Dog Names

Kavi on Snow

Dogs use names. They know their own name. They know each other’s names as I use them and they have names for each other that are used by all of the pack. They even have a name for me. Katya, ever the verbal, uses their name for me the most. My name sounds like she’s gargling rocks. If I really stretch my listening I realize that is how her vocal tract produces my English name of Wa-l-t-er. Their vocal track is a bit different than ours so some things come out with a strong canine accent. They’ll use this when they want my attention. When I ask what they’ll explain the details such as wanting to go through the door, food, water, pig out, raven/crow, coyotes about, etc.

Some names in dog also sounds a bit like how we say them but it is more of a howl. They use it to announce when someone’s coming home. They also call the UPS driver by name. Not his name but the company name. It comes out as Ooo-hack. Sorry but I can’t pronounce the last bit. I think they’re trying to mimic my calling him U-P-S which I pronounce as OOPS! but something got lost in translation since they can’t do P’s and I can’t do their closest equivelant consonant.

Lili’s name in Wolfish is a very fast chatter click of teeth – all the dogs use the same name for her quite clearly. However, I have a sneaking suspicious that this is actually a title of rank rather than her name. Our mutual pidgin is not good enough for me to ask for clarification of this fine detail of language but Lili’s mother had the same name when she was the Alpha female as did her mother Tika. It was not until some time after Kia died that others began to call Lili Click-click-click-clack. The torch had passed.

Speaking of titles, the dogs have another call they use for me which I think means something like “Commander-on-Deck!” It is an announcement and call to that they pass back and forth when I show up. This is distinctly different from the passed back and forth calls of the hunt, of the mailwoman and other songs. Speaking of the mailwoman, Annie, who delivers our mail, likes to get our dogs howling and she realized one day that they’ll mimic back to her with their throaty accents. She now howls out “I love you!” and Kavi howls it right back at her quite clearly. Annie gets a big kick out of that.

In addition to titles and individual names the dogs have general classification names too. They have a clear word for pig, both in their own language and in our pidgin sign language where they call the pigs by the word Nose-to-the-Ground”. Piglets they call “Baby” Nose-to-the-ground by prepending the sign Little. The ferrets they call the “Little People” and they use the same class name for our house ferrets as for the wild ermine who they tend to not hunt but rather watch with fascination. The house ferrets they clearly consider pets, asking in the evening for them to be brought out to play.

I use group names such as “Male Dogs”, “All Dogs” and such. For example I might say “Male Dogs Out” to send forth all the males. They recognize this as being distinct from “All Dogs Out” or “Hanno and Kavi Out”. Another common use is “Dogs Stay Out, Romula In” in which case all the dogs back off except Romula who then passes through the gate.

Dogs can count, they can communicate, they do set theory which makes sense with their hunting skills that translates to herding teamwork. Predators who work in teams need to be able to discuss the business of the day. We name things so that we can talk about them. The dogs use a lot of names and talk a lot. Much of their conversation goes right past me but I pickup tid-bits here and there, especially if they want me to understand.

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Communicating Complexities
Bilingual Dogs
Speaker for the Dogs
Dog Names

Outdoors: 24°F/-8°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 56°F/52°F

Daily Spark: Don’t have your friends at your back – keep them at 120° angles. Way of the Wolf

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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6 Responses to Dog Names

  1. Farmerbob1 says:

    In the second image, the adult dog appears either startled or annoyed. The neck ruff seems to be fluffed out a bit, the head held low to protect the neck, and it looks like they are turning their hindquarters away from the camera and their front quarters toward the camera in order to face the camera directly with their torso lined up behind their head. The front paws are at almost 90 degrees to the back paws.

    Was this picture taken by a visitor to the farm, or were you teasing them about their speech impediment? Or, perhaps, there was some verbal discipline going on?

    Normally your dogs seem content, intent, or busy. I rarely see them appear irritated and defensive. Or am I misreading the body language here?

    • Hmm… I think it is more capturing a tiny instant. The one thing you’re missing is the tail position. He’s using the submissive form since he is turning to me. They had been playing and I called their names to get them to turn and face the camera for the photo. They know I do something with the camera although I’m not sure if they understand about still pictures. They do understand about video as that has motion and sound. They do have large manes, larger than I’ve seen on almost any canine perhaps. I can sink my hands deep into their manes. This thick, long double fur coat keeps them warm in our northern winters. This is a family trait and they can fluff their mane up to make themselves look a lot bigger as you noticed. Most of the mane is from the top of the skull down onto a cape on their shoulders but it travels down the length of their back to their tail. They look quite fearsome when they put it all up and flash their teeth.

  2. Petra says:

    I luv yor dogs walt! They are so magnificant!!!!! That they are all so intelligent is is just a wild card bonus on top of all that goodness! I wish i could meet them in person nose to nose. you have such a wonderful place to have a family to life. Something I never did. I work to hard and should take to time to smell the roses and garden and walk outside and have kids but that means having to find a guy that likes all those things. Its a hard order. P.V.

  3. Peter says:

    Walter you really need to do more video, this is a great example where said would really flesh out the post. The only way I can relate to it is seeing Mishka the Talking Husky on YouTube, since I don’t have a dog myself (allergies, and frankly I have enough financial stuff going on that I can’t justify a dog to my kids even if was hypoallergenic). :-)

  4. Julia says:

    Hey, is that a new puppy? From yours, or from where?

  5. Karen says:

    This is a great post for me who has always wondered*how the dogs indicate each other to you. Do they use your names for them, or their own? They have more language than the popular conception of cavemen…. I am very impressed with their combining words to create a new designation. Humans are usually around 2 years old before they make any but the simplest word combinations (“get down,” “no juice,” etc. ) “Little pig” is actually more complex than that semantically.

    *found your blog in 2009 or so while researching chicken coop designs but have always been fascinated by your beautiful dogs.

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