Canine backtalk

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Anecdotally, some breeds do more of this sort of thing than others. What I'd like to know is what role such vocalizations play in canid social life in the "state of nature".

Update 10/27/2019:

This seems more like an adaptation of conventionally phatic howling —




  1. Philip Taylor said,

    October 25, 2019 @ 5:32 am

    Wonderful — still laughing. But what I did not realise until very recently is that cats do not "miaow" to/at each other (although of course they caterwall) — they miaow to/at to humans, as we all know, and the late Oscar (DSH) used to miaow to/at Cleo (a gentle border collie bitch with whom Oscar shared his home), but I would be interested to know to/at what other species cats miaow.

    [(myl) Maybe cats' miaows are a form of neoteny?]

  2. Mark P said,

    October 25, 2019 @ 7:07 am

    Our Husky-boxer mix does this a little, but not to us. It’s usually associated with some uncertain barking at something he’s suspicious about but isn’t sure warrants a full-out bark.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    October 25, 2019 @ 7:22 am

    Reminds me of the cadences, rhythms, and emphases displayed here:

    "Talking Twin Babies" – PART 2 – OFFICIAL VIDEO

    Mimicking the modulations and even "gestures" of human speech, but not the enunciations.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    October 25, 2019 @ 7:28 am

    The next stage of development is reached here (only by human babies):

    "Baby talk", part 2 (8/19/18) — with additional relevant posts in the "Readings" section at the end.

  5. Buzz79 said,

    October 25, 2019 @ 9:08 am

    Cooper, my German shepard/Pit bull mix does this. It comes up most often when he gets excited because he recognizes that I'm getting ready to take him for a walk. My previous dog Max, a Border collie, also did it occasionally when he was getting his first belly rub after I got home from work.

  6. Philip Taylor said,

    October 25, 2019 @ 9:08 am

    (MYL, neoteny) — It is by no means impossible, but my experience with Squeaker, my present cat, suggests otherwise, in that Squeaker could not miaow when she arrived (she adopted us as a kitten by sheltering under a plant fleece in the garden in mid-winter, squeaking for food but not revealing herself for a week) but only squeak, whence her name … She developed the ability to miaow only later in life.

  7. Laura Morland said,

    October 25, 2019 @ 9:09 am

    Maybe he's trying to tell her that she is not using "lay" and "lie" correctly?

    P.S. Our Siamese cat is a "backtalker," too. When you tell her "No!" she always miaows back in protest. (Although she does stop whatever it was she was not supposed to be doing.)

  8. Scott P. said,

    October 25, 2019 @ 10:16 am

    My feeling is cats meow in imitation of human speech, and because they learn humans respond to it. One of my cats meowed very little when I got her, but not meows a lot, because it gets her pets.

  9. Aaron said,

    October 25, 2019 @ 11:48 am

    Not long ago I was driving and heard an extraordinary noise coming from another car. As it passed me, I was able to see that there was a discontented husky in the back seat who was making exactly this sound. When I imitated the vocalisation to my wife later, she told me that in her experience all huskies do that, but rarely bark. I've been told that wolves rarely bark either, and that persistent barking (like persistent miaowing) is thought to be a learned behaviour to get the attention of humans. It seems to me that these funny husky sounds would command human attention just as well, but I don't know whether wild canids make them or not.

  10. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    October 26, 2019 @ 12:28 pm

    And some cats honk!

  11. Victor Mair said,

    October 27, 2019 @ 12:12 pm

    Remember these?

    "Barking roosters and crowing dogs" (2/18/18)

    "Annoyed dog responding to the Islamic 'Call to Prayer'"

  12. Jim said,

    October 29, 2019 @ 5:26 pm

    Cats seem to communicate at higher frequencies than we can hear — you sometimes catch the edge of a growl between my two, but the one lower on the totem pole definitely gets some messaging. (Telepathy would be the other option.)

    And thus, they probably *do* meow at each other, but we can't hear it. They artificially lower their register to communicate with us.

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