My dog is a nuisance, albeit an adorable one. I’ve had a lot of dogs in my life, but none so obstinate. She is the raw material waiting to be turned into a book someday, when we will laugh about all the couch cushions she’s eaten, all the times she’s kicked me out of bed, and all the tail chasing. But for now, she is Kelly, destroyer of things. She is the smart dog that knows only one command, sit, but who somehow knows how to open and close doors, her kennel, and kitchen cabinets. I’ve tried yelling, she just barks louder. I’ve tried smacking her nose, she just sneezes and goes back to misbehaving. I’ve tried a spray bottle, she thinks that’s the best game there is.
I was at a loss until a small glimmer of hope shone on the horizon. Having read the amazing book, Water for Elephants in which communication across language barriers proves difficult, I had to wonder if maybe she was just too smart for her own good, and, having learned commands in another language before I got her (she’s a pound dog), she simply didn’t speak English. Armed with this hope, I began working with her in Spanish. I assumed that was probably the most likely language that she would know commands with, and my parents actually have a dog that only responded to Spanish commands for years after they got him. But alas, that didn’t work at all. So here I was shouting “silenco, perro!” to a dog that did not habla español. So I went back to dire resignation. The dog guides online said that the tail chasing was just a sign of Doggy OCD; however, I didn’t believe that for the simple fact that she is always wrecking orderly things, and it just didn’t seem fair to me that she would have a really annoying OCD habit awhile neglecting all the ones that would be convenient to me.
But last night, I was once again hopeful. I was watching X Men, First Class again, and Kevin Bacon, the Nazi, began shouting in German while my dog was trying desperately to steal my apple. I’m one of those people who accidentally picks up accents and language without meaning to, so instead of a firm “NO!” I ended up saying, “Nein!” Imagine my shock when she stumbled back and sat on her haunches, her head cocked the way dogs do when they say, “What the hell?” So I said “sitzen” when she stood again, and once more she dropped without complaint. When I said, “bleiben” and walked out the door, she stayed where she was, and when I said, “Komme sie hier,” she came, which has never happened before. I had nearly exhausted my German vocabulary, but I learned something about my dog. She speaks German.
It makes perfect sense now that I think of it. There’s a fair-sized population of people living around here who speak primarily German. I met a family of Mennonites (they had 12 kids!) several years ago, and that’s the only language they spoke.
So now that I know that my dog just doesn’t speak English, we are going to have to take a different approach to our training.
First of all, I need to learn some more German. The only German I know comes from World War II movies. I don’t think “Wo sind die Nazis?,” which I’m fairly certain means “Where are the Nazis?,” will help much, unless my dog is a Nazi hunter.
The language barrier also could explain why, after weeks of working on shake, my dog decided it meant that she should play dead. Well, then again, maybe she’s just stupid but resourceful. Perhaps all her manipulation and apparent contemplation is just my anthropomorphic and optimistic view of her.