In Central Park, Teaching Dogs to Sit (in Yiddish)

Some came to reconnect with their roots while tricking their children into learning a new language.

“My dog may not care, but it’s a sneaky way for my son to hear a little Yiddish,” admitted Mauri Tamarin, 62, who came in from Larchmont, Long Island, with her son Abe, husband, Rob, and their Tibetan spaniel, Toby.

This was the first time the Circle had offered a dog-education class. Tickets were $10. A similar event is planned for Oct. 15. The idea was Ann Toback’s, executive director of the Circle, whose overly excited goldendoodle, Jessie, was busy jumping on guests.

“I’m always looking for fun programs that will engage people around our heritage,” she said. “New Yorkers love their dogs. This was a great way to integrate the two.”

The first exercise was the loose-leash walk. Everyone stood in a straight line, then they walked to and around Miguel Rodriguez, a certified master dog trainer, and returned to their starting spot.

Photo

The class was the brainchild of Ann Toback, the executive director of Workmen’s Circle. Ms. Toback, center, brought her dog, Jessie, to the session.

Credit
Damon Winter/The New York Times

Then came the commands; first in English, then in Yiddish.

“Zits!” (sit) shouted Mr. Rodriguez.

“When you give a dog a command, you want to over-pronounce the first and last letter in each word,” said Mr. Rodriguez. “You can hear the z and t are very strong. Dogs take well to tones, not vocabulary.” Dogs won’t memorize words, he explained, but they will remember the sounds of them. “Sometimes they take to Yiddish words better than English.”

The next 30 minutes were spent learning, and then following, additional commands: Arop (down); shtai (stay); gut (good); neyn (no); kum (come); maykhl (treat).

“Group classes can be hard,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “At home there are minimal distractions. In the park there are birds, squirrels and treats.”

Not everyone came with a pet. Jana Goldin, 68, who said she is “presently dogless,” sat off to the side in a chair she had brought from home as if she were attending a sporting event.

Toward the end of class, many people had broken away from the group to practice on their own. People seemed pleased with their dogs’ progress.

Bonnie Winkelman, 62, was kvelling (gushing) over her Lhasa apso, Einstein. “This was great practice;…

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