We got our dog yesterday, a German Sheppard puppy, two months old. It's parents are big, its feet are big, and it is already bigger than many of the local dogs. The dog's name is Shaq. He can already intimidate people, standing his ground and barking. He doesn't back up. He's mastered the command "sit" and will soon fill out his vocabulary with heel, lay down, up, down, stay, come, sic 'em, and kill.
He'll be invited to practice his last word, and skill, on people who drop in without notifying us ahead of time. Or the snakes that slither in at night through the water drainage channels.
He has his vaccinations.
I grew up with these dogs. In the States they are commonly referred to as "police dogs" because they are so popular with police departments. They are smart, discern threats well, are aggressive if necessary, have a good nose and are good with kids and people in general. They only bark when there is cause.
Now before I train the dog, I have to train up the wife on what a civilized dog is all about. The dogs around the Philippines are different. Their main purpose is to dispose of garbage. They are seldom tended to, have zero vocabulary, almost never see veterinarians, are seldom bathed, are generally laden and suffering with fleas, often have mangy skin diseases, and once in a while end up on a poor family's dinner plate. They breed like rabbits, having intercourse in the middle of the road or even in the school yard, and there is no pedigree except multiple cross-breed mutt.
Their entertainment is to kill motorcyclists by darting out onto the National Highway and getting run over.
They are not exactly the smartest dogs in the universe.
Here's what my first lesson for the wife went like:
"Babe, Shaq is a real dog. If you treat him right, become his friend and master, he will die for you. He will get between you and any threat. He will sacrifice himself to protect you."
She put down her fork and gave me her full attention.
"But you can't treat him like a 'thing", or even like an animal. You need to treat him better than most Filipinos treat their kids. (She knows I dislike deadbeat fathers who abandon their kids, mothers who pass their kids off to other people, the general lack of nurturing that is common in the Philippines, and taking advantage of kids by making them give money to the family)."
"He must be bathed regularly, fed nutritious foods, given proper vaccinations, and given lots of affection. Affection is the key. The dog will express affection, too. When he gives gentle bites, he is playing, as he would with a brother or sister. When he licks your hand or arm, he is kissing you. Let him express affection. Don't tell him 'no' when he licks you. He is doing all that he can do to show you that he loves you."
She stopped frowning.
Only you and I are allowed to train the dog. We don't want your brothers or mama or anyone else giving mixed messages or sloppy discipline to the dog. And we want to preserve our place as masters.
She nodded and said "okay".
"Spend time with the dog. Just sit with him. Talk to him. Pet him, aggressively. You must let him know that you are the master dog."
"That's all for today."
She smiled and picked up her fork.