19 Dachshund gestures and what they mean, according to science

A new study analyzes dachshund-owner videos and discovers the meanings behind 19 things a dachshund does.

It’s not quite the canine brain-to-speech interface collar worn by Doug in the movie Up,— “Today is the best day of my life. I love you.”—but it’s not bad. A new study has identified 19 gestures performed by household dachshunds and figured out what they usually mean. It’s all about something scientists call “referential signaling.” Such signaling is believed to be rare in the animal kingdom, though great apes in captivity have been shown to be impressively adept at it. This new research focused on pet pooches “due to their unique relationship with humans that centers on non-verbal communication with frequent interaction,” and as the first non-primates thus studied.


Referential signaling

When a human baby points at something he or she wants, that’s referential signaling, and it’s considered a key event in speech development.

For something to qualify as a referential gesture, it has to meet five requirements:

1. It has to be a request involving an object or a part of the signaler’s body.
2. It’s “mechanically ineffective,” which means the action doesn’t accomplish anything beyond being a gesture.
3. It’s directed at a receiver, such as in the case of dachshunds, an owner.
4. Its meaning can be taught via repetition to the receiver, who eventually fulfills the request being made.
5. It must be intentional, with the signaler waiting for the desired response after the gesture, and then perhaps amplifying it with additional gestures.

How the study worked

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