Written Jan. 2, 2009

Human language has its benefits and detriments.  On one hand, it is more sophisticated and can convey information that cannot be conveyed through body language.  On the other hand, it can leave open to misinterpretation what the communicator intends to convey.  Communication with a human often takes great patience on the part of a Newfoundland.  The signal is sent by the Newf, but the human fails to respond.  Clearly, in the eyes of our Newfoundlands, we are not the smartest creatures on the planet.  What we perceive as a subtle, almost indistinguishable change, they perceive with complete clarity.

Jade is a quick learner.  Using treats at this point only led to errors in results, but she is attentive and learns very well with praise.  She has been very “tuned-in,” and she even watches my reaction at times to discern which choice to make.  I try to oblige and encourage her attentiveness, and consider us fortunate.  When I used treats to reward her for going outside when she needed to, it took only two times for her to figure out that going outside meant getting a cookie and had nothing to do with why she was outside.  (And yes, the timing of the marker sound was good.  Treats worked well for this for Parker, but will serve their purpose better at a later point for Jade.)

Jade arrived here as a quiet girl, but Parker taught her from the beginning about vocalizations.  This is a specialty of Parker’s.  Now we have another baby wuki.  Perhaps she was only being quiet initially because of new surroundings, or maybe she learned this from Parker.  I have watched her observe him and mimic, and suspect the latter.  She learned how to make those unusual sounds that Parker enjoys, and she learned how to have a bark conversation and a bark argument.  She learned to bark when she wanted to go outside, or when she wanted anything.  Once again, language was impairing communication.  <g>

Then one night, I caught her trying to telepath the back door.  That was a clear communication.  She wanted it to open.  Good!  I took her outside quickly.  This was working pretty well, but you had to observe closely to make sure that her effort was reinforced.  Then I remembered something that Banker had taught me and jingled the flat chimes that hang over the back door knob.  Ever since then, over 10 years ago, the chimes have stayed on the back door knob.  Once maturity arrives, the chimes are no longer used.  The sound is noticeable but friendly and interesting.  Being a human with lapses in memory, I failed to do this the next couple of times, but remembered again in another day or two.  She has picked up on this and used the chimes twice now.  I hope it sticks – nice to have an audible communication when you are a human.

Since I learned well when she telepathed the back door, she has applied this technique to the “cookie pantry.”  She must think I’m getting better at this by now.  <g>

She has also learned that humans require a lot of patience.  I recognize this when I hear a certain sigh.  I hear that sigh from Parker when I have misplaced something again, or when he wants a cookie or wants to go outside, and I start his direction, but tell him “Just a minute – I need to do xxx first,” then start his direction again and think of one more thing . . .  Jade has learned that sigh, too.  Humans require a lot of patience from a good Newfoundland.

Whenever you bring a new puppy or adult into your home, the process of learning how to communicate begins.  Our communication methods will be in the process of refinement for a long time, part of the joy of the adventure, and each new relationship, of any kind, is a new adventure.  This adventure promises to be fun too.

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