manners maketh dog



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Mealtimes. Oh dear. It is true that Isis has come a long way from the little hooligan who used to grab the food from my plate and throw a foot biting rage when intercepted. Now, she pays no attention to me while I’m eating, however close she is. She doesn’t even beg.

She begs in the park. She has learned that this is what a dog does. If other dogs push in between her and a treat giver, she backs off but she is quite confident about eating her treat cheek by jowl with her friends. Never a growl is heard. If I dare to remove her from a food source, of course, merry hell is let loose. She rages, spins, attacks her legs or tail and remains grumpy for the rest of her walk.

Yes, despite her good manners among her friends, food remains her bête noir and mealtimes are still the most likely trigger for rage spins.

I decide that it is time to upgrade the challenge to Hairy One’s appalling table manners. I must be firmer and absolutely consistent. No daydreaming. No ignoring rule-breaking.

I resolve that:

1. she will never get away with barking, yipping or growling while I prepare her food. One bark, yip or growl and I will always stop immediately and retire for a count of thirty. If she does it again, I’ll retire for a count of forty. And so on.

2. she will sit for a count of ten before being allowed to devour her meal

3. she will not rage spin and attack herself as soon as her dish is empty.

Isis does not like rules. Almost always she barks, yips or growls at least once while I am preparing her meal. This, however, is a significant improvement as it was not unusual for me to stop and count three or four times each mealtime.

She hates to sit and wait for her meal, even for ten seconds. She rushes round to attack the dish from the opposite side, attempts to push me aside, growls menacingly and gets very angry.

On Sunday I put my foot down. Four times I command her to sit and begin to count. Four times she gets up and dives at her dish, growling menacingly. She becomes more and more angry. I put her food up on the counter and leave the house.

I am away for about fifteen minutes. When I return she is paddling in water. She has shoved her water bowl across the kitchen and there are muddy paw prints along the edge of the counter. I know how frantic she is for her food and feel guilty. She has obviously been deprived of food in her past and is desperate. But she sits down immediately and stays sitting while I (very quickly) count to ten. By the end of the week she is sitting and waiting until I signal, “Eat!”

She still eats frantically and she still wards off hordes of imaginary scavengers. Interestingly, instead of snarling and growling all around her, she now stands on her hind legs – often with her front ones in her dinner – and snaps at the air above her head as though the hyenas have turned into vultures. I wonder whether, in her tied-up life,  scavenging birds perched around the poor little creature while she ate. I can’t think what else would provoke this particular behaviour. Any ideas from Portugal?

I leave a little circle of dried food on the floor so that she can find it when she has emptied her dish. This has led to some improvement. She doesn’t always indulge in a rage spin. It’s probably about fifty-fifty.

So progress is slow in  this area.

The very good news is that she has made herself bleed only once in the past seven weeks. Previously, biting and bleeding could occur two or three times a week. The attack in question occurred when I absent mindedly fed her her nightly four chunks of Dentistix instead of giving her the first and hiding the rest. Yes, I know this sounds odd. And I’ve not yet worked out why she does it – perhaps she can count to four but is distracted when she has to find the other three for herself – but if fed the pieces of Dentistix she is furious after she has gobbled the last one. If she searches for them, she stays perfectly calm.

Strange little animal.


Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact or

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1 Response to manners maketh dog

  1. Kerry says:

    Hmmm, as a general rule we don’t get that many scavenging birds around here so I think it is unlikely but I fail to offer an alternative explanation. If only they could talk!


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