I’ve just finished lunch. The point here is not the food — although my foodie friends would no doubt beg to differ — but the ‘tude. Frankie’s attitude that is. During the entire meal, he was in his traditional spot on a hemp rug about four feet away from the dining room table, staring at me.
Sometimes he sits straight up, head cocked perkily, expectant. Other times he’s in a down stay but with his head lifted. Today, he rested his head on his paws, the picture of despondency.
Did he know that this was the optimum position to inspire guilt and therefore to achieve a treat? I would bet on it.
After all, it’s worked in the past.
I’m about to start researching and writing a story for the Your Dog newsletter about how dogs read us. I don’t like to go in with preconceptions about what my research will yield, but in this case I think I’m pretty safe in assuming that Frankie’s got my number — far more than I’ve got his. Yes, I study his tail position, his tongue flicking, and his yawns but I’m still not entirely sure what everything means. In contrast, I’ll wager that he’s got my brow wrinkle, dejected head tilt, and shoulder slump of resignation sussed to the point that he knows when I’m going to succumb.
Not this time.
I’ve been writing a lot about dominance theory, about how positive techniques and rewards are not only less harmful and smarter ways to train a dog but based on better science. But the flip side of that is allowing ourselves to be manipulated by our dogs to their detriment (and therefore to ours). I’m always railing about how there’s no reason for dogs to be obese when their owners are in control of their food intake. I should remember my own advice.
Frankie is not fat, but he’s diabetic, which means he’s not supposed to eat between meals. I nevertheless give him a little nosh whenever I eat — just a wee bit of dried chicken or beef — and, according to my twice-daily tests, it hasn’t raised his blood sugar. But Frankie’s just been through his second bout of intestinal distress that was not only costly and worrying but really, really messy.
I’m extremely glad he’s feeling better, that he’s got his appetite back. And I know the bland diet that the vet advised for him — which includes brown rice, metabolized faster than his usual grain-free kibble — likely makes him feel hungrier than usual. But my vet is not going to be in until tomorrow and until I get his approval to go back to the kibble and, possibly, the snacks, Frankie’s just going to have to be a little peckish. And I’m going to have to be a bit more resistant.
Which is why I ran to the computer to post this rather than sit at the table, catching the gaze, whenever I glance up, of a small but very persuasive pup.