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Table manners, Part I, Cody's evolution


                      Now, you can eat!

Dog Tales                                                                     

OK. So Jack just loves to share your dinner table with you. He is very energetic and quite insistent when food is involved. He is at your feet, like glue, as you prepare any food on your kitchen counter. As soon as that refrigerator door opens, he magically appears at your feet. You attempt to console him by offering one little tidbit. You might toss it at him and he quite handily snatches it out of the air. What a good boy! He learned that trick so easily. You have rewarded him for bad behavior.

Stop Sam, hit the brakes! That is actually Part II, your dinner table. Jack first has to learn manners at his own dinner table. This is the next step in the evolution of how to understand your best friend is probably as eager about his own food as he is with yours. This is the very next step to teaching patience. As he learns to be patient, he is intent on you and focuses his attention on nothing but you. Before you can teach him to be civilized at his own bowl, he must learn the first step, which I told you, is the most important one, to wait.

When teaching him with food, he will learn to trust you because you will always give it to him. When he is learning these very simple things, they should always be delivered, but when you want to give them to him. He will know that he will be allowed to go outside, but he can’t rush through the door tripping you. He will also know the food will be given to him, when it is actually on the floor. In this manner, he can also learn which food bowl is his, if you have more than one canine you are feeding. You must be patient and be very consistent, diligent, and absolutely insistent that it is done correctly every single time from the very start. It doesn’t matter how old he is, or how long he has been with you. If he wants to eat, he must follow this new rule.

Follow these steps:

1- Use a “come to supper” phrase. I actually ask “What time is it? Believe me, they will learn how to tell time, and will quite easily tell you what time it is, if you always feed at the same time. How about "Is it suppertime?"

2- Noisily portion the food in a cup to be transferred to his bowl. Pour it into his bowl and place it on your counter top. Walk away from it for a brief time. This time should be incrementally increased every time you feed. If he puts his feet up to attempt to reach it, simply use a short, sharp tone, but not a loud tone of some kind as a warning. Don’t use “no”. Maybe “eek” or “oh”, or “tit”, or tat”. That should distract him enough to put his feet on the floor. Do not pick the bowl off the counter until both feet are on the ground. No matter how long it takes. Every one of these steps should be done at an incrementally increased time every time you feed.

3- Pick up the bowl and slowly walk to where you want him to always be fed. Stop and stand there.

4- Now it is time to make him sit. If he hasn’t learned that yet, hover the bowl directly over his head, and that will physically force him to sit as he looks up at the bowl. Place your open hand flat in front of his nose, and say "Jack, wait".

5- Slowly bend down. He will try to get his nose in the bowl. Use that sharp sound and yank it away and stand. This is tough at first, but he does not get the food until it is actually on the ground. As your hand reaches the ground, continue pulling it back in his eagerness. The first time, he does not eat until the bowl is actually firmly sitting on the floor. Again, incrementally increase the waiting time each and every time and for every step.

6- Then say “OK”. This is the same release command that is used when teaching him to wait at the door. It is just the rule. It does not really take that long. Soon, every time you open the door, he will automatically sit, without you even asking him to. And when you ask him “What time is it?” he will likely be sitting patiently in front of the spot where he gets his meal.

                                                    Cody’s evolution

You must read This is the story of a one-armed, jobless, homeless guy living in his car with his kid and Cody. No lie.

To continue the story, he finally came to collect Cody after a few months, very grateful for the help. Two weeks later, he came back asking if he could be kept by someone for three or four days longer because he would be in jail. Six weeks later, he finally left a message yesterday. He finally has a home and can collect his kid and Cody, in four to six weeks. And he, and especially his kid really miss Cody. He is the only reminder of his mother who committed suicide a year ago. I think there might be a novel in this story.

Anyway, Cody has definitely decided that this is a really great place to live and he has actually become quite tolerable, for the most part. He is a good dog now, he just can't be my dog. Sorry boy, you are going back to the city soon. He has definitely learned his manners quite well. He is only driving me crazy because he must be with me at all times. Nola, my rescued and emotionally damaged miniature Shepherd (50lbs), has always insisted on being Velcro to me. My log cabin is so small that I simply have too much dog flesh in my immediate vicinity.

But, Cody has learned that he must sit and wait at the door. He must sit and wait until Jordan is first released to go out, and then Nola, and then Cody can go in a very orderly fashion. He is not quite yet doing it without being asked, but he is really close. He then will also sit and wait to come in while Jordan, and then Nola enters.

And how is suppertime? He really can tell time, and the three of them tell me when it is 7:00. He has learned that first kibble is put in his and Nola’s bowls and hers is mixed with canned food. Nola is a problem eater because she had many bad teeth extracted when I found her, so she comes first. Then Jordan’s food is put in her bowl followed by her meds. Jordan is released to eat. Labradors have no eating problems whatsoever. Cody’s bowl, in the mean time, has been sitting, in the open, on one of the low food crates, easily accesible. I then very slowly walk into our mudroom, and wait until he sits. I say "Cody, wait". I then slowly lower the food bowl and place it on the ground. Admittedly, he still tries to jump the gun at this point. But he is not released to eat yet and sits for an increasing amount of time before I say "OK".

He is really doing quite well. Also, he is quite nurturing with very sick newborn kitties and even playful with the other cats. The three canines take long walks with me in the morning and often play with each other. He is now quite attentive and much calmer. He has also learned “the walk” He is now ready to start learning some basic obedience commands like sit, stay, heel, and anything else. It should be “a walk in the park”. He has evolved into a very nice pet and will truly be a joy for my damaged family. I believe they will truly be very grateful.

Table manners part II will be coming. You must work on the other steps first. But you can start by using sit, and wait at any time to preface any action.. You can do it before pretty much anything.

I am really training you. You must be diligent and expect the exact same thing every single time. As I said, it won't be long before everything is automatic.

Tip of the dog's tale

I was reminded of a dog I once new this week by, unfortunately, a very sick girl. The breed deserves comment though because few have ever heard of it. Besenji, or Congo dog, is known as a barkless dog, believe it or not. Basenji are smooth, muscular, athletic dogs on the small side. The head is wrinkled around the forehead and the muzzle is shorter than the skull. The coat is short, shiny and fine and comes in pure black, copper, red, chestnut red, or tricolor in combinations of black, tan and white, or black, brindle and white.  It has the unique properties of not barking (it makes a low, liquid ululation instead) and of cleaning itself like a cat.

I just find the idea of a "barkless" dog rather disarming, and maybe a little creepy, don't you think?

If you have any questions about your dog's behavior, interesting stories to share, or a tale to tell, please leave it in comments, or email me with a problem at