Adam Edwards: Ah, if only they could speak
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
A querulous head is dog chat for “You’re bonkers if you think I’m going to jump over that dry stone wall”
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 dog-less, 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”.
For more from Adam Edwards, follow him on Twitter! @cotswoldhack