Huw Le Lytle answers all your questions in his column of wit and wisdom, For the Asking!
Huw’s for the asking!
BY Huw Le Lytle
In today’s questions …
Accents, Barks, and Other Remarks
Q: Dear Huw, do dogs have accents?
– Fred, Liverpool, UK
A: Dear Fred, that is such an interesting question. In fact, studies have shown that we do indeed start to sound like the humans with whom we spend all our time. So we develop all sorts of accents, right down to the detailed differences in regional accents. Things like pitch, tone, volume, and even the duration of sounds are the sorts of things that we incorporate into our own voices. And if we feel especially close to our human, then the influence of their accent on ours will be even more pronounced. So Howard, Jeff and I probably all bark with Welsh accents. But after spending three years with Human, I may have lost a little of my Welsh whimsy.
And funnily enough, studies also seem to show that we try to copy a lot more about our humans too, like behaviour, especially if we love our human. So if you have an agitated and worried human, you may be an agitated and worried dog. It seems the old adage is true – do really try to be the human your dog would love you to be.
But it seems to me that this just confirms what everyone already suspected. As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, said, “A dog reflects the family life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have dangerous ones.” I think there’s a lesson in there. Perhaps the law-makers should read some Sherlock Holmes and then they might look to the owners instead of the poor dogs when making their laws. Seems elementary to the rest of us.
And it’s not just accents. Researchers are now paying a lot more attention to our barks. We are not just copying, we are communicating. For a long time science thought it was just noise, but now studies are showing that of course our barks and other sounds are part of our language. We can tell the difference between barks of friends and barks of unfamiliar dogs, and we can recognise all our different friends according to their different barks. And barking also gives us useful information as well. It’s not just noise, as people have wrongly thought in the past, barking is communication. And in fact, feral dog populations have been found to bark only very rarely. It seems our barking is actually mostly about communicating with humans!
And let’s face it, all bark and no bite is what you want in any conversation!
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Categories: For the Asking