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June 6, 2007

I think I need talking points. You know, those repeatable phrases that politicians use. I especially need them for situations when know-it-all observers feel compelled to give me dog training advice. These are not true handlers, but regular lawn-ornament-style dog owners who think they know best. For example …

We took Lilly with us to some garage sales last weekend. She’s always very excited to get out of the car. Sometimes, if she’s particularly keyed up, she’ll leap as high as my head — over and over. She doesn’t jump on me. Just up, in my general vicinity. I sometimes catch her mid-air and say, “Ooph, you got me.” It’s a little game we play.

As she hopped her way across the street last Saturday, a woman bellowed at me from her lawn chair, “Kneeing her in the chest or stepping on her rear toes will stop that.”

Uh, yeah, it probably would, but how much damage would I do to our trust?

I wanted to say something snotty back, but intead I explained that she was a very shy dog and that I wasn’t about to squelch any signs of pure joy. Plus, I added, she’s an agility dog … jumping is part of her training.

Apparently, I said it with enough authority because her next question was, “Do you train dogs?”

“Nope, just this one,” I said. And, I moved on.

People comment on Lilly’s jumping all the time, but it’s usually of the “Boy, she sure can jump” variety. One dad in a mall parking lot even asked me if I could get her to do it again because his toddler thought it was hilarious and could not stop laughing. And, there’s nothing funnier than a baby cracking up.

Granted, if Lilly jumps unexpectedly, she’s been known to give me a fat lip or even a bloody nose in her excitement, but I’m still not going to correct what’s become a stress-relieving strategy for her. I call it “jumping her jitters out,” like that Wiggles song.

“I’m gonna jump, jump, jump my jitters out. Jump, jump, jump my jitters out.”

So, here’s my thought … when an average person decides to give me dog training advice, like I’m an idiot, I may start saying, “She’s a performance dog, not a pet. The rules are different.”

When people marvel at Lilly’s attention and obedience with “I wish my dog was that good,” I may start saying, “It’s not magic. It’s hard work.”

When people ask how hold she is, like she’s a youngster, I may start saying, “She’s 3, but we still train every day.”

When people ask if I’m a dog trainer (which happens a lot), rather than saying “No,” I may start saying “Yes, I’m a performance dog handler. Here’s the name and number of my coach. Like any sport, it requires practice.”

I’d love to hear any ideas you have on good replies to the enumerable, nutty things people say and ask about your very special pooch.

About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. Snappy Comebacks, Part Deux

    Early last summer, I mused about zingers I could use when people say weird things to me
    about Lilly or my training methods. Well, maybe it’s the warmish weather, but it’s happening again. …

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