog, I would mumble to my dog if she were here in this thread with me.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 10:05 AM on August 3, 2019 [58 favorites]

We use a fairly limited vocabulary with infants, and with dogs too: more “You’ve been bad” than “What you did was morally indefensible.”

The idea of someone looking down at their dog, who has just eaten an entire roll of toliet paper, and saying, "What you did was morally indefensible", is comedy gold. Reminds of this Tumblr post. Maybe I just have a thing for speaking to animals like they're 40 year old politicians.
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:22 AM on August 3, 2019 [33 favorites]

I LOVED this. My partner and I were just talking today about whether our dog (obligatory dog tax) understands when we say, "Rosie, go get your ball." I think she does, he doesn't. I attribute much more intellect to her than he does, in any case. She is the only bulldog that I've ever kept that I've been able to train to do ANYTHING. She fetches (instead of just playing keepaway) and she is "potty trained" on a bell. Meaning that we thought we were training her to ring the bell when she needed to go outside and potty (vital when we lived in an apartment), but really, she was just training us to let her go outside and fart around in the grass whenever she wanted.

posted by honeybee413 at 10:23 AM on August 3, 2019 [24 favorites]

I had a Chiweenie (Chihuahua/Dachshund mix) that didn't seem to pay much attention to anything we said. But, he did have a nylabone that he chewed all the time, and the look he got when asked "Where's your bone?" was hilarious. Like "OH SHIT YOU'RE RIGHT WHERE IS IT? BRB." and he'd run off to look for it.
posted by LionIndex at 10:29 AM on August 3, 2019 [32 favorites]

I was fostering an Australian Cattle Dog some years ago. Very sweet-natured animal. She was totally deaf. But, even though I knew she could not hear me speak, I couldn't stop myself from talking to her. "Who's a good girl? Surprise! It's YOU!" I hope my posture and lip-flapping conveyed some sense of my meaning to her.
posted by SPrintF at 10:53 AM on August 3, 2019 [8 favorites]

To the tune of Frère Jacques, I sing to my sweet old dog: who’s a good girl, who’s a vey good girl, who’s a good girl, who’s the bestest girl. There are more verses, but I think you get the general gist of both the song, and why my lyrical stylings have not replaced Hamilton on broadway. But my girl, who’s a very good girl, likes it.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 11:29 AM on August 3, 2019 [12 favorites]

why my lyrical stylings have not replaced Hamilton on broadway

I believe many many of us have been busted actually singing Hamilton to our dogs. The Toast (RIP) did a whole piece on it ("Why do you assuuuuuuume you're the cutest in the roooooom?").
posted by praemunire at 11:34 AM on August 3, 2019 [9 favorites]

If my dog is having a bad dream (or what I assume to be bad dreams, he has a bunch of scars from his life on the street before we adopted him and I figure it comes up in dreams?) I will sing "You are My Sunshine" to him but most of the words are his name, and I really hope it doesn't give him more nightmares because that song is actually really dark but I gotta sing it all to keep it from looping in my head:
I'll always love you and make you happy
If you will only say the same
But if you leave me to love another
But you'll regret it all some day

By the way I really wanted to pay the dog tax but I don't want to link directly to my Instagram in thread, so I added it to my profile while is viewable by signed in members only! Hope that okay to say, nearly all the pictures are my dogs, my cat, or my foster animals so it seems like a good way to start paying down my debt since I've never shared pictures of my crew.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 11:40 AM on August 3, 2019 [17 favorites]

Dogs love Timbre.
Cats won't respond well to Timbre.

They don't need too.
posted by clavdivs at 11:41 AM on August 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

I talk to my dog all the time, but I will say that a lot of my talking when I'm at the dog park is just projection on other dog owners. My dog loves barking when she plays - she's completely silent the rest of her life, but she referees constantly. With dog owners that know her well and are fine with it, I just let her play and have fun. But with other owners, ones that might give me the side eye, I'll say things like "YOU'RE SO LOUD! SHHH! QUIET YOU CRAZY BUDDY!" It's a way to acknowledge that I saw the "No Nuisance Barking" sign and even though she's never going to stop I do recognize that she's being annoying. If the owners really seem upset, I'll just leave... but this little dog-talk is a way of testing human social waters.
posted by thebots at 11:44 AM on August 3, 2019 [8 favorites]

We have three dogs, and they understand us to varying degrees. The Aussie Cattle Dog/Jack Russell mix is by far the most responsive to specific language. The other two (terrier mixes) respond to timbre, volume, cadence, and pitch much moreso than to actual words.

(Other than, of course, their stunning linguistic capabilities when it comes to any form, variant, abbreviation, synonym, or code word for any version of "food" or "walk". If either of those are in play, all three dogs are close-listening, context-deducing language geniuses no matter how it's said.)
posted by LooseFilter at 11:58 AM on August 3, 2019 [7 favorites]

We were discussing last week about how dogs respond differently when you leave them to go to the shops or work and tell them that you will be back soon as opposed to saying nothing.

"I will be back soon" - relaxed hound

Silence - hound gets in a tizz
posted by fallingbadgers at 12:06 PM on August 3, 2019 [8 favorites]

I was once surprised with a dachshund puppy at Christmas. (She is now fifteen.) The pup was excited and interested but also terrified. She was a little young to be away from her mother, but there was nothing I could do for it but comfort her and get us through the night together. I did the only thing I could: I started to sing.

Imagine me and you
And you and me
No matter how they tossed the dice
It had to be
The only one for me is you
And you for me
So happy together
I can't see me loving nobody but you
For all my life --

I don't know why. It's not like it's a favorite song. I mainly knew it from an old cereal commercial. But dogs bring out what we don't know we had inside us. That dog saved my life several times, not by being a particularly good or faithful creature but by needing me, by being my girl. When we talk to dogs, we talk from our selves.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:13 PM on August 3, 2019 [32 favorites]

Half the joy of having pets is providing their side of the conversation. All of our pets have somewhat distinctive voices when we do them.

Right now our chihuahua mix is staring at me in the hopes she will get part of my protein box. "Can I have that? Dogs like that."
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:32 PM on August 3, 2019 [11 favorites]

We use a fairly limited vocabulary with infants, and with dogs too: more “You’ve been bad” than “What you did was morally indefensible.”

Hmmf. Quite frequently on being readmitted to our home from the back yard, Alice will go over to the table with the treats and look expectantly at me, at which point I inform her "What?! Your conduct was in no way praiseworthy! You're not getting a treat just for coming back inside when you wanted to! Talk to me again when you've murdered a vermin."

Of course the real galaxy-brain version of this is using your own voice to speak for the dogs.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 12:33 PM on August 3, 2019 [6 favorites]

MetaFilter: all a weird humblebrag about having a giant dog
posted by hippybear at 12:44 PM on August 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

Sometimes a tennis ball is just a tennis ball
posted by thelonius at 12:50 PM on August 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

It’s not only strangers who can be looped in by dog-talk. We talk to our relatives — our human relatives — via our dogs as well.

I was literally reading this sentence while my spouse told Kesugi how hard it is to be the person making breakfast when nobody even cracks the eggs for you because they’re too busy dinking around on their phone and drinking coffee. I told Kesugi that when one makes breakfast just twice a summer, and has breakfast made for oneself (summer -2) times a season one can crack one’s own damn eggs; I’m pretty sure the dog understands.
posted by charmedimsure at 1:02 PM on August 3, 2019 [8 favorites]

I love my dog, Shakedown. She knows it 'cause I tell her every day.
posted by dobbs at 1:11 PM on August 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

My dog before current dog understood “go get your bunny” and said bunny was a purple stuffed toy that he loved but would destroy about once every 6 months. I must have rebought that toy 10 times because after I threw away bunny number X he would very literally go on a play strike.

My current dog (heart dog, if you’re into that sort of thing, he is literally the best dog in the world) understands “bacon” for sure. He also likes it when I sing songs to him with Hank-specific lyrics. “I wanna cut to the Hankdog” is lately a favorite. Or maybe he hates it, who can say. But I talk to him a lot.
posted by Automocar at 1:22 PM on August 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

I’m about 50% “you’re a good girl/who’s a good girl?” and “Sunny, that wasn’t ok.”
posted by simra at 1:29 PM on August 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have taught my 4 month old lab puppy to pee on command, “Go peepee Olive! Go peepee! but it only works for me and no other family members. I have a really high voice when I do it. Doesn’t work for #2.
posted by gryphonlover at 1:50 PM on August 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I now want to text everyone who might visit gryphonlover with that comment so they can... um... I mean, they surely wouldn't... being their friend and all... but still....

[I have no information about gryphonlover or anyone in their circle.]
posted by hippybear at 2:38 PM on August 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

My brother's dog is sweet but not super cuddly, especially after he first gets over the fact that YOU CAME YOU CAME YOU CAME. But sometimes when I'm babysitting he'll wander over to me, put his head down on my lap, and give me a mournful look, as if to say, is there no love for a poor orphan dog whose parents have gone away forever? Then I will pet him and sing the Mountain Goats' "California Song" to him. It seems to be soothing.
posted by praemunire at 2:40 PM on August 3, 2019 [9 favorites]

My shelter dog (pic in my profile) knows Ball/ toy, Bring it (the ball), Drop (the ball), Treat, (Go) in the house, Out?, No, Scoot (out of the way), Go for a ride? and You aren't coming; I'll be back; I'm pretty sure he understands that one more from intonation, hard to say. He'll sit, but really hates to lie down, though he will if I insist. There are some hand gestures, too, mostly me pointing to show he has not brought the ball close enough for me to grab. When he brings me the ball, he pitches it by throwing it with his snout; I'm certain he wants to be a pitcher. He was with me on a couple lengthy road trips, and is a good companion and listener. He jumps in the car when he can, hopeful that we're going somewhere, I have to check; in the hot weather I was afraid he'd get stuck in the car on a hot day. I've been prepping the Prius for car-camping and he's excited.

I've always appreciated that he's a terrific, smart dog, easy to care for and train, adaptable. He's not super-affectionate, but I'm more aware of his just plain excellence lately, and have been more affectionate to him, and he's quite pleased. He's 12 or 13; Jack Russell Terriers live a decent span, but he's clearly aging, occasionally a bit lame, and he makes adorable snuffly old dog sounds in his sleep. They are all good puppers and best dogs ever, but I am especially lucky to have him to talk to.

Also, he allows me to put costumes on him.
posted by theora55 at 2:59 PM on August 3, 2019 [8 favorites]

My cats definitely knew some things. "Gimme paws" always got my black cat, Oz, to sit up and gently take a treat with two paws and then put the treat in his mouth like a goshdurn otter. The other cat, Clem, would just mew at you until you dropped the treat. Clem however was demonstrably smarter in a lot of ways. And you could get Clem to go fetch Oz when Oz had disappeared into the night and wasn't coming back. We'd say to Clem, "got get Oz!" and he'd run out the door and moments later Oz would dart back in the house from wherever he was fetched. Then Clem would saunter back and mew for treats. Once, I swear, when they were both getting elderly, Clem gave me a look like, "Seriously? I'm too old for this shit." But then he did it. Everyone liked him instantly because he would make eye contact with you and he'd sit next to you and lean. Such a good kittyboy.

We use a fairly limited vocabulary with infants, and with dogs too: more “You’ve been bad” than “What you did was morally indefensible.”

I think it is hilarious to tell a baby that what they did was morally indefensible. Hello? Nipple biting? There's no call for that. None.
posted by amanda at 4:34 PM on August 3, 2019 [13 favorites]

dogs respond differently when you leave them to go to the shops or work and tell them that you will be back soon as opposed to saying nothing.

Our pooch will actively snub you upon your return if you've left the house without a proper goodbye. Won't greet you when you come home, runs away when you try to get close, sulks in the corner. After a while the grudge is dropped. Such is the price for violating the goodbye protocol.
posted by emeiji at 5:28 PM on August 3, 2019 [12 favorites]

I think it’s something close to an autonomic function of the human brain to create rough-and-ready psychological models of, well, nearly everything nearby. It’s not quite like breathing or a heartbeat because we have some control over the impulse.

Dogs can’t talk, and if they could they’d have nothing to say, but they communicate all the time, and readily engage with us when we engage with them, so talking to dogs is usually rewarded immediately. Cats, less so on average. But it doesn’t really matter. We see spirits in everything, living or otherwise.
posted by um at 6:05 PM on August 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

A Boy and His Dog (1975 film) – WP, full movie. No words need to be spoken between best friends.
posted by cenoxo at 6:12 PM on August 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

So the other day I was perambulating in a park far from home, and I saw a large dog wearing a knee brace. So being friendless in a strange city, I naturally went up to the dog and said "Ohh, look at you! I used to have a knee brace just like that!!"

But then also, for some reason, I thought it would be funny to look at the dog's human and say, "So yeah, skiing accident? Right, that's how I got mine too..." Reader, the guy looked at me like I had clearly lost my mind. I'm pretty sure the dog got it though.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 8:33 PM on August 3, 2019 [27 favorites]

This was a great article for a Saturday!
posted by Going To Maine at 10:44 PM on August 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I talk to my cat all the time. I ask her questions. She always answers back with a question. It's frustrating. Just like cats are supposed to be.
posted by srboisvert at 6:11 AM on August 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

I liked the cute illustrations for that story
posted by latkes at 6:51 AM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

“So yeah, skiing accident? Right, that's how I got mine too..."

If you started talking with my dog and made that joke to me, we might become best friends on the spot. That’s delightfully funny.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:27 AM on August 4, 2019 [11 favorites]

How come no one has posted this yet? It's still good.
posted by mumimor at 9:02 AM on August 4, 2019 [7 favorites]

Also obligatory

I feel I should mention that there are many people in my city who appear to use schmoopy-talk as a substitute for discipline, like people who go "Spanky, don't bother people," and other "we talked about this" strategies.

Don't get me wrong, I'm the first person to argue with a dog about the latest budget proposal, but not in mixed stranger company!
posted by rhizome at 12:37 PM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I feel I should mention that there are many people in my city who appear to use schmoopy-talk as a substitute for discipline, like people who go "Spanky, don't bother people," and other "we talked about this" strategies.

Our chihuahua overreacts to stern correction and then just persists in her bad behaviour anyway, so this is what we do with her now. She clearly understands that she's being corrected, but she doesn't run away and hide under the couch.
posted by tobascodagama at 4:10 PM on August 4, 2019

Thanks for posting this!

I talk to my dogs all the time. They love me anyway.
posted by Gadgetenvy at 6:26 AM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I was visiting a house with three dogs and one is very jealous of any other animal getting attention. As he pushed another dog out of the way so I would stop petting them and start petting him, I said, "Other people can get pets, too!"
posted by soelo at 10:54 AM on August 5, 2019

"Other people can get pets, too!"

Oh man, it feels like I have to say this every time I meet more than one dog.

Turns out I have a picture that was taken of me and my puppy the night after I experienced that anecdote above.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:06 PM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

My little dog knows what a quiet, gentle "that's enough" means and stops licking the couch when I say it, even if I'm across the room and there's noisy guests. We don't use a stern voice with him because he takes it so much to heart when he gets told off that he might never lick anything ever again.

Meanwhile you could be shouting "NO!" at the big dog while hauling him away from whatever garbage he's trying to eat, and he'll just look at you vaguely as if he's not sure you said anything.
posted by harriet vane at 4:41 AM on August 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

« Older “globally unique monuments to Victorian science...   |   Noah's Hark! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments