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My Dog-English Dictionary

What do these strange gestures mean?

I know there are a lot of you out there, who have trouble understanding your dog. Especially when it comes to the behavior he displays and the gestures he makes. That use to be the case with me and Happy, my Golden Retriever. For instance, when he use to raise his paw, with the 1st and 4th nail higher than the rest, I would take him outside-quickly. Now, I know, it means he wants me to put on some Metallica. 

Hap has a bunch of things like that: the head-cock, the bark, standing-up, that took me years to interpret correctly. Even lying on his side, spinning and making a high-pitched sound took 6 months. What does this mean? It means that Happy is still allowed to watch The Three Stooges. Just not the ones featuring Curly.

Patch Readers, are you still confused by the odd things your dog does? Maybe explaining my retriever's behavior, will help you really 'get' your own dog.

Jumping Up: There are times when Happy (and perhaps your pup) comes over to me, jumps up and insists that I take his paws. I use to think this meant he was one of those dogs who was just born to dance. And seeing Hap's smile when I put on "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," just confirmed this.

Lately, though, I realized, that when a dog does this, he's trying to get a closer look and make sure you're not a dangerous person. This sense of worry and insecurity, makes me appreciate my dog even better now. And the fact that I no longer have to dress up like one of the Andrew Sisters, makes him appreciate me even better, too.

Chasing His Tail: I've had so many different takes on why my dog chases his tail and never catches it. Sometimes, I think he's mocking the fruitless pursuit that is my life; that this is simply him, making a metaphor. But I tested this out once, and Happy doesn't know the difference between a metaphor and a simile. Only the difference between a metaphor and a Snausage. However, just lately, I've been told that the tail-chasing is one manifestation of a dog's OCD. And the fact that Hap's tail looks like a Beggin' Strip is just coincidence.

Now, a little tip. Don't try to define the term "manifestation" to your dog. Unless you have a day to kill.

The Howling: A couple of times a year, my dog will throw his head back and howl like a coyote. Which is kind of amusing. Until you see 6 coyotes gathered on your lawn, like an animal version of the Crips and the Bloods.

Why does my dog (or yours) make this howling sound? Looking it up, I found that canines make this noise when they are lonely, when they don't like their surroundings, or when another dog howls nearby. I have found no real solution to my dog's chilling, unholy squall. Except, I am hoping, soon, to add bass and drums to it. Don't laugh. This is exactly how Led Zeppelin started.

Shake!: Sometimes, my dog sits down in front of me and gives me one paw, then the other, again and again. About 15 times in a row. I keep thinking this must be a sign of real love. Either that, or in a past life, he was a Three Card Monty player.

Is there a third choice? Yes, apparently.

When your pup constantly shoves his mits at you, it's a 'dominance' thing. He or she is saying, 'stay there, love me, do what I say!' So it's a funny thing, but not quite as affectionate as you might think. Still, leather-clad dogs in New York City, charge their customers a fortune for this sort of 'discipline.' So, if it's free? That's something, at least.

Stealing: In my house, lots of stuff is constantly disappearing. Weird, valueless things, like trolls, pens and CDs by Matchbox 20. I eventually find these objects in the bizarro places my dog has hidden them. Why does he do such nutty stuff? I had to look this up, too.

Apparently, dogs can't differentiate between paper money and old socks. Which makes it clear that they are good souls. And also makes it clear why, if you ever open a store, you shouldn't make them cashier.

There's not much you can do about this act of pilferage. Just don't start taking on the value system of your dog, if you can help it. Don't believe me? Just go to Dunkin' Donuts sometime and try paying with a couple of Milk Bones. I did this once, on a confused day. It was bad enough having to wash all those dishes. But the way they laughed at me? I don't think I'll ever quite get over it.

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