AnimalSign BLOG

The AnimalSign Blog presenting the interesting events and information on animals learning new ways to communicate to enrich their lives. Benefits for humans and animals: service, assistance, therapy, companion, working, sporting, and zoo animals. Starts July, 2014.

K9Sign – Foundation Class Workshop in Aptos. Spotlight on benefits of K9Sign for dogs themselves

At the Aptos Grange in Ca. the K9Sign foundation class workshop just completed. Many interesting people and dogs attended, all committed to enhanced relationships with each other. A trainer from a shelter, a dog walker, a mold detection expert, an environmentalist, and someone in biotech attended. Dogs were of various kinds: terrier, Border collie, Husky, and Aussie.

People and dogs learned how to create additional ways to communicate, building on the dogs natural communications. Starlight, my Border collie demonstrated Food, Chicken, Toy, Frisby. She also demonstrated each step of how a dog learns to sign ‘WATER.’

Dogs learned to sign Food, Toy, and observed the Water sign in action. One person wanted to teach their dog different signs for different molds (to help in the business), an other person wanted their dog to sign ‘Thank you.’

In the past at workshops I go over the benefits of signing to humans and dogs. Today, I had a new one to mention. I’ve proposed how dogs can detect cancer in humans, and that they could surely learn and communicate detected cancer in other dogs–not just humans.

I speak about how dogs can learn to tell you where they hurt or feel sensations. I’ve practiced that with Chal, my GS dog on several occasions when she had pain. Today, at this workshop, I could say that dogs not only can tell you where they hurt, the ailing spot could be cancerous. Dogs can detect cancer in themselves and Chal did just that last week. She told me where she hurt, and the spot had a cancerous cyst (on the mammary gland).
Had she not done so, it might have taken me weeks or months to have spotted the problem.

I’d like to share this with others for the dogs, for the people. I’ll be holding workshops to show others how to teach their dogs to indicate pain, discomfort, sensations, etc. I will plan one in April in Monterey or Santa Cruz county. This will be in honor of Chal, to raise funds for her expensive treatment. Once the (tax deductible donated) funds in the CHAL FUND at reaches $5000K we can schedule the surgery.

Dog Communicates Location of Her Own Cancer

German Shepherd, Chal A K9Signer, Discovers Her Own Cancer

Amazing events occurred last week at AnimalSign Center. Chal my 8-year old German Shepherd K9Signer, had been limping. I couldn’t tell where her pain was, she didn’t seem sensitive on her leg or foot. So I asked her to lay down and signed to her to tell me ‘Where’s Your Ouch?’ I wanted to be able to tell the vet when we were to go in the next week. We had worked on this K9Sign before…when she had an anal gland infection (opportunity for learning). She learned how to tell me where that pain was. So I fully expected her to generalize the skill and tap the region of her leg where pain was hurting her. She didn’t! Instead, Chal kept pointing to her right lower nipple area. She would tap it, then look back up at me, and sometimes lick it. It might have irritated her, itching perhaps. I listened to her response and checked it. There was a strangely shaped nipple and a little bump near it. Surely it was cancer just like the left-sided cancer lump I discovered a few years before. At that time I had all the left-sided glands completely removed. (Staff and her doctors Akol and Metelman at Pacific Veterinary Specialists were terrific. Her surgeon Metelman was meticulous. Chal recovered very well with no complications.) I immediately called the vet clinic to make our appt sooner to check this new cyst.

The next day I realized that that Chal had actually used K9Sign to tell me where her pain/cancer was! All the K9Signing together over the years now proved life-saving for her! Working dogs with their intelligence, skill, and sense of smell, help other species–people. Now, Chal had the communication tools to help herself – her own species! Now, it is up to me research and find a way to get her full complete treatment be it surgery, chemotherapy, medications, and whatever she needs for her hind limping (probably a hip/knee problem).

Cancer treatment will need to be fast (to be successful) to reward her for communicating so well. She has so much more to offer dogs and people as the first K9Signer – the canine ambassador promoting respect for canine communication!”

She is an amazing dog: she knows sign language-how to recognize it and sign it herself. I taught her to USE K9Sign since she was one year old. We experimented for years, finally settling on a group of K9Signs, followed by custom K9Signs (ones she creates, I refine, and reinforce).

Many people ask me ‘Can dogs tell you where they hurt?’ You bet they can, especially with some practice (people practice too). Chal communicated where she hurt, leading to the discovery of her own cancer.

In order to find a way to get this treated quickly I called Carie from the They opened a CHAL FUND that accepts tax deductible DONATIONS for Chal’s treatment. We are hoping to gain the funds by March 25 so Chal can have surgery as soon as possible—March 28th as goal. Time is important when dealing with cancer, it can spread.
Please help her get the surgery to save her life. She has so much more work to do to help other dogs and people expand their relationship, and learn how to sign themselves.

*To help go to the CHAL FUND at Peace of Mind Dog Rescue. Write in the MEMO field donation for the ‘CHAL FUND.’ To schedule surgery the fund has to reach at least $5000, followed by more for the chemo, meds, hip/knee treatment, etc.).

*We will be tracking Chal’s progress on

*We will post on how we will keep Chal mentally stimulated while she’s in rehab….K9Signing and K9Tapping. Watch her and use what works for you while your pets are rehabilitating!

See Chal K9Sign in response to
‘Where’s Your Ouch?’ (along with other K9Signs).

The AnimalSigner

AnimalSign Workshops in Beaverton, OR – helping animals and people communicate in new ways!

Mid October Amber at ForwardStride Barn ( hosted (with Laurel’s help) both dog K9Sign and horse EquineSign workshops. It was fun and rewarding for all of the humans (myself included) and the animals. Landing in the Portland airport was a blast. I enjoyed fabulous food, sampled great coffee, and interesting shops. I see why the Portland Airport is considered one of the best in the nation. Arriving at the barn, I saw the beautiful landscape of Beaverton.

I enjoyed meeting everyone, with very diverse personalities, business women, artists, adolescents, horsewomen, and more. Participants (riders, trainers, volunteers, supporters) came from various locations, 2 flew in from Washington, one was planning a science project for school on this ‘AnimalSigning’. Several were barn members, volunteers, and riders. A few trailered their horses in from their home. All wanted better communication with their animals. And that they got!

There were several companion dogs, the barn dog, some dogs previously trained for service for blind people, each with distinct personalities. All were very interesting and had cool stories to tell of their relationships with their dogs and horses. Some dogs had interesting stories to tell as well. We listened!

During the dog class one black lab dog kept trying to communicate something to us (and to another dog), initially we tried to quiet him. But we soon realized that he was really communicating something special. So, his communication became part of the class lesson. The dog really wanted to be with another black lab, but his behavior was atypical. He let out a unique vocalization that his person hadn’t heard before. So, with the other dog’s person she logically traced his history and figured out what he was saying. It turns out that the black lab had been school mates (at a dog’s for the blind school) with another black lab in the class. When we figured out what he was saying (and why he so wanted to play with his previous buddy) we gave him time to do so. We reinforced and labelled that sound as his word for ‘FRIEND’. (Of course, he already knew that, WE had to realize it.) Now that his person knows that, the next he makes that sound, she’ll reinforce it, and know what he is saying. Simple!

AnimalSign is the umbrella term that includes signing, gesturing, vocalizing, tapping, touching as a means of communications (beyond natural). We work with the form of communication dogs prefer. Though the class was focused on gesturing, we had the opportunity to work with the some surprize gestures and vocalizations, thanks to the friendship of two dogs. Signing on the spot!

There were companion, service, and therapy animals of all sizes. Each day we started with the human learning part of the workshops. That is most of the work. People gained insight into what communication is really all about, and how once you have improved it with your animal, life gets easier for both of you. We covered basics of conditioning and feedback and practiced skills.

Fascinating watching each dog learn to sign Food, Toy, or Water! Each animal’s learning curve was unique. People took delight in observing the dogs thinking and learning style. Everyone learned something! I was thrilled with the learning progress of people and animals.

The next day, we moved on to horses. We started with the ‘Shhh’ human sign to calm the horses. We taught the horses to understand the sign YES! (followed by reward). Then we began to teach Food, and some horses Carrot and Apple. The horses learned very fast, and all were VERY interested in the new interaction. One horse became more centered after apparently realizing this ‘game’ involved taking turns. Another horse offered the signs for Food, Apple, and Carrot sign on his own. Everyone showed off and was proud of the progress their partners made.

Finally, I taught everyone the necessary human sign ‘LATER’ to be used when the animals decide tbey really get what we were doing (encouraging them to communicate). Surely, the animals will be communicating (all too often) that they want Food, Food, and more Food. They must do so politely and do need to learn limits, too.

A few people requested techniques for improving bad behavior (a horse with rider diving for grass). I offered ideas on how AnimalSign can be used to improve behavior through communication! I’ll do that in person on the next trip. We’ll be planning another round of beginner workshops, and follow-up classes and private lessons on my next trips. They’ve only JUST begun to communicate!

After the workshop, I was tired, thrilled, and off to the airport for a nice dinner and reflection on the fulfilling weekend helping people and animals connect in new ways.

Thank you and you are very welcome! See you soon!

The AnimalSigner!
Sean Senechal

DogSigning at Border’s in Santa Cruz, Ca

Chal K9Signs BOOK and Sean and Chal present.

GS Chal and I presented a dog and book K9Signing demonstration in downtown Santa Cruz, at Border’s bookstore 8-21. Many people listened and made comments as I discussed my book Dogs Can Sign, Too. Chal signed food, chicken, liver, ball, toy, frisby, human and practiced her K9Sign for DOG.

Two other dogs came to the event. One was a lab hearing dog, Seaton, a student of mine. Chal and Seaton liked each other, and they both signed in sync as I asked them what different foods were. Before Seaton showed up, Chal was just of normal energy, but once she saw/sniffed him, she was energized and ready to show off. I took the opportunity to work more with her on the K9Sign DOG. ‘Is DOG,’ I said, as I pointed to Seaton. Then I molded her left hind to touch her right hind. I asked her ‘What’s that?’ pointing to Seaton, and Chal lifted her hind left leg toward her right. Good job! I let her then sniff him as the reward.

As we wrapped up, several people leaving from the demo told people in the mall about how they must see this signing dog, Chal. So as we were about to leave another group came in to see this signing dog. So, we unpacked and presented another round of signing. One person had a puppy that Chal was very interested in. She mothered the puppy well. At one point when the puppy nibbled her nose, Chal was not happy and educated the pup to not do that. Then, Chal wanted to sniff and play again with the pup, who was a bit more careful. Good lesson.

By the time we were done, about 30 very interested people had seen Chal sign. I hope I convinced them of the value of teaching dogs to communicate to us. We spend much time being sure we can communicate what we want to them, teaching them sport, companion, or work tasks. We should help them be more ‘literate’ with respect to the canine potential (which still needs to be examined more deeply). (Not literate as we humans are, of course.) It is about time we also focus on helping them communicate more (than they already do) to us–in a way we can understand and that they enjoy.

Our next event will be at Border’s in Palo Alto in the fall, then off to Portland, OR for workshops for horses and dogs.

The AnimalSigner

Therapy K9Sign Dog Chal visits classroom


GS Chal and I visited a wonderful classroom full of delightful children in Gilroy, Ca. She and I K9Signed to each other and the class. We showed how dogs can communicate and how people and dogs should treat each other – politely. Chal demonstrated many signs, then let each student come up, ask to pet her, then petted her gently.
It was a hot day, so Chal asked/signed for WATER. But, mostly she wanted CHICKEN, which she signed often–even behind my back. Chal was comfortable in class, and the kids were also comfortable with her. We hope we showed the students how to behave around dogs and how well-behaved they can be.
We’ll be visiting more classrooms this fall.

Border’s in Sand City

Book and K9Sign Event at Border’s Bookstore in Sand City, Ca. happened last Saturday, July 10th, 2010. Chal greeted many domestic and foreign people, both adults and kids. She sat next to one child who was reading a book. Chal signed Food, Water, Frisby, Toy, Ball, Liver, Chicken, Human, Animal, and more.
I explained the idea of teaching dogs to communicate, so we can understand each other better. By the time we were done, we’d talked or signed with about 30 people. Chal was tired and took a nap.

Chal and Sean at Signing.