DANCES WITH WORDS: You can do it - with love

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Nick Wolochatiuk

Dogs are sure-fire conversation starters. If you have a dog, or if you see a person with a dog, there is a protocol that allows a friendly conversation to begin. One must start by saying things like, “Hi! What’s your name? Do you speak to strangers? Are you off for a little walk? My name is Nick, what’s yours?” Of course, those initial utterances are to be directed to the dog, not to the person at the upper end of the leash.

To show you really are a dog lover, prostrate yourself in front of the dog, indicating submissiveness and friendliness. Extend the palm of the hand as an invitation to have it licked.

When I was registering at a Lewiston, New York motel, I heard a dog barking furiously behind the manager’s door. “It doesn’t like strangers”, he explained.

“Just let me say hello”, I pleaded. Reluctantly the manager opened the door. I took the submissive position and extended the palm of my hand. I talked softly to the dog, asking him a few questions. Within a few minutes, the dog snuggled itself under my armpit, embraced by my arm and licking the palm of my hand. The manager and his wife stared: “Would you look at that! He’s never done that before”.

For the remaining three days of our stay at the motel, I was introduced as ‘the guy who talks to dogs’.    

Almost every farm has a ferocious guard dog whose job is to challenge any stranger. When I come to a stop at a farmhouse, I crank open the truck’s window. The dog confronts me with bared teeth and loud growls.

In reply, I say, “Hi there! What’s your name? Where’s the boss? Sit, sit, sit… Good boy! Stay! Good boy! Okay, come, come here! Good boy!” That’s when the palm is extended. After the ritualistic licking has been done, I proceed to the barn, friendly dog at my side, wagging his tail vigorously.

Using that procedure, I’ve invariably been able to stop these dogs in their tracks.

To train your new puppy, Rule Number One is “Master eats first”. No begging at the table, no exceptions. Just say, “Nothing for dogs”. Reward comes after the master’s uninterrupted meal is finished.

Be consistent, insistent and persistent. That applies to teaching students and rearing your own children.

Speak to the dog frequently. Explain what you are doing or what you are about to do. Give reassurance (i.e. “I’ll be back”), and when you do come back, say, “See! I came back.” Don’t attempt to indicate when you’ll be back. Dogs can’t tell what the clock time is (digital or analog); ‘9:30’ means nothing to them, but they do know when it’s time for something (i.e. bed, walk, supper, ride…)    

If you learn to speak dog, you’ll have a friend for life. Hey! Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day. Take your little friend out for a walk. If you don’t have one, look for someone who’s out with their little friend. Start off with something like, “Hi! My name is Nick…”

Geographic location: Lewiston, New York

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