A smile or a tail wag; it’s your choice!

By Benny Huckleberry as told to Liz Hoffmann | Jul 19, 2019

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about communication, especially among humans. Based on my human, her human friends, and all the news that I hear on the radio, it sure seems that everyone communicates differently. Some humans speak clearly and in a calm voice, while others yell and scream. Some speak with a rhythmic and melodic cadence, while others pause and stutter. Some have one type of accent, while others have a different type of accent. Everyone is different, and so what they’re trying to communicate doesn’t necessarily come through loud and clear. That’s OK, but what’s puzzling to me is that most people assume that they will be completely understood the very first time they speak! And when they aren’t, they often feel frustrated and angry.

We dogs don’t have words, so we never assume that another dog or a human will understand us. While most of us have at least 19 well documented, distinct nonverbal gestures to communicate, we still don’t assume. Even with those 19 (and in combination so many more), things still aren’t always clear. We use these gestures to ask for food, toys, love and to go outside. I know my favorite is to put my snout on my human’s knee and gaze up at her. That’s an intimate gesture from me when I want love. I have trained her to pet my nose and head when I do that, and it works every time. Another one is when I sit next to my empty food bowl and look up at her with big, sad eyes. I just sit there quietly and wait. And while I find It is hard to be that patient, it’s so worth it. Since if I’m quiet and just keep staring, she will eventually break down and give me a biscuit. It’s been great to be able train her that way!

Beyond those types of gestures, to communicate with the general public, I’m a big tail wager. Tail wagging is the universal language for “Hello! I’m a friendly boy! Nice to see you!” I know that no matter who the other dog is, when we meet, he or she will always understand what my tail wagging means. So, I always lead every meeting on the street or at the dog park with a vigorous tail wag. It works just great and things get off to a wonderful start!

I think that among humans, a friendly smile might be very similar. It seems to be a universally understood way to communicate friendship, benevolence and “I’m happy to see you.” I notice that my human smiles at almost everyone, and I’m glad. However, her smiles are not always returned. When we go on walks and she smiles, some people turn away, other people give her a blank stare, and some people even look mad. Thankfully, those types of humans are few and far between and I’m grateful that most people smile back.

I also know that just like tail wags, smiles are free and easy to give. I do hope that for the non-smiling humans who may be having a hard time or are in pain, things get better. It would be great to see them return a smile sometime in the future. In my opinion, if at all possible, we should all try to go through life either wagging or smiling whenever we can. It just helps everyone.

With love and a tail wag for you, Benny H.

Comments (4)
Posted by: Elizabeth Hoffmann | Jul 21, 2019 10:09

Thank you Mary! Woof!

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jul 20, 2019 14:03

Wonderful!  Well read and well written!

Posted by: Elizabeth Hoffmann | Jul 20, 2019 12:27

Awww, thank you Pat! I'll tell him since he loves making humans happy :)

Posted by: Pat Putnam | Jul 20, 2019 08:00

I love this. Thanks Benny H. Good boy.

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