A to Z Challenge: U is for Understand

A dog comes with many rewards, some of which I touched on in the post here. But it also comes with many frustrations. Of all the frustrations, I think the biggest one is the inability for spoken communication. I am a linguist by trade and language is one of my passions. It frustrates me greatly that I cannot speak to QQ and Chyler. That we do not understand each other so many, many times.

Naturally there are many ways we communicate outside of the spoken language. When QQ licks my face frantically at night to wake me up, I know it means he needs to pee. When Chyler makes her high pitched squeals and pulls towards a certain direction, I know it means she saw a squirrel.

We succeeded in teaching QQ many tricks with both English and Mandarin Chinese commands. With the right command, he knows to sit, to stay, down, give us his paw, the weave around our legs in a figure 8, to hold a treat on his snout. Both Chyler and QQ know the command to go potty, and they understand that if we say “No” very firmly, that we want them to stop doing whatever they are doing immediately (whether they listen is another matter altogether).

In addition, many times, it’s not the words spoken but the tone that communicates the message. It’s true for us (dogs can totally tell between a half-hearted “No” and a this-is-the-final-straw “No”) and it’s also true for the dogs. A whine can communicate sadness from parting, frustration from us taking too long to groom them, excitement that we are arriving at a destination or even pain. It might sound the same but the difference is distinct.

But these doesn’t help when we really want to communicate with them. There are so many questions and so many things we want to explain to them. The communication barrier makes it so difficult for us to understand what each other is thinking.


I have no idea what’s going inside this pretty little head.

When QQ fractured his tooth, I really want to know if he is in pain. He doesn’t act like he was, but the dentist said he was sure QQ was feeling pain, but it’s not in his nature to show it. A friend who is a vet once told me that there are many things we don’t know about dogs – do they experience headaches? chest pains? We don’t know, because they can’t tell us about it. By the time we do find out, it’s usually too late.


I would give anything to know what she’s thinking.

With Chyler, I want to ask so much about what she experienced. Why was she so afraid of going into the garage when we first adopted her? Why does she shy away when someone steps near? Did she had a family that abandoned her? Or was she just lost and never found? What happened to her that made her what she is now?

I want to explain to them that there’s no need to be sad when we drop them off at the daycare, that we will never abandon them and will always be there to pick them up.

It’s so frustrating that we cannot speak and communicate. That we cannot simply talk. That there’s so many things in their little heads that we will never know.

I’ve actually gotten so frustrated that I decided to try animal communicators. I’ve tried three animal communicators so far, and to be honest, I’m still on the fence about them. They never could give me the answers I wanted. Many of what they said are very generic.

I guess I would have to accept the fact that the dogs and I will never speak the same spoken language. We have other forms of communication, and it may not be enough. There are things about them that I will never know. But of all the things I do know, I know that they love us. They love us so much and they show it is so many different ways. And I know that they know we love them too. And that is enough.


2 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge: U is for Understand

  1. Our dogs may not always understand my words (although they do have a big vocabulary), but they understand tone of voice and body language. The other night, I wasn’t very happy with my boyfriend, but I lied and said that I was fine. He knew that I wasn’t because my energy impacted our dogs – they knew the truth. Can’t get anything past a dog.

    • Smart dogs! Yes, I agree dogs understand tone of voice and body language. But that’s still limited for some form of communication, and I guess that’s what I’m occasionally frustrated with.

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