Adam Ed­wards If only our dogs could talk

A queru­lous head is dog chat for “You’re bonkers if you think I’m go­ing to jump over that dry stone wall”

Cotswold Life - - INSIDE - Adam Ed­wards con­tact adampotlick­ @cotswold­hack

This is dog coun­try. If there is a sin­gle crea­ture that per­son­i­fies our hills (with the ob­vi­ous ex­cep­tion of the sheep) it is the mutt. It can be found on ev­ery ram­ble and in ev­ery ru­ral house­hold. It is the idle ruler of the Cotswold roost, a cur that is waited on by courtiers who tickle and toi­let it. Above all it is above crit­i­cism, as any vis­i­tor to a house with dogs will at­test. It will bark, jump, push its nose in your crutch, trip you, lick you and dom­i­nate the con­ver­sa­tion and yet no cen­sure of it is al­lowed. It is, like the Queen and Harry Kane, above im­peach­ment.

This despo­tism by the bark­ing to those of us with­out a Rover is try­ing in the ex­treme. A dog, say the dog­less, should be at the bot­tom not the top of the food chain. It should not have spe­cial treat­ment, spe­cial food or in par­tic­u­lar a spe­cial seat with an em­broi­dered cush­ion that reads “If you want the best seat in the house just ask the dog to move”. (My friend Christo­pher, for ex­am­ple, re­cently bought a Maserati and then swapped the car a month later for a four-door model, los­ing many thou­sands of pounds in the process, be­cause he didn’t think the back seat in the sports va­ri­ety lux­u­ri­ous enough for his ag­ing black Labrador.)

Now there is worse news for those of who be­lieve that the dog is al­ready too tyran­ni­cal. Sci­en­tists have found ‘strong ev­i­dence’ that dogs ‘talk’. Re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Sal­ford in Greater Man­ches­ter have spent months film­ing scores of dogs with their own­ers to find out what the pooches’ sig­nals and ges­tures ac­tu­ally mean and con­cluded that dogs have “cross-species com­mu­ni­ca­tion; a lex­i­con de­vised purely for the com­mu­ni­ca­tion with hu­mans”.

You may be sur­prised to learn that that the aca­demics have dis­cov­ered that a dog rolling on its back “is ask­ing for its tummy to be scratched” and that if it rushes to where its lead hangs “it is ask­ing to be taken for a walk”. The sci­en­tists also fer­reted out the in­for­ma­tion that jump­ing, turn­ing its head, lift­ing a paw, rub­bing a nose, lick­ing and flick­ing a toy in front of peo­ple is dog speak for “I’m hun­gry”. The re­search, which was pub­lished in the jour­nal An­i­mal Cog­ni­tion, sur­mised “It ap­pears that most of the time the ob­ject of in­ter­est was their food bowl”.

This study, de­spite hav­ing all the worth of a turd on a freshly mown lawn, does not, in my opin­ion, go far enough. Af­ter all if dogs can ‘speak’ with hu­man be­ings, pre­sum­ably they can also em­brace re­gional vari­a­tions in cross-com­mu­ni­ca­tion. So, for ex­am­ple, a Ge­ordie whip­pet that wid­dles on a pair of train­ers may not, in fact, be taken short but rather be ask­ing to go to the flap­ping track, while the whine of May­fair Chi­huahua may be less an in­di­ca­tion that it has had enough filet mignon and more that it wishes to lounge in its mis­tress’s crocodile skin Birkin hand­bag.

This be­ing the case I have de­cided, de­spite not hav­ing a PHD in an­i­mal be­hav­iour from the Univer­sity of Sal­ford, to con­duct my own ex­ten­sive study of the spoiled Cotswold dog and taken the black Labrador as my spec­i­men an­i­mal. I have af­ter many years of re­search come to the fol­low­ing con­clu­sions. Jump­ing up on its hind legs to greet a vis­i­tor is its way of ex­plain­ing to which so­cial drawer the guest be­longs (the higher the grander). Nestling its nose in the crutch of a pair of cor­duroys is Black Lab speak for “I’m not go­ing for a walk with you in those red trousers”. Lift­ing its leg against the rear wheel of a brand new black Range Rover says “I’d pre­fer to travel in a white Nis­san Navara pick-up” while a queru­lous head is chat for “you must be bonkers if you think I’m go­ing to jump over that dry stone wall”. Dis­ap­pear­ing dur­ing a shoot is its way of say­ing “bloody hu­man”, while run­ning off in the op­po­site di­rec­tion while bark­ing means “you shoot birds I chase rab­bits”. Rolling over on the hearth is an in­di­ca­tion that it would like an­other log on the open fire. A paw tap on an owner’s knee dur­ing lunch is a re­quest to slip the mutt an­other or­ganic Dayles­ford sausage, while fol­low­ing a host around with a wag­ging tail dur­ing a drinks party says “bung us a Waitrose nib­ble”. Mean­while, ly­ing on the sofa with closed eyes and fart­ing for Eng­land is, quite sim­ply, dog speak for “sod off”.

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