Downeast Dog News

Ask Bammy, an Advice Column for Dogs by a Dog

Mar 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 adoptive 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: askbammy@tidewater.


Dear Bammy,

I am just an old Labrador Retriever. A new puppy has come to our den. She is the sweetest thing! She licks my nose and chases my tail and climbs all over me when I lie down. I love to play tug with her, very gently, of course. Nothing gentle about her, though! She grabs my ear with her sharp little teeth and shakes it. My tail has thick hair so her teeth don’t hurt, but she hangs on and runs back and forth, making me walk in a zig-zag.

I don’t use my voice much – just a bark to come in, but this little smarty makes all kinds of noises, and I don’t know what she’s talking about! Sometimes she yaps as if she’s mad at me, but I don’t know what I’ve done to upset her. She growls when we play tug, and she growls before she yaps at me, but they sound alike to me. Might she be making body talk that I don’t notice? I love this puppy, and I get so sorry when she’s cross and I don’t know what I’ve done.

Worried Lab


Dear Worried,

You poor retrievers! You are so loving and patient that you think every dog is like you. I’m guessing that your new pack-mate is not a retriever. I bet she says a lot of body talk that some retrievers wouldn’t notice. You surely know that when she goes down on her elbows with her rump up in the air, she’s asking you to play. In fact, even humans understand it and call it a “play-bow.” What you and humans may not know is it also means “come.” One of my friends fell though the ice. It was really thin ice and shallow water, so he got out okay, but I was so scared, I ran up and down the shore, bowing like crazy to tell him to come out of the water.

You know that a wagging tail usually means friendly, happy, eager. But be careful to notice HOW it wags. If the tail is stiffly up and wagging quick, short wags, back off! The wagger is nervous about something. If your puppy does that, maybe you are too close to her food dish, or she doesn’t want to share her toy. Pay attention to her eyes and ears, too. If her eyes are way wide open, so the whites show, and her ears are stiff – back off. If you think the tail wag is an invitation, but it’s a tight, nervous wag, and she’s standing stiffly on her tip-toes, be careful. If you bounce up to her to play, she may yap at you, or even give a little warning snap.

I know retrievers are so loving and easy-going they want to think every dog is just the same. But try, Worried Lab, to slow down and notice the little things your friend is saying to you.

And love that puppy!