A post should appear every Sunday.
* There may not be a post next Sunday, as I am expecting visitors, and do not yet know when they are arriving.
Sunday September 10th 2022
My dear little dog has been driving me up the wall – and down the other side.
Over the last few months she reverts to her previous habit of growling and barking every time she eats. I can’t believe it, as we both expended an enormous amount of time and energy retraining her.
(For those of you who are new to the blog, from very early on, when she was first adopted, she behaved like a crazed animal at mealtimes, growling, snarling, barking and leaping up in the air as if warding off a pack of wolves. Before she escaped, and was subsequently rescued, she was tied up outside. My guess is that other animals and birds took her food from her, so she had to try to defend it.)
The regression first becomes obvious to me one very bright, sunny day in June; but if I’m honest with myself, there had been some random barks before then.
Stupidly, I had ignored the random barks, perhaps because they seemed insignificant, or perhaps because I didn’t want to acknowledge that we were backsliding.
Whatever. On that June day, the racket is ear-splitting.
“Ah,” I tell myself, “It’s the bright light which is upsetting her.”
The sun continues to shine and Isis continues her mealtime acting out.
I’m sure it’s not healthy for a dog to eat while leaping around growling and snarling. And I’m damn certain the noise is not good for me!
But, I reason, I can’t punish her for being upset by the brightness.
I can’t move her bowl somewhere else because this enrages her and she growls and barks even more.
She will calm down if I hand feed her. Of course, it’s not that I mind kneeling on the kitchen floor while my dear little dog licks sticky meat and biscuits from my fingers. Not at all.
It’s just that one doesn’t really wish to make a habit of it.
Besides, British summers aren’t like this. Any day now, the rain will take over, and the sun will go away.
But it doesn’t.
I try covering over the windows in the hall. This makes not a scrap of difference. Isis continues to protest.
Then I cover the glass panes in the kitchen door with a thick, dark brown fleece, and push the door to.
This helps for a week or so. But Isis, of course, can’t see what’s happened to the door. She doesn’t realise that if she just pushes against it, it will open. Several times when I arrive to let her out, she is lying on the back door mat looking sad.
It’s not long before she leaves her food uneaten, and just lies on the back door mat.
I remove the fleece.
Oh doG, what now?
There’s nothing for it, I decide, but to resume the punishment routine: one bark and out, i.e., as soon as she barks, I remove her food. She flies into a rage, and spins round on the spot protesting loudly as I struggle to pass her without being floored. I stand in the front room until she is silent for thirty seconds, then I give her back the meal.
Sometimes we need to repeat this sequence three times. As you may imagine, mealtimes are not relaxing occasions. Although I am determined to be quiet and calm, the tension seeps out. I grind my teeth. Isis leaves her breakfast uneaten.
I notice that she’s noisier at breakfast time than she is in the evening; several times lately, she walks away and leaves her breakfast. And when she does that, she’ll not eat until her evening meal, even though her breakfast is left down for her.
If we carry on like this, I worry, she might develop a food neurosis and refuse to eat at all.
This week I experiment to see whether she’ll be calmer if something especially tasty is added to her food. I crumble goat’s cheese into her evening meal. She barks once and I remove her food. After that, there’s not a sound.
But when a little cheese is added next morning, she resumes the barking routine. The morning after that, after having her food removed twice, she walks off without eating.
She never leaves her evening meal uneaten, but today she doesn’t want her breakfast.
I give her two meals in one this evening: her untouched Burns dried food from breakfast, mixed in with a Burns meat, vegetables and brown rice meal. It smells good enough for human consumption. (I’m not being paid for writing this, honest I’m not!)
My heart sinks as I hear the beginnings of a growl – but then, silence.
When she’s licked her bowl clean, she walks in looking very please with herself. I praise her. She feels good too, and instead of slinking onto the day bed, head down, she pops into her dog bed and plays with her toys.
Now I’m wondering whether she would be happier skipping breakfast, and having a double helping in the evening.
If anyone has any thoughts about this, I would be very pleased to hear them.
After all this negativity, I hasten to add that other than the mealtime problems, Isis and I are very happy together. We enjoy our walks, and her confidence seems to grow by the day. Nowadays, when a gentle dog sniffs her nose, she usually sniffs his/her nose in return. Although she is nervous if more than one dog approaches her at a time – she hastily trots off – she no longer panics.
Although she is wary of people, as long as there are only a few in a group, she will walk past them without fear. When someone asks if it’s O.K. to touch her, I always ask them to let her sniff their hand first. Usually, she turns away and walks off, but now and again, she allows someone to stroke her back for a second or two.