Monthly Archives: September 2006

Dogs Talking Using Gestures

Teaching dogs to communicate using body gestures. This is useful for enhancing communication with animals, giving companion and service dogs the ability to tell us what they sense. This revolutionary approach to animal communication will occur in Monterey this Oct, Nov, and Dec seminars, workshops, and booksigning will occur at Hartnell College and Monterey, Ca area. Check out for details. Amazon release booksigning will occur for AnimalSign TO You: Imagine! Signing is NOT just for primates anymore in November.

Sean Senechal

Dogs as Language Learners

As a teacher (of humans) I’m always thinking about how to better teach students who are language learners, new to the English language. As a teacher of dogs I also think about how to better teach language (voice and sign) to dogs. Our humans have tremendous access to language training, but our dogs have little. They must listen to our speech, our body language, much not directed at them, and learn. For the most part other than obedience and related classes they are on their own.

I aim to change that, to have people view dogs as potential (productive) language learners. We already know that Koko has learned to sign. ( Dogs should be given that chance as well. I do this by teaching dogs to sign, using AnimalSign, K9Sign, etc. We leave our dogs illiterate! Though they do have natural gestures, vocalizations (much recently discovered), they have the potential for more, if we taught them (as we teach our human kids).

How can you get started?
1. talk to your dog, as you would your child, tell them ‘that’s a TREE’, ‘that is a DOOR’
2. keep a journal of the gestures they make, the body moves (understood or not).
3. listen to the sounds, the nuances of those sounds, the facial expressions
4. use their gestures to talk to them, bark, move your limbs.
5. show them pictures, books, as you would a baby.
6. for more info you can go to my seminars, workshops or read my upcoming book…as well.check events page for Oct/Nov events.

On pictures, Bonnie Bergin from ADI has written a book about Teaching dogs to read!

Animal Perception and Training

I keep track of research where animals are expected to communicate. Dogs are asked to sit, to alert, to push, etc. to indicate they have sensed something. My passion is dealing with teaching them to communicate in detail by signing using a structured-made for their body-language.

Recent work at Berkeley indicates that puppies with just weeks of training can communicate that they sensed a particular odor in breath. That odor was specific to lung cancer. They did this over 98% of the time and they never misdiagnosed (false positive). The remarkable aspect of the study was not just they could sense the specific odor, but that these were just plain puppies with simple obedience skills and it took a few weeks. They were not specially bred dogs.

This really opens up so much for dogs and people. Imagine a class where dogs get ‘health training’ where they learn to sniff various diseases for their owner. I can see that supplementing current diagnostics.

I’m investigating diabetics having their own dogs detect low blood sugar or high blood sugar. This can be done with specially trained dogs, but imagine training your own dog to do this!