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.

4 thoughts on “Cruel to be kind”

  1. I have not doubt that our dogs read us better than we read them. And, they train us as much as we train them.

    You packed a lot of issues into the delightful post, but the one I want to respond to is this: Positive training like Edie promotes (so do I) does not mean caving in when it comes to food or chasing squirrels or being pushy as in nudging your hand and pawing your lap for pets. I know she (you) said this, but it can’t be said enough. Positive does not mean Pushover!

    1. Ah yes, Deborah, you who write so eloquently about Sadie’s methods of educating you, you know whereof I speak. And how hard it can be — but how essential — to be a leader rather than a bully!

  2. Boy, have you got my number here! This is/was one my worst if not my only real dog-parent offense. For some reason I feel that they should share my food as well as my bed and exercise routine. I could barely eat if they didn’t, to the point of tears and serious feelings of guilt. When my chihuahua, Pixie weighed in at a hefty, very un-chihuahuaish 9lbs I was faced with the *weight* of the issue so to speak. The vet assured me she really wasn’t overweight- at the moment. But she also said my feeding habits were going to prove troublesome in the long run including the dreaded diabetes. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to stop. Seriously. I had less trouble when I stopped smoking! But in the long run I think we have it licked. I still share food with them, but I share good, healthy snacks like baby carrots, apples, even an occasional bit of cheese. I still cook for them too some, I just stick to things like the brown rice you mentioned that are actually vet approved. If I am going to take my diet down in flames I no longer take my dogs’ diets with me! lol! I have to admit, the months since then have been filled with fewer tummy issues too. I think I will always be a bit of a pushover for my dogs, though. Some things may never change. 🙂 So loved this post though! It’s a relief to see others struggle with these same issues, I know I’m not alone and can always come for advice if needed.

    1. Good on you for working through all those issues; it’s always a struggle, isn’t it? And if it’s any consolation, you couldn’t have given your dog diabetes. It’s hereditary, like type 1 diabetes in humans. True, extra weight doesn’t help the disease — but it doesn’t cause it.

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