Among people who work with dogs for a living, it is not unusual to use familiar expressions with a slight dog twist. For example, we might say, “I’ll cross my paws for you,” if someone is hoping to get an offer accepted on a house or if they are waiting for news from a medical test. On the “paw” theme, a response to someone’s request to meet with me just as I have arrived in the office might be, “Sure, let’s talk. Just give me a few minutes to get my paws on the ground.” This is not said with any attempt to be amusing or to make a point. It’s just a way to convey information in an understandable way.
Besides modifying common phrases, the behavior of dogs, which we all understand, allows for descriptions of people and situations with a kind of shorthand. For example, years ago a friend of mine was dating a man named Scott who gave her a gift that didn’t quite suit her and helped her to realize that HE didn’t quite suit her. It was a jacket that said “Scott’s girlfriend.” When she told me, “I’m surprised he didn’t just lift his leg and pee on me,” it was just another way to express that she found him to be too possessive.
What expressions do you use among your doggy friends and colleagues that you might not use with the population at large?
Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.