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Can Dogs Talk To Each Other?

wolves
(Image: Getty Images)

We’ve all been told that communication is the secret to a good relationship, right? That truth is not just for humans. Animals must maintain close relationships in order for the species to survive as well. While there are millions of species that we still need to learn more about we have become very good at at least getting to know other mammals. Dogs are some of our most well known mammalian friends, but what do we know about how they communicate? Can dogs talk to each other? Listen to this Question Your World radio report produced by the Science Museum of Virginia to find out.

Wolves and dogs have been very important to us humans. The domestication of dogs from wolves helped us structure hunting, provided company for long journeys, playmates for our kids, and offered us a sense of security out in the wild. As we have become more acclimated with dogs in our day to day lives we have collectively slowly started to lose track of wolves in the wild. While humanity and wolves no longer have the same relationship they once had, we still must keep an eye on these amazing creatures. What better way to know how they’re doing than to literally understand their language.

Scientists concerned with dwindling wolf populations have decided to learn more about their communications to better know what they are howling to one another. Their distant howls could be a window into their movements, hunting patterns, distress calls, pack calls, and beyond. In order to know what they’re saying scientists had to figure out what to listen for in the first place.

In a recent study from the University of Cambridge took into account a massive howling survey and produced some pretty amazing results. A planet-wide study of over 2,000 howls were collected for this research. This would cover wolf, jackal, domesticated dogs, and other canine populations from around the globe, including scanning YouTube for clips of domesticated dogs. All of these sounds were then uploaded into a computer to objectively classify these sounds. An algorithm was used to take these 2,000 sounds and categorize them into 21 distinct styles of communications. In other words, they observed doggie dialects!

This research concluded that species more or less have their own style of communications, but occasionally cross species chatter happens as well. There are many instances where the cross-species communications could lead to cross breading, one of the factors involved in tracking over all populations. Knowing these dialects will also allow researchers to better understand wolves in the wild. These animals are very hard to track in the wild and their communication patterns could be a big insight into why they are on the move, if there is alarm, and various other factors which would allow conservationists to track and protect these animals.

Wolves and other canines are not the only animals to display dialects or have defined languages. Over the years we’ve observed how many monkeys, whales, dolphins, elephants, and other mammals communicate to one another and the world around them. The better understanding of another animals language may also help us better understand how we started the use of language too. The ability to converse with one another is something that we share with a variety of other animals. After all, being social creatures without the ability to communicate would be pretty...ruff.