Monday, May 3, 2010

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For Your Own Good

By Fred
I remember one summer evening as a child, staring down at a sad clump of green beans on my dinner plate and listening as my mother explained the options before me: I could a) eat the beans and then go out to play, or b) sit at the table indefinitely, which could be, as I argued, until the end of time (and then we would all be dead). "Don't argue," my mother said. "It's for your own good."

Discipline is complicated, and while we see steady improvement in Bingo, he continues to surprise us now and then with unexpected behavior, not unlike a willful young boy refusing to eat a mouthful of green beans. Last night, for example, while Cheryl and I were having dinner, with plates on our laps in the TV room, Bingo walked up and removed an item of food from Cheryl's plate, not sneakily, but casually and out in the open (as I sometimes do in a restaurant). We've eaten in front of him like this since day 1 and he has never shown any interest in our plates before, even when we walk away.

Of course, Cheryl let out a squeal and Bingo dropped the food and calmly looked up, apparently confused by her response. He wasn't stealing the food, just taking it. He didn't grab the food and run away. He didn't seem ashamed or sorry. "I'm Bingo," he seemed to say.

What to do? We've tried talking to him about his future responsibilities, about the importance of rules and good behavior, but he mostly looks away. We needed a constructive teaching moment, and it was Cheryl's idea (one that she'd heard from a trainer) to get down on the floor and continue eating, just a few feet from Bingo.

My first thought was that we cannot take a picture of this because it might seem cruel and unusual to readers of this blog, many of whom might have a soft spot in their hearts for Bingo. After all, would you take and publish a picture of your child sulking at the table and refusing to eat his food?

But we are a full disclosure blog.

I have to say that Bingo was very sweet about it all. I believe, I hope, he learned a lesson. And let it be known that he gets plenty to eat and is loved more than he knows.


  1. That's one thing I work really hard to teach with my puppies--I trust Ellie enough to leave a dish of food in the living room with her while I leave the room. She won't touch it.

    Eating on the floor helps a LOT, you just teach them if their head comes close, it gets pushed away. When I teach it I never use corrections, or say anything. It's just consequences--head comes close, it gets pushed away. Ellie caught on very quickly. Now that she's older, if I see her sniffing at the food I remind her verbally that she needs to leave it alone. It takes a different amount of time for each dog, but I've had great luck with the method you're using.

    I don't think it's cruel at all....because it's kinder than giving a correction, which Bingo would get if he didn't know how to leave food alone.

    Looks like he's learning very well!

  2. What was interesting is that after a couple of minutes he realized that he wasn't going to be allowed closer to the plate and he gave up and went to sit in his bed. 8-) Why he decided to grab something off my plate when he has NEVER done that before I will never know. And he never gets people food either. It was bizarre.