TBHB&I: Part III “Do you wanna…?”

Arwen knows quite a few words – or depending on your perspective in relation to how much animals understand – she certainly connects certain words with certain things or actions. Her favorite words are Food or Foods, Treat, Walk, and Licky (meaning some dish or pot to lick). These words she knows very well.

She also knows some words that she often pretends not to know: ‘Stay’ means anything from “Remain in the immediate vicinity” to “Are you kidding I’m chasing a rabbit right now”; ‘Stop’ has similar responses; and ‘No,’ is most often ignored completely, though she certainly does seem to know its general meaning because she will hang her head and look guilty after the infraction is complete.

However, probably her most favorite set of words (Yes! She does seem to understand a phrase and even a sentence) is “Do you wanna…”

The immediate effect of saying “Do you wanna…” is a lifting of her head and a perking up of her ears. Now as a golden retriever/black lab mix her ears never really reach ‘full staff,’ but ‘half staff’ (see picture below) is her way of saying, “I’m definitely interested in what is coming next. And the reason she is interested is because the vast majority of time the words “Do you wanna…” are followed by something good: ‘go for a walk,’ ‘have a treat,’ ‘go for a ride’ and so on. [One of the antitheses of this is “Do you wanna bath;” not her favorite activity.]

Not only does she decipher the “Do you wanna…,” she knows what follows as well. So that “go for a walk,” which is one of her most favorite activities means she heads for the door (if inside) and the gate (if outside). “Do you wanna go for a ride,” typically results in her heading for the gate as well since the truck is outside. However if I say, ““Do you wanna go for a ride in the car,” she knows to head for the garage.

Now when we say “Do you wanna go for a walk,” I imagine to Arwen it comes out as sort-of “Doyahwanna….fweygfsdjg…walk?” She’s got the beginning and the end and she knows what that refers to.

Well, guess what? That really difficult person in your life knows how to get your ears to perk up too. Unfortunately what they focus in on are the triggers (words, actions, etc.) that set you off – in other words they push your button(s). And they are VERY good at it.

So the moral of this little story is to take some time and begin to understand the triggers that ‘get to you.’ The better we understand those little buttons they push, the better a chance we have to remain in control (Remember – one of the ‘Seven Keys to Understanding and Working with People’ is ‘Self-control’). Plus, it confuses the hell out of them when you don’t react to their button-pushing.

‘Do you wanna…’ be frustrated all the time because that idiot out there knows how to get to you?

Nah! You’d probably rather have a treat.


Joe Koob


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