how to speak dog: introduction and lesson #1

The first in a series to help you better communicate with your canine Friends.


Welcome!  I am assuming you have come to this page because you are interested in dogs and wish to learn how better to understand and converse with them.  What you’ll learn in this and future installments is derived from my upcoming young adult science fiction novel, Lost Dogs (to be published in Summer, 2014).  So let’s get started, shall we?



While dogs obviously do not possess the intelligence and extensive vocabulary of humans, they nevertheless communicate with each other, their human companions, and with other creatures.  When communicating among themselves, most dogs use non-verbal means, many of which very subtle and often go unnoticed by humans.  Lifting a paw, tilting the head, or swiveling an ear can convey as much information as a human sentence.  As one might imagine, a great deal of communication among dogs is through scents, either by marking areas with urine or by emitting odors through glands, stool, and saliva.


When communicating with humans and other species, such as cats, dogs often resort to the vocalizations we are familiar with: barks, growls, whines, moans, etc.  Each of these may be made a number of ways and have different meanings.  For example, a dog may wuff once, softly, to express concern; this noise is quite different from the loud, rapid-fire barks that the same dog will use when someone knocks at the front door.    


Communication among humans can be verbose and superfluous, or intricate and very specific: as an example, think of how many different words there are in the English language for a human: man, woman, boy, girl, adult, child, person, individual, etc.  Dog communication is much simpler, shorter, more direct, and the “words” dogs use are usually descriptive.  To a dog, any human—young or old, male or female, black or white, owner or stranger—is a Belonging. Any other dog—regardless of breed or size—is a Friend.


Dogs also have their own words for things and concepts that humans have no understanding of.  Such is the case with our first lesson.





Lesson #1: Ulunii

This morning, I chanced to look out my window at the snow that fell last night.  Thus, we shall learn the canine word, ulunii.


Ulunii (oo-LUN-ee)  noun  1.  The scent or odor of snow; adjective 1.  Having a scent or odor like that of snow


Here is an example of how ulunii is used:


Sometimes, when the Everything is cold, there’s a White that falls and covers the ground.  The White smells ulunii, and sticks to trees and cars and the roofs of houses and to Buddy’s fur and feet.  When it comes, Rob and Genn bundle Audrey in extra clothes, and they go Out into the White, and Buddy comes with them, because he likes to play the Chasing in it.  


You might object, “But snow has no scent!”  And you would be partially correct: snow has virtually no odor that humans can detect.  But compared to dogs and their sense of smell, we are earthworms trying to discern the subtle hues of an Impressionist painting.  Like everything tangible (and many things intangible), snow has a scent that dogs can appreciate.


So what does snow smell like to dogs?  For me to attempt to describe ulunii to you in terms you could understand would be like trying to describe a new primary color.  Trouble yourself not: merely recognize that many dogs enjoy snow, not only for how it looks and feels and tastes, but also for its wonderful, unique, ulunii fragrance.


I hope you have enjoyed this lesson.  Please see other lessons in this series:



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4 Responses to how to speak dog: introduction and lesson #1

  1. Kelli Heyns says:

    This is a very fun direction you are going and I know my grandson will love it also. Thanks – k

  2. Thanks! How old is your grandson?

  3. donesrom says:

    haha I like this.. But hey, its not like am trying to oppose you or anything, but when you mention about dogs seeing humans as belongings, well I thought they saw their owners as pack members and that is why whenever a stranger comes they bark to alert the pack members(humans). If the pack members do not respond that is when it attacks to protect the pack. Dog psychology. I stand to be corrected though.

  4. Donesrom, I can’t really get into it now without revealing spoilers, but suffice to say that the relationship between dogs and humans is at the core of the novel–and may surprise you. 😉