The Landauer legacy in Border Collies goes back to the 1960s when my father’s older sister bought their youngest sister a border collie puppy for her twelfth birthday. The five older boys–whose job had been to chase off any ravenous teenaged suitors–were away at college and grandpa approved of the puppy as a distraction to keep Little Sister out of trouble and her mind off dating boys for as long as possible.
Of course the plan failed and when summer came a month later, Little Sister was too busy training teenaged boys to do her bidding and the puppy whom she had named Bongo was still peeing on the carpets. So the role of housebreaking the dog fell to my father who was just back from his Freshman year at college and whose head was filled with Dale Carnegie’s tips on how to make friends and influence people from his introductory Business classes.
Fundamental Techniques in Handling
- Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
- Given honest and sincere appreciation.
- Arouse in the
other personpuppy an eager want.
The 1960s were the era of rolled up news papers and rubbing the puppy’s face in their puddles, but my father knew intuitively that you can’t gain an animal’s trust by being mean to it, and “once you break their trust they never forget, so never break their trust.”
To this day, Dad won’t even psych the dogs out when throwing the ball. “It’s no great feat to trick a child or an animal, and all it proves to the dog is that you’re untrustworthy. If they don’t trust you to throw the ball when you tell them you’re throwing the ball, they won’t trust you when you call them back from getting hit by a car either. Throw the ball kid and stop tormenting the dog.”
Dad instilled an “eager want” in Bongo by withholding breakfast and feeding every morsel the dog ate out of his hand. My Dad was Bongo’s world and he made Bongo feel like he was the most important thing in my father’s world. And he was. Border Collies want to be your friend and they want to please you, all you have to do is show them how.
Be a Leader: How to Change
PeopleA Dog Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment
- Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
- Call attention to the dog’s mistakes indirectly. oops!
Talk aboutFix your own mistakes before criticizing the dog.
- Ask questions (lure) instead of giving direct orders.
- Let the dog save face.
- Praise every improvement.
- Give the dog a fine reputation to live up to.
- Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
- Make the dog happy about doing what you suggest.
He applied Carnegie’s techniques to Bongo, who first had to learn his name so that dad could reinforce it as “the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Dad always made a ritual out of naming the dogs over the years since, “You can’t train a dog if you don’t have its attention, and for that it needs to know its name.”
I have a vivid memory of being a little tyke, twenty years after the Landauers were certified Border Collie people thanks to Bongo, sitting with my parents in a circle on the kitchen floor, each armed with a different cache of meat: ground hamburger, cut up chunks of hot dog, and bits of crispy fried bacon. We were all going to be little Sassy’s friends but I was to be her best friend, so I had the bacon. We took turns calling her name and rewarding her with treats and praise when she came running. It’s a game we’ve played with every puppy since, and I always claim the bacon.
The Landauer house was on a corner lot along one of Denver’s iconic tree lined parkways, where the vault of branches formed twin sylvan tunnels as the canopies merged over the east and west bound lanes, separated by greenbelts large enough to play football on every block. These were the summer playgrounds for hundreds of neighborhood kids and the small side street which bordered the yard led to a Dolly Madison two blocks down, making it a popular highway for little kids going to and from the ice cream store.
Dad would train Bongo out in the yard which was separated from the sidewalk by a hedge low enough for the little kids to see over. They’d marvel at the little dog that could dance and do back flips, and very often they’d drop their ice cream. Bongo would vault the hedge and collect his tips after each performance and soon he would accompany the herd on their confectionery migration to Dolly Madison where he’d perform tricks outside the front door to increase the number of dropped and offered cones.
He soon learned to recognize the sound of kids pulling a red wagon filled with used glass soda pop bottles clinking down the street on a mission to collect the deposit at the grocery store and treat themselves with an ice cream cone on their way home. Bongo would let himself out of the house, chaperon the kids to the store, and freeload licks from their cones as they pulled him back home in their now empty wagons. After Bongo gained five pounds in one month, Dad had to curtail Bongo’s freelance performances, but that didn’t stop the kids from getting their fill of the canine celebrity in the neighborhood.
That summer and for several after, the little kids from the neighborhood would knock on the Landauer front door and ask if Bongo could come out and play, and my father always obliged. Bongo’s reputation grew right along with his repertoire of tricks which my uncles–who are never ones to inflate my Dad’s achievements–confirm numbered in the seventies. His exploits with Bongo earned him the nickname “Pavlov” with his siblings, and they still call that to this day.
One summer Dad and Bongo were invited to perform at the original Elitch Gardens. Part of their informal act involved Bongo retrieving a hat, jumping on my father’s back and dropping it on his head. This time, however, Bongo didn’t return with a hat, but a bag of popcorn he pilfered from the audience and in perfect form dumped it all over dad and fit the empty bag on as an ersatz dunce cap.
The hat that Bongo failed to retrieve filled with loose change and while Bongo took his payment in the form of cotton candy unwittingly shared by the circle of little kids who watched the show, my father spent some of the bounty on a token from a novelty metal press machine that would stamp out messages of your choice on a small aluminum disc.
★ BONGO ★
**** E **TH AVE PKWY
A few years later at the end of a huge Thanksgiving feast with the entire family back together, someone let Bongo out the back door to relieve himself after he had mooched much of the turkey and several choice bits of prime rib for himself and had the sulfur emissions to prove it. He never came home and weeks of searching turned up no clues. The favorite theory among the neighborhood kids was that Bongo ran away with the Circus because their final show of the year was on Thanksgiving and they were gone the next day and if any dog belonged in the Circus it was Bongo.
Dad believes that Bongo was so charismatic and eager to perform that he charmed the first family he came across and some father’s desire to please his kid trumped returning the dog to his rightful owners. It wasn’t the first time someone had tried to buy or steal Bongo, people had offered my dad any price for the dog but he never even considered their offers. Over the years, other people would take a special liking to our Border Collies and convince themselves that they’d made an instant and special connection with the dog because they were so friendly and would lick their hand or offer an endearing look in their eye. Some would even try and walk off with the dogs, but they never succeeded. Perhaps they did with Bongo.
Thirty years later an envelope with no return address and no note arrived at the Landauer house, mailed from somewhere in Denver. Grandma and Grandpa had died and in a few weeks the house would be on the market and sold. Inside the envelope was a small aluminum disc in perfect condition. It read ★ BONGO ★ …. and when my uncle handed it to my father he said with a smile and a tear in his eye, “You know, the circus is in town.”
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