Home Opinion My secret for talking to dogs

My secret for talking to dogs


It’s no secret that I love dogs.

I love dogs, and I don’t have one right now because, traveling as much as my husband, Peter, and I do, having a dog makes no sense. We know this. We have discussed this. There are times I would like to have a dog so much it makes my heart hurt. And then I realize how easy it is to get on a plane without worrying about the welfare of a dog, and I know we have—at least for now—made the right decision.

And so my solution is to talk to other people’s dogs.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who talks to dogs on my daily walk. I’d be surprised, however, if anyone was more enthusiastic about it. I am also (if I say so myself) very good at it. This is because I have a secret method for talking to dogs.

I start before the dog (and their person) have even met me on the sidewalk. I see them coming, and I make a little noise. It is my secret little dog call. It is a high little squeak, and every dog can hear it, and most of their owners cannot. This little noise gives me my edge.

The dog is alert. “That person is talking to me!” the dog says. It looks at me closely. If it has ears that go up, they are at attention.

“What a sweet pup!” I then say, loud enough for the owner to hear. There is almost no one who does not like to hear they have a sweet pup.

I imagine every one of these pups has been something less than sweet at some time or another (maybe just last night), and the owner of that dog appreciates a total stranger — with no investment in the matter whatsoever — confirming their bias that this is an obviously special dog, a dog well worth any trouble they might have caused.

At this point, since the dog and I have already been having a conversation and the owner is now looking at me, most dogs figure I am “a friend.” If their owner was nervous around me or disinterested, some of them would pretend they were disinterested as well. But once their owner confirms that I am “a friend,” the dog almost always rushes over to become better acquainted.

I try not to hold them up too long. I don’t stop runners because that seems rude. But most people strolling along with their dog don’t seem to mind me scratching their dog’s ears and maybe getting a dog kiss.

If the conversation is going well, I sometimes learn the dog’s name. Learning his name is Barney extends our meet-and-greet time because then I get to say, “Oh, Barney! What do you think of this weather?”

Barney is even more delighted because not only am I “a friend,” I am “a friend who knows his name!” which is the very best kind. This seems to work equally well in English and Spanish, in the city or hiking through the woods.

Then I say goodbye, and I always thank the owner for sharing their dog. I go on my way, and I am aware — right there on my walk — that I feel better than I did before I met that dog. My heart is lighter. My step is quicker. My day, even if it was good already, has just improved.

So that is my secret for talking to dogs. It is also the secret to being a little bit happier every day.

Till next time,


Carrie Classon’s memoirs can be found at carrieclasson.com.