Dog talk with Uncle Matty: Where the wild things shouldn’t be

By From page A4 | February 01, 2013

 And he sailed off through night and day
and in and out of weeks
and almost over a year
to where the wild things are.
— Maurice Sendak, “Where the Wild Things Are”

In 1963, American author and artist Maurice Sendak bestowed a great gift upon budding readers the world over: the beloved children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are.” It’s a story that takes place in the imagination of a child, and it’s a story that celebrates the imagination of a child. But the impetus for the trip to “where the wild things are” is as commonplace as children and dogs.

The story opens with a little boy named Max dressed as a wolf and tearing through the house wreaking all sorts of childlike havoc. As a punishment, his mother sends him to his room. And that’s where things get really wild.

What’s interesting to me about this story is that Max gets punished for racing around the house. I wonder what Max’s mother would’ve done had it been her dog, and not her son, on the warpath through the living room.

You’d be amazed at how many people allow their dogs to run wild in the house, at how many encourage it, at how many come to regret it. Don’t go down that path. That’s why God created backyards and greenbelts.

We humans work hard to earn money to buy houses and furnishings and the special little tchotchkes that remind us of the places and people and moments we’ve loved. When we invite dogs into our lives, we implicitly invite them into our homes; at least we should. But that doesn’t mean they get to do whatever they want to the couch or the carpet. It doesn’t mean they have carte blanche to run roughshod over our collectibles or our friends or ourselves.

As is true with almost everything in our dealings with dogs, consistency is key. If you want your dog to be calm in the house — when you have guests over, when you’re sitting down to a family dinner, when you just want some peace and quiet, whenever — encourage only calm activities in the house. He can chew on a toy, gnaw on a bone, rest at your feet, nap in his bed, practice commands such as “sit,” “down” and “wait.”

Any excitable activity is best reserved for the out of doors.

In other words, don’t chase him from room to room, hurl the ball down the hall or yell “get him, boy” as he launches himself off the back of the couch in hot pursuit of the cat. If you want peace inside your palace, cultivate peaceful practices.

The backyard is another story. Just as every child needs time to run wild in mind and in form, so does every dog. In the backyard, the ball is king. In the backyard, play rules supreme. In the backyard, the dog runs free. For it is in the backyard that you boldly echo Max’s cry “to let the wild rumpus start!”


Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at, and visit him at Send your questions to[email protected] or by mail to Uncle Matty at PO Box 3300, Diamond Springs 95619.

 Copyright 2013 Creators Syndicate Inc. 

Matthew Margolis

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