"the bloggers' post"

Conversations with the Dog

In blogging on January 24, 2010 at 2:36 pm

A Lesson in Language

Dog on Keyboard Using Headset

This isn't Roscoe but you get the picture

I’m sitting on the couch blogging away, and then I hear the clinging sound of my dog Roscoe’s water bowl. Without really thinking I put down the laptop, and go to the kitchen to refill it. I suddenly realized that my dog has effectively turned the tables on Pavlov’s research. I am now the conditioned subject, and my dog is the bell ringer.

This role reversal made me think of how challenging communication can be in a new language or on a new medium. I instantly thought of the fear that many people have expressed to me recently about social media. The fear is the fear of being misinterpreted by their audience because they don’t know how to speak the language.

I think this fear is justified as I am sure we all have experienced a misinterpretation on something we know well like email. This is why in talking to other business owners about their social media efforts I often get this visceral reaction that is similar to disgust. The fact is that these really bright people, who know their subject really well, don’t want to have to relearn and manage a new form of messaging.

Even though I pride myself on my ability to understand other languages and on speaking I felt this way when I began blogging, but like any new language you have to be willing to sound like an idiot before you’ll be fluent. This is especially true for me because blogging is newer for me and grammar is not my strong suit.

The lesson

While I continue to blog and hopefully learn to properly get my audience engaged in conversations I’m going to start paying more attention to crafting my message carefully. Because the truth is that messaging is all around us in all types of mediums with all types of people, and crafting messages on any medium becomes easier if we act as the receiver of the message first.

The reality is that we don’t want just any audience. We want an audience of our peers, of like-minded people, and of people who will appreciate the message. This makes life easier because you are essentially crafting a message to yourself. If your message is done with that in mind, then you are likely to reduce the possibilities of misinterpretations.

So spend some time reading what others have written, how they tweet, how they blog, etc… Being the listener will allow you to learn the etiquette as you’ll quickly become aware of what messages are reaching you and which ones are failing miserably.

My dog Roscoe has clearly got his message that he wants water, and his medium which is the clanging of the empty bowl down cold. The message clearly hit its intended audience effectively. He is clearly a brilliant communicator. Or, perhaps he has brilliantly conditioned me because if he doesn’t get his water I run the risk of pissing him off, and I really can’t afford to see my wife lose another pair of shoes.



  1. I Don’t havee a dog, but i do find your reaction to your dogs demands, illustrates a bigger picture ot the intelligence of canines

  2. Wow! Maybe Bow Wow! I have also been conditioned by my cat of ten or more years now. She knows how to get me to wake up before the dang alarm by swishing her tail near my face, pawing at my leg, or plunking herself on my tummy so that I have the need to get up to pee earlier than otherwise!

    Then, she sits in front of her “feeding station” and points her nose at exactly what she wants (sometimes fresh water, sometimes dry food, sometimes the canned food, sometimes treats). All are in separate places. And if I screw up, she glares at me until I do right for her!

    My priority upon waking is to stumble to the kitchen and get the coffee brewing. My cat believes otherwise. She makes weird noises as I grind the beans. She gets some sort of “cattitude” posture and glares at me like I’m some sort of selfish being for doing the coffee before doing whatever she needs!

    As soon as the coffee is started to brew, then it is time to tend to this maniac cat of mine!

    I so agree that the precious animals in our lives have ways of “training” us, their “owners” as such. We do not “own” our pets, we are in their lives in some sort of special way. And they are in our lives in some sort of special way as well. There are no accidents!


  3. It is amazing how we can communicate with our dogs. Although we don’t speak the same language, I’m sure I can communicate more efficiently with my dog than with many other people.
    That makes me think of all those new communication tools that every now and then appear in our lives, such as twitter, blogs and facebook. You can send your message instantly, to millions of people, with a click of a mouse. But since “with a great power comes a great responsibility”, you gotta make sure that this message, as simple as it is, as Roscoe’s clinging, is going to reach the right people with the right impact. Otherwise, you risk being misunderstood in much higher proportions.

    Great topic! Good job Marty!

    • Thanks Renan, I like the idea that there is great responsibility with our message. I feel like the more care we take in communicating to each other the more we get from the communication in our lives.

  4. Cute blog and good example.

  5. Nicely stated Marty….I am very impressed with the entire blog site……great entry above……

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