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Dog Language Vs. People Talk


We understand dogs better than we do most humans because animals have no voice with which to mislead us and their body language is genuine.


January 23, 2023 |

Col. Sam Harper, Dogsport Reconnaissance


I was a “spotter” which meant I depended on sensory perception as much as eyesight to know when there was danger. We all have that “6th sense” but in our tight-packed society, it can become diminished.



So OK, we may not read people as well these days but even a ‘city boy’ gets the message when a bull shakes his head, warning him with horns he thinks he still has…


Well, my daughter was just swindled by a friend she trusted and to whom she loaned a significant amount of money. When she came to me for emotional support, I had to wonder what’s happened to our ability to read each other? It wasn’t that hard to train men in my division, they got that a 6th sense could mean the difference between victory or death.



So even a guy who has never seen an elephant instinctively understands its body language. He knows what a raised trunk and flared ears means. But think about this. We humans have learned deceit. A “big-city” guy can usually spot a would-be assailant whereas the suburban nice-neighborhood dweller is an easy target.



More than language, it is a matter of perspective. In India you might watch around for an elephant whereas in Vietnam you look UP for the poisonous “green snake” that will drop on you from a tree.


The phrase “concrete jungle” comes to mind because it feels like that today. We are supposed to be “civilized” but some people seem to have regressed. We have related with each other since we stood upright but I don’t think humans were as cunning and dishonest as we are today. Only a thousand years later, we can’t be sure of friend or foe and we don’t even speak the same language.


It occurs to me that might be why we were given dogs. They read body language like we read a book.


Yankee, Southerner, Chinese or Vietnamese, we’re all humans so we should be able to understand each other’s body language and intentions, right? WRONG! We have learned how to hide intent and what we are thinking. More to my point, nice people haven’t kept pace with what some humans have become.


That cost my kid a nice bit of money but way more important, those precious photos she carried in her wallet are gone. What bothers me most is that she “"never saw it coming.” Her senses failed her. She is quick as a whip but we have become so civilized that we’ve lost some of our most basic instincts.



It doesn’t matter what language we speak because when I was in service I saw that patrol dogs read body language not words. Smiling as I type this, thinking about one of our dog handlers who had a Texas drawl that would wreck a tank. We teased him that any scent would be gone before his command to the dog got said.


Looking back though, it was amazing how much those dogs understood and I swear, sometimes they laughed at our jokes. My point is that those scout dogs saved lives because we learned THEIR body language.


So what about the guy that is just walking towards you on the sidewalk? He’s saying nothing. You and your dog have passed a dozen people and suddenly, your dog is on alert, watching that person. As a spotter I read what’s real and I see that humans seem to have lost some of our ability to sense danger through body language.


That is why people get robbed or worse every day.


Hey guys, my advice to you even if you are a pro fighter or a big body-builder, get a dog and keep it close. A dog may not speak your language but he sure can speak for you! And hey, he’ll never hit on you for a loan. EST 2002 © Jan. 2023



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