What's in a name? Does it really define who you are?
When the red-haired girl and bearded guy brought me home, I had many names. She wanted to call me Murray and he wanted to call me Ashtray. So often times, she'd come home and call out for "Mr. Murray" and he would come home looking for "Tray." The word "cenicero" is actually "ashtray" in Spanish (a much cuter and less grotesque version, which the red-haired girl seemed to like) so a compromise was made and it stuck! (I can't say I'm thrilled about my namesake when I look at #cenicero on Instagram!)
I was called so many different things, that some would have found it confusing. Instead, I started to learn that when they started calling, I should just come running. Typically I was in for something good--like some food or some pets! What they actually called me didn't really matter. I learned quickly that this is how they were going to be communicating with me--by my name, by a series of "kitty, kitty, kitty," or even just their admirable attempts to meow and purr for my attention. They were talkers, that's for sure! Apparently it's a human thing!
The dogs, on the other hand, didn't call me anything, yet they knew how to get my attention. With just a simple look, I typically knew if I should come closer for some fun or go away (quickly!). That's where my understanding of communicating with dogs came from--learning how to talk without words. (I'm pretty sure cats also speak with each other in this way--however I've got no kitty friends, so I'm going to call it a "dog thing" :)
I too learned how to communicate without making a sound. With just a particular look from me, most dogs either step back with caution or come in for play--depending on what I'm asking for. It's all a silent conversation. Since they are here for training, some dogs don't seem to know these proper communication skills, and will ignore those conversations to come in too strong (whether it is in a friendly OR not-so-friendly way) leading to a pretty serious party foul. If they didn't notice my warning eyes and posture, typically I'll end up adding some meows of caution/warning to help them out. If they STILL can't read what I'm spelling out for them, they'll inevitably get a good swat and hiss for their offensive actions. After that initial surprise, they actually start to pay a lot more attention to what I'm saying. Now I can whisper to them and they hear me, instead of needing to scream! This can be a pretty big moment for these socially awkward dogs. Some do need a few repeats before they get it ;)
From my window, I can see my dogs having the same conversations outside in the yard with the training students. They'll come in too strong, too pushy, and they get snapped at. My guys and I are not being mean by laying down the law--we actually want them to learn how to be more aware, polite, and to really think about what they are doing! Communication is key--making the right choices are the difference between a pleasant conversation or a tense altercation. I bet these dogs didn't come here expecting to be schooled by a kitty, but now they are learning how to read 3 species--human, canine, AND feline. :) All in a days work!