SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

July 12, 2013

Ask Dog Lady: Pooch finds comfort around dogs that speak its language

Ask Dog Lady
Monica Collins

---- — Dear Dog Lady,

I have a fantastic rescue dog, Haley, who lives with me and my family. I speak only Chinese to my parents and aunt in my household. Haley must know Chinese, too. When she meets dogs at the dog park or the street, she can become scared or aggressive. I have to stay right with her and try to keep her under control because she barks, growls or wants to hide behind me. But if the dogs are also from Chinese-speaking homes (and I ask), my dog is relaxed. She plays, sniffs freely and runs around. Does this make sense?

A: Haley must detect a cultural kinship with other dogs accustomed to life in Chinese-speaking homes. Presumably, you and the other owners do not converse in Chinese out in the dog park or on the street. So, Haley picks up the vibes from her four-legged kin. The only explanation is animal instinct, which is really the magic (Chinese: “moshu”) of dogs. They are incredibly sentient creatures with Buddha-like reserves of wisdom, knowledge and mystery.

Occasionally, when Haley is comfortable with another dog and you pop the Chinese question, the owner might tell you Mandarin plays no part in the household. This is your opportunity for a teachable moment. Reward Haley for being calm with another dog that has no Asian inclination.

Dear Dog Lady,

In my small suburban neighborhood, there are now three female blond Labrador retrievers named Piper, including my own. I once thought the name was as special as my dog. But it’s become a cliché. I would like to rename Piper to make her unique again. What name would you suggest?

A: Oh, you can rename her anything you want. But why would you want to? When you gave Piper the name, you thought it was a special moniker until the other Pipers moved in. You don’t accuse them of being copycats, but let’s assume they saw you out with your Piper and thought the name was the perfect fit. How about this solution? Attach the name “Pied” in front of “Piper” and call your darling “Pied Piper” because other blond Labs follow her.

Dear Dog Lady,

When we adopted our now 13-year-old mixed breed pooch, Cindy, she started biting anyone who came to visit. Our veterinarian thought she was trying to protect us because we were her new family. Here is what we decided to do: Train her. Every time she met a new person who came to our house, she had to sit down, lie down, roll over and let the new person scratch her belly. Then, the new person gave her a treat. She very quickly stopped her aggressive behavior and did what was expected of her to get the treat. Any variation of this will work because it distracts the pooch from biting and gives her something pleasurable to do when she meets a new person.

A: What great advice — for your dog, if not for Aunt Mabel. You’re a belly rubber after Dog Lady’s heart. With our dogs, after all, distraction is the mother of reinvention. If you want your pet to behave differently, you must offer an alternative course of action — and a reward (ie. treats, glorious treats). Good work and thanks so much for chiming in.

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