Esperanto is a ‘constructed’ language, created by Ludwig L. Zamenhof, a Polish doctor in the late 1800s.
To quote: It is the most appropriate language to eliminate language barriers and to allow international communication for everybody on a basis of mutual respect and understanding. The aim of Esperanto is not to replace the other languages but to be a “bridge” between different language communities.
Zamenhof’s aim was to create a language of communication that was neutral with the idea of creating a tolerant world, free from the horrors of war.
What has this to do with dogs?
Imagine two people who only know a few words in each other’s language. They have to make do with signing (at least they did, before technology provide instant translating via mobile phones). It’s very likely that one understands the other’s language better than the other or is expected to do most of the compromising.
Someone contacted me today with this message, and it got me thinking: ‘I have a Romanian rescue of about one year old. We have a huge issue with him in that when my partner goes to kitchen or comes into the bedroom he growls badly and shows his teeth and on two occasions he has actually bitten him. Then at all other times he loves my partner to bits’.
In the crucial months of this dog’s life he was on the streets.
Pet dogs are taught that some of the strange or rude (to a dog) things humans do, present no threat. A puppy that has missed out on this can only judge human behaviour by what would be acceptable from another dog.
Any contact this dog did have from humans will no doubt have been harsh.
So both these dogs and their humans need to learn ‘Dog-Esperanto’.
An example of unacceptable human behaviour: a human walks into a room and directly towards the dog, staring at him. He’s being friendly. BUT, If another dog approached like this it would be confrontational. Our dog would be scared and respond accordingly.
Another human example: A human puts a hand out to the dog. Worse still, tries to touch the top of the dog’s head. This would be would be very bad manners and possibly threatening to the dog.
An example of dog behaviour the human may not understand or even notice: The dog looks away and maybe licks his lips or yawns. The human ignores this so the dog may next show his teeth or growl. The human takes this as unprovoked aggression and continues doing whatever it was that prompted the response.
The dog may now bite.
The human may now become aggressive towards the dog.
How would ‘Dog Esperanto’ work?
The human would learn that a mutually understood way of approaching a dog would be not so direct and avoid hard eye contact.
The dog would learn that if he looked away the human would understand. He would then be able to relax.
If the dog growled, the human would understand he was only communicating his acute unease. The human would back off.
The dog would be given the opportunity to learn that hands only brought good things – food and fun.
A puppy living with kind humans from an early age would have learnt to accept the quirks in human behaviour that would be alien to a street, wild or feral dog.
A human living with and loving a puppy would make an effort to understand puppy language (hopefully).
If those crucial first few weeks have passed by before the dog comes to live with humans, the mutual language has to be learnt.
Not just by the dog. By the humans as well.
The dog, of course, is another species living in the human’s environment. It’s only right we should put in most of the effort to ‘read his language’.