(24) Miss Molly Speaks German?

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A blog about a service dog and her veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the veteran and the family caregiver)

In reading the book, Service and Therapy Dogs in American Society: Science, Law and the Evolution of Canine Caregivers, the origin of the service dog took the lead chapter. The author, John Ensminger, wrote about a German man, who trained dogs for service. The German command “Aus” told his dogs to leave it.

On one particular day, Molly ignored most of our commands—especially leave it. I used the word “Aus,” which I read about earlier that day. Molly dropped her head and ran into the master closet. While I rejoiced in her obedience, my heart sank. The look on her face bordered panic. William marveled at the instant obedience, not seeing her face.

After Molly surfaced, I tried other German words with her. The amount of German I remembered from junior high school could fit on a Qu Tip. Molly responded, as if she understood.

It should not be a surprise that Molly knows German. After all, she is a Saint Bernard.

Wait a minute. Aren’t Saint Bernards from the Italian and Swiss Alps?

According to Wikipedia, Saint Bernards come from the Great Saint Bernard pass in the Western Alps between Switzerland and Italy. The pass was so treacherous that an 11th century monk, Bernard of Menthon, built a hospice lodge for travelers. The breed was named after the monk.


William, her master, towers over Molly and me. William’s roots are German so his use of a German command convinces one that he is serious. He is double Molly’s weight so when he uses the command, “Aus,” she is petrified. Then she complies. Because the command frightens Molly, we use it sparingly and only when she does not obey the English command of leave it. Even then, we tone down our voice so we do not frighten her.

This reminds me of the book, Water for Elephants. Rosie the elephant suffered severe beatings at the hand of her circus master because she never obeyed his commands. He called her stupid. By accident, her veterinarian discovered that Rosie spoke Polish. She readily understood the commands in Polish and responded perfectly.

Since we talked about a unique command, I want to share a new list of typical service dog commands that are in addition to those listed in Blog 9. Of course, there are more possibilities. (I do not know the source for this list but the commands appear commonsense based.) Perhaps, you are already training your dog with these commands. Check them out.

  • Handle and Massage – Dog is comfortable being handled all over, i.e. feet, ears, tail
  • Calm – Dog will lay head in handler’s hand and be calm; dog can calm down and relax when excited with this command
  • Outside – Defecate and urinate on leash with command
  • Name – Dog turns to handler and makes eye contact
  • Wait – Momentary pause at door, exiting crate; dog waits for handler’s release
  • Quiet – Ceases barking, whining, etc.
  • Off – To get off of an item such as a couch
  • Easy – Walk slower to slow pace with handler
  • Go to Bed – Enter crate or kennel
  • Gotcha – Collar grab (dog should be comfortable with having collar grabbed and being led by collar)
  • All Done – Release word; end of a command
  • Lets Go – Walk on a loose leash
  • Hup – Jump up onto something such as into a vehicle
  • Move – Move out of handler’s way
  • Place – Pre-determined place that the dog goes to on command
  • Touch – Used to target objects (start with hand as target)
  • Fix – Untangle leash from front leg
  • Hurry – Quicken pace
  • Closer – Move closer to you
  • Under – Go under desk/table and lie down
  • Around – Turn around and go back the way you came (to untangle from a pole)
  • Mark (with laser) – Follow laser to an object
  • Go – Move out ahead of you such as when on stairs or in a hallway
  • Back – Walk backwards
  • Stand – Come up into standing position and stay
  • Take – pick up an object
  • Give – Release object into hands
  • Bring – Bring an item to you
  • Hold – Continue holding the object until told otherwise
  • Drop – Put retrieved item into a container
  • Tug – Pull on item with mouth; used to open or close door, drawer, etc., or to tug clothes off
  • Front – Stand in front of handler with side against handler’s knees (shaping behavior for brace to get up or blocking)

Trivia Question:

In Chinese children’s literature what sound does a dog make when barking?

  1. oui, oui, oui
  2. ruff, ruff
  3. arf, arf, art
  4. wong, wong, wong
  5. chang, chang, chang

Trivia answer:

  1. d) wong, wong, wong

Post your Comments:

I am certain our readers have had similar experiences to Miss Molly’s and would love to hear from you. Please post your comments below.

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her husband, William, and dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.