Downeast Dog News

Ask Bammy

Hand Signals
By Nancy Holmes | Aug 01, 2020

I am a Carolina Dog, a breed that long ago owned Native American people. We were designed by natural selection to be so intelligent and physically superior that we survived without human help. My great-grandfather was caught from the wild. I can offer advice based on the natural instincts and attributes of wild dogs. In addition, my adopted person and I have had lots of training classes and other experiences. Some humans call themselves Mom or Dad of their dog, but I refer to my human, tongue in cheek, as Boss. Much as I love her, I admit she has many of the same odd notions as most humans, so I can relate to other dogs with problem humans. If I can’t help, at least I can offer sympathy, and we can have some fun talking about our amazing humans. Please send your questions! N. Holmes, 280 Pond Rd., Newcastle, ME 04553, or email:


Dear Bammy,

I am an old Golden Retriever. I know I’m old because Mom keeps telling people that I can’t hear because I’m old. I think I can still hear pretty well, specially the sound of dog food kibbles pattering into the dish. Mom says I don’t hear cars coming up the driveway, but why should I? No one bad has ever come up the driveway, so why waste my energy? If they knock on the door, of course I go greet them. That is my job, not barking at every car I hear. They’ve been telling me for years not to bark, so that’s that.

The funny thing is that Mom has started waving her hands around while she uses words I know. When she wants me to get off the sofa, she points to the floor. I look down to see if there’s something to eat, but there isn’t. So she points to the floor and says, “Down!” I’m already lying down, so I just look bored. Then she pulls me off the sofa by my collar.

When the kids tell me to come, or bring the ball, their voices are kind of mumbly or screechy, so I just guess what they want. It’s pretty obvious when we play ball. And I understand when they shout something and run into the woods. I’m leading the way in three strides.

I think we’re getting along fine, so why does she keep waving her hands around when she wants me to come or stay back or lie down? Does your person do that? What should I do?




Dear Goldybell,

The same thing is happening around here, except that Boss has always used her hands to talk to me. Sort of like the tail she doesn’t have. When I was a little puppy, she taught me to sit, by holding a treat just over my eyes, so I had to look up and back to see it. Sitting down was the easiest way to reach the treat. Same thing lying down. She held the treat under her hand on the floor. I couldn’t get it by pawing at it, so I lay down and pushed my nose under her fingers. I learned pretty fast to hit the deck to get that treat, plus a bonus one.

Lying down on command is my least favorite thing. She holds her hand out flat in the air and waits. I can see there’s no treat there. I always hope she’ll change her mind, but she never does, so I give a complaining whine and slowly sink down.

Then there is “come.” I love to run to her and celebrate that we are together. But I often need to finish sniffing something before I come. Or I wait, hoping she’ll change her mind. When I was little, she just said “Bammy!” in an excited voice and started to run away. Being her puppy, I ran after her and got play or treats.

The new hand signal has me puzzled. (If you are puzzled, it gives you a little more time to sniff.) She faces me and sort of flutters her hands up in the air. I stand and look at her as if she’s crazy, so she calls me at the same time, or even pretends to run away. But I know nothing bad will happen if I finish sniffing before I join her. I guess you and I and our humans will get it figured out eventually. In the meantime, take your sniffing time before you obey.

Let’s keep our priorities straight, Old Goldiebell!