The fake-out; why I’m *not* a fan.

Have you ever seen someone playing fetch with a dog and then they mime the throwing of the ball and then laugh when the dog goes running?

Yeah, don’t do that.

No seriously, don’t.

It takes a long time to earn your dog’s trust and, eventually, if this is truly important to you, it can be taught to the dog as a game. But, in general, this is just an asshole move that a dog just doesn’t understand.

So, don’t do it.


Child/Toddler and Canine Thoughts

So, I had a bit of a revelation while hanging out with my friend’s toddler and some teeny tiny puppies – SPOONS!

No, I am not using SPOON! as a battle cry.

Tiny little puppies have tiny little super sharp teeth and I didn’t want toddler to get ouchied, but he really wanted to feed the baby puppies.

Enter wooden spoons. I taught George to spoon up some wet food and hold it out to the puppies who greedily ate. Then it occurred to me, Holy. Shit. This is how all children should be taught to give things to dogs. It keeps little hands out of mouths and helps teach dogs that good things come from wooden spoons (this is how I give meds to my dogs too) and it teaches toddlers better spoon control. It’s a win-win.

Now for my standard disclaimer:

Because all dogs, regardless of size, are capable of causing devastating damage to a child even without aggressive intent, I highly recommend all children participate in a dog bite prevention training called “Be A Tree” training and that all families practice and discuss appropriate human behavior around dogs as well as how to recognize signs of a stressed dog.

Watch “Dogs Tested to See Whether They’d Defend Owner During Home Invasion” on YouTube

So, this video didn’t surprise me in the slightest.


Because to paraphrase, the strength of the pack is the dog; and the strength of the dog is the pack.

In other words, when you have a single dog, *you* are their pack. If you are already defeated, the pack is defeated and the dog is gonna leave. You can train them to be guard dogs and they will respond differently, but without specialty and ongoing training – a single dog gonna leave a scary situation.

Now, with two dogs (regardless of size), it’s usually a different story because they have backup. With three dogs the response will escalate.

Now, if someone breaks in when no one is home, it is incredibly rare that a single dog would engage in any way. Even two dogs would rarely respond aggressively, because dogs don’t really care about stuff; they care about pack.

Just some FoodLady thoughts for a Monday.

Random Dog Training – Fear

So, in many dog behavior trainer courses you may come across a similar test question to this:

Question: 3. A friend of yours has a nervous dog. Your friend tries to reassure her dog whenever it demonstrates fearful behaviour by giving the dog affection and attention. Why might this be a bad idea and what terms within operant and classical conditioning might help explain your answer?

And there you have what can only be described as one of the many seriously divisive questions in dog training.

So, thought about this for a while over the past few days and I think (please remember I do not know everything, I learn more every day, and trends and methodologies in dog training advance and change daily) I finally have a better explanation of where the thought process behind this training maybe came from:

I remember that “don’t comfort the dog!” was one of the first things I was actively taught about dog behavior in the 90s and I remember being completely flummoxed by the theory then, but I think I (kinda sorta) understand the kinds of situations from which this training theory arose.

So, you may not know this, but Dr. Ian Dunbar in the ’80s was considered extremely radical with his (forgive the exteme oversimplification), “maybe we don’t need to literally choke and beat our dogs to train them, let’s try not doing that, shall we [with a solidly implied, “ya idiots?!” at the end there]”. Okay, so like all great ideas, the world of dog training began (for the most part) following that solid and sound teaching advice. Unfortunately, it rather stopped following and sort of caught up with and then ran right over Dr. Dunbar’s methodology and now some trainings have gone so far down the path of poor communication and too much food that it is now rather unrecognizable from good training.
So, here’s my mental example of where the original “don’t comfort the dog” mentality may have come from:

Picture an over-reactive human handler, completely freaking out that their dog is freaking out – to the point that they are on the floor with the dog, smelling of fear and stress and a little panic, because Mr. Fliffernoodle growled or barked at them while they were shaking out a new trash bag and now the undereducated-in-canine-behavior human is *sure* Mr. Fliffernoodle is becoming aggressive.

And Mr. Fliffernoodle is like, “holy crap, look at how upset human is because of that trash bag! That *IS* the scariest worstest most deadliestest thing in our house and we will defend against it TOGETHER! “Fluffinators!, mount up!”

Or something like that (forgive me, I live a rich internal life 🤓).

So, I don’t think the original intent of “don’t comfort the dog” was meant to encourage dogs to be freaked out and force them to deal with what scared them while the human just ignores the dog (at least I freaking hope not!), but it probably should have been phrased more towards encouraging the human in the equation to keep it together and provide a calming and comforting presence for anything that requires a calm and comforting presence.

That way, you save the mounting up of said Fluffinators for appropriate things, such as axe murderers breaking in.

So, what do you do if Mr. Fliffernoodle is reacting in fear and horror to something like a garbage bag?

  1. Finish putting the bag in the bin while talking happily to the dog.
  2. Take out a new bag, all the while talking happily to Mr. Fliffernoodle, do not shake it open but grab yourself some treats. Sit on the floor and feed teeny tiny pieces of treats whenever the dog shows interest in the bag. Keep with the happy verbal encouragement and keep going until you determine the dog is either relaxed around the non moving bag or that he has been pushed as far as he can go for that session. Then you get to do it again a few hours later, and at least daily over the next few days and weeks, slowly taking them to the edge of their comfort zone and eventually getting them all the way to being completely confident and comfy while you shake out those garbage bags.

Um, but wait, FoodLady?! you *just* said too much food is bad, right? These days dog treats *are* being overused during normal activities and fun dog training. But in this case you are using classical conditioning to reduce an emotional (fear) reaction, and when doing that with a dog you will *always* use extra value rewards.

I sincerely hope that was was in my head managed to translate into words that other people can understand. ☺
If not, message me. ❤❤❤

Love y’all,


Virgin Islands FoodLady Tour

FoodLady Chronicles – Virgin Islands Tour Edition: Y’all, yesterday kicked my (adorable) butt. I literally woke up tired this morning and the torrential rainy weather is not helping me get all motivated to do stuffs either. Regardless, there are always stuffs to do and mud pits to dig…oh wait, the dogs are all over that last thing. Yesterday I was privileged enough to be sent for work all the way to St. John (for those unfamiliar, this involved a sea plane to St. Thomas and then a ferry to St. John). This was my very first visit to St. John and I can’t really say that I saw that much of it but it seems adorable. My husband, just as tired as I was yesterday, asked me what I thought of it and my reply was, “….I saw a LOT of wealthy people.” It really is a gorgeous little island with, from what I could see, a LOT of healthy, happy, and loved dogs. That was kind of freaking wonderful to see. ❤

****** random rooster break******
Humprey just galumphed by the office window chasing the evil 3 AM who (unfortunately) made it over the neighbor’s fence. I know, it’s not very nice of me to wish that rooster harm, but he really is an asshole.

So, because I’m me I had a small Ziploc bag of Ziwi Peak dog food in my pocket (why? you don’t? how odd…). I could go into the gloriousness of Ziwi Peak dog food – but I honestly use it for treats for the following reasons: I can’t afford to feed it as food; it is a great food that you can break into teeny tiny pieces for treats; it has yet to ever make any dog gastrointestinally upset; I have yet to meet any animal that doesn’t LOVE it.

After driving around looking for a place for about an hour, we stopped this lovely woman walking her wee-little-STJ-dog to ask for directions. While my coworker discussed with her where we were going, wee-little-STJ-dog and I had some fun: he sat, he danced, we both wiggled – it was a party. That leads to us getting to where we were going and meeting TWO OTHER DOGS!

********random dog behavior note*********
It really is all about how you meet the dog. If dogs make you nervous or in any way scared, they pick up on that within seconds. The co-worker I was with yesterday is very small in stature and I think the large dogs may have made her slightly nervous. The two dogs seemed to pick up on that and were slightly bullying towards her. When we first got there they growled just a tiny bit until they heard me make happy happy noises; they were not acting in any way inappropriate – just feeling us out and protecting their home. But then they met me with the treats and the happy happy and they were SUPER excited.

Anywhoodle, I met me an adult Labradoodle and a 6 month old other-island-rescue. The ‘doodle was a loving yet regal ‘doodle and the puppy had legs made of springs. I love them.
We left there and were heading back to the ferry when we stopped the car because there was a large, healthy, and joyfully free boxer RUNNING in our direction dragging his leash. I mean, full on running – he wasn’t running towards us, he was just running as fast as he could. I opened the door and hopped out and tried to entice him. He stopped for a few seconds, but then “Nope, sorry Lady! Got things!” and kept a’runnin! He stopped again when I did a few play bows, but nope – I think he may have had a girl-dog up the hill “calling” to him. So, we continued on about 500 feet and there was a man with another dog in the car looking around, we pulled up and asked him, “are you looking for a large boy boxer dog?” Yes he was, we told him which direction his wayward canine was headed and the man thanked us and grumbled, “he is *such* an asshole!” and headed off to find his dog. My coworker looked a little shocked that the guy would call his dog an asshole whereas I was feeling a deep and real kinship with this guy and his beloved asshole(s).

Made it back to St. Thomas seaplane and then flew home to St. Croix. I was so happy to be close to home I was rocking out to some music on my headphones while walking to the car.
**MUSICROCKWOOOmeowMUSICMUSICROCKmeeeeeoooooowMUSIC** I take out a headphone and say, “uh….kitty?” “MEEEEEOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW!” I look around and articulately say, “uh…..” and out pops a wee kitten head from the tire of a taxi bus. “fuck,” I say. And thus begins the great kitten wrangling adventure of yesterday.

I busted out the dog treats and my fancy cat call of, “here kitty kitty.” Shockingly, kitty kitty came closer. I (stupidly) assumed this meant the kitty wanted to snuggle. Ha! Kitty done levitated 5 feet up and 5 feet back when I touched her. Hoping there was a magical trick to catching said kitty I contacted the local cat catch, spay/neuter, release super hero and she advised scruffing the cat if I had anything to put her in when I caught her. At this point I had convinced the cat to crawl into a bucket to eat, but she meant something secure where I wouldn’t end up dealing with a flying whirlwind of claws and pain while I drove.

Once I had little kitty all distracted and eating, Big Daddy showed up saunters over and sprays my tire. He also enjoyed a few nibbles of dog treats before he sauntered off to spray other vehicles.

okay then, it appears Big Daddy Cat has fully embraced his inner asshole. Superhero cat-catcher lady drives over with traps and she manags to snaggle both critters into traps and into her car just as another downpour starts. Both kitties will be fixed and released. Woooo!

When I finally got home, the dogs were FASCINATED by the lady who, based on the amount of sniffing that occurred, smelled amazing.



Humphrey’s Hugs

NB: it is very hard to write with a Humphrey on top of me. 

so challenging in fact that I hit publish before I wrote my thoughts. *sigh* 

So, one of the reasons Dobby is such a satisfying dog to showcase as a rehabilitated dog is because the transformation is so very visible. He went from nasty nekkid mole rat to handsome beefcake relatively quickly. 

But how do you visually show the changes in a dog who basically looks the same? Answer: you can’t. 

Humphrey, the largest of our idiots, is technically my husband’s dog because when he saw a picture of this dog he literally said, “I love him, his name is Humphrey and I shall love him forever.” and that is how Humphrey was named and adopted. 

Humphrey was quite literally a pet project of a woman who has now become incredibly valuable to the animal welfare of this island. She moved into a home and Humphrey lived, a classic case of neglect, tied to the fence at the edge of her property. Her & her husband befriended this dog, feeding him and giving him attention to the point of building him a shelter, and the husband walking him. It is my belief that these interactions were Humphrey’s first introduction to affection and he was (and is) a fan. I have some opinions about hugging dogs that can be simplified into “generally do not,” but Humphrey seems to actively seek them out. When I thought about it for a while, it made sense to me. His first FoodLady provided him with affection, food, and attention and probably hugged him. This poor dog, never having been well-socialized with other dogs and appeared to have been tied up and ignored by humans until his first FoodLady moved in next door, learned that hugs were how you show love. 

Anywhoodle, Humphrey was a mess and to be honest, still is and always will be. He was found running loose and taken to the animal shelter, and when no-one claimed him, his first FoodLady contacted me and asked if I would take him in. I showed my (now) husband his photo and the rest is history. 

Mr. Humphrey’s progress includes: 

  • was heartworm positive; now officially negative! woohooo!
  • has a lot of broken teeth (his first and only toy was the chain that attached him to the fence); still has broken teeth but is not in any pain and it is next on the vet list once I get the care credit card paid down
  • He is very healthy. 
  • He had no leash manners and was strong enough for that to make walking him very hard; he is still not perfect on a leash, but is better. He knows how to chase tennis balls and now plays joyously with the other dogs daily. Watching him run is just beautiful. 

He is a very sensitive dog and when I have been sick or sad, he hasn’t left my side. Had Humphrey been raised in a loving environment where he lived with his mother and littermates until 12 – 16 months with appropriate human socialization included and then adopted into a home where he learned how to interact with his human pack and given appropriate training? he could have been devastatingly amazing. He’s unique and he’s loved; but his lost potential will always make me a little sad. 

All these positive changes have been internal. When he arrived here he was a large, healthy-looking apricot-colored canine. He is still a large, healthy-looking apricot colored canine. 

He will always have his limitations. He cannot be around cats, he will hunt them.  He gets too caught up in pack excitement too quickly and ends up nipping humans in response leading to bruising on one occasion, but if he meets new humans by himself – they are all his newest bestest friends. 

He’s never going to be perfect, but who is? Not me. 

Love y’all,


    Two Options

    Okay, so….real talk. I lose shit. I mean, ALL THE TIME. I currently have a Be On The Lookout (BOLO) list in my planner with no less than 13 items on it yet to be found. While I just spent the last 49 minutes of my life searching for my (damn) phone I had a great idea – wouldn’t it be great if cell phones came with a charging base that had a “find handset”-type page button? And if that noise could override silenced notifications? Yep, hours of my life could be saved if something like that existed.  

    ….and that’s when I remembered – shit, you can train a dog to find your keys or your phone. Why haven’t I done this? I have five, count them, FIVE freeloading asshats who were quite literally scampering around the front yard in joyous play while I sweated and cussed and moved furniture. 

    There are hundreds of thousands of articles out there and I have no idea what method I will be using, but once I figure it out I will be sure to share.  

    Love all y’all,


    Tussling Took a Turn

    Somedays this house is clean, calm, and happy; but to be perfectly honest lately with five (*blinks* when the hell did I end up with five again?!) freaking dogs we are doing well if everyone is happy. 

    Yesterday everyone wasn’t happy. To the best of my understanding , either Sam-Sam the (asshole) model decided that Humphrey aka Big Stinky (asshole) was looking at him funny or vice versa, but the happy tussle time took a turn. Which led to a *very* displeased FoodLady wielding a chair. Turns out holding a lawn chair over your head scares the bejeesus out of any non-invested dog and gets them out of way. Then by simply placing the chair over the SamSam I separated the two assholes nicely. 

    Safety Note: I was okay separating them because they weren’t actively trying to kill each other, just some pack stupidity. Sort of the difference between high school kids fighting in the hall vs someone fighting for their life.

    Of course there were some scrapes, but this morning I noticed poor Humphrey had a puncture; cleaned it and found a second one. That’s when I knew that I had to take him to the vet. dammit. Antibiotics and then back home. 

    The house didn’t get any cleaner or calmer while I was out. 


    That Hurt Me in My Feels.

    Something unpleasant happened to me last night and it hurt my feelings. For newer readers of the FoodLady Chronicles, I occasionally joke about my neighbors across the road disliking me. I have accepted that this older couple does not want to be friends, but if I am honest I always assumed that if they actually got to know me, we would get along and enjoy a polite neighborly relationship. It turns out I may have assumed incorrectly because it appears that these folks not only dislike me, they may actively loathe me.

    Allow me to set the scene: SamSam and I arrived for our 7:30PM obedience class and there was a lovely young lady with a super excited young (7 months) gray puppydog who was just full of excited-crazies. Because the front door was locked and the pretty grayling was getting too stimulated by the presence of Mr. SamSam (who did incredibly well, btw) we walked around to the back door and went into training room to sit in the corner while the puppy class that was ahead of the adult class finished up their Q&As. So while we waited I looked up and saw my neighbor through the glass door. I raised my hand to wave and she turned around and left – I thought she didn’t see me. Just before our class started I went out into the store portion and asked, “Did Ms. Neighbor leave?” and was answered, “Yes.”
    Because I am a complete glutton for punishment I couldn’t help but ask, “was it because of me?” and was answered, “Yes.”

    Well, shit.

    My calm and rational side freaking tried people, it really did. It kicked out all of these super helpful coping statements:

    “You cannot control anyone else’s behavior; you can only control how you react to their behavior.”


    “It’s not worth getting angry about; my self-worth is not dependent on what someone else thinks of me”


    “People aren’t against me – they are for themselves; I will not take this personally.”

    Unfortunately, once my brain thought the, “…I will not take this personally” part, my calm and rational side was beaten into submission by my emotional side who rather correctly pointed out that it doesn’t actually get more personal than driving 30 minutes across the island in the rain, finding parking in downtown Christiansted, going into the facility, and then, even before meeting the instructor or attempting the class at all, you leave to drive 30 minutes home in the rain all because of the sight of another student in that class; me.

    I put the whole situation out of my head because Mr. SamSam deserved my focus and attention and he was wonderful. He really has come so far from the Tasmanian Devil of gleeful destruction that he used to be. Unfortunately, while on my way home I couldn’t help but think about the Mr. & Mrs. Neighbor and got myself stuck in a thought loop that went something along the lines of: “I must be a monster – what sort of horrible hobgoblin must I be that the mere sight of me causes someone to quit a class before it even starts.” and then I cried.

    Now, in the light of day I am much more rational. I assume the over-excited grayling puppy probably intimidated Mr. & Mrs. Neighbor quite a bit and the size discrepancy between their wee dangerflüff and the other three dogs (each approximately 50lbs) didn’t inspire confidence. Unexpectedly seeing me, their hobgoblin of a neighbor, was just one stressor too many and they gave up. This makes me sad because I really think that if they had put a little trust into the instructor and ignored my existence they could have learned a lot and become happier and more confident dog owners and their wee dangerflüff would have had a better life.

    For me, I will continue to try to be a good FoodLady and not let other people’s opinions affect me too much. Dogs’ opinions of me, however, will continue to be of utmost importance.


    Breaking Story!

    Okay, that’s a lie. it’s not a breaking story, it’s not even news to people who have actually taken a few minutes to think about things. But, to some people, what I’m about to say is downright scandalous! Ready? 

    There are no bad training methods or tools. 

    Say what now? 

    Yeah, you will go onto the Internet and your will read scathing reviews Of Everything. 

    • Choke Chains – how could you be so cruel?!
    • Electronic collars – you are abusing your dog!?
    • Give treats?! your dog will never listen to you without treats. 
    • Don’t give treats?! your losing out on bonding opportunities and making happy connections with your dogs/puppies!?
    • Clicker training!?! what, so you don’t have a Clicker then they won’t do anything?! 
    • Extend-o-leashes – you have no control, you are a horrible person!
    • No-pull harnesses – your forcing them to strain. 
    • Gentle-leader-type head collar – you are going to sprain your dogs neck and no dog ever likes them, at best they tolerate them. 
    • Pulling harnesses – not enough control, someone will get hurt!

    ugh. everybody just calm down. say it with me now, 

    “There are no bad training methods or tools!”

    There are pluses and minuses to ALL types of training and tools. For the love of all that is good in this world, please remember that tools in the wrong hands are, at best useless and at worst, dangerous. 

    Random non-dog example: I recently had a co-worker express concern about providing promotional screwdrivers because they didn’t “have a cover”. She claimed she thought they were a weapon and she could too easily stab someone. I really feel this said a lot more about my co-worker than the small screwdriver, but I digress – in her hands that screwdriver was a tool of pain and strife whereas to the rest of us, it was a handy little screwdriver. 

    So, here are my thoughts!

    • Choke Chains – one of the handiest collars for a dog that loves to get dirty, go swimming, and needs a lot of baths – it washes right along with the dog. Make sure it fits well, make sure it isn’t ever used to “choke” the dog, and make sure you are using it correctly. Keep working with your dog. 
    • Electronic collars – for some dogs and owners an e-collar solves everything. Usually when the human and the dog have trouble understanding each other or for field hunting work. Most of the time the electrical stimulation is very low or set to vibration. That said, you can really fuck this up if you do it wrong. Basically, learn as much as you can about the collar, practice on yourself, and if it works for you and your dog, great! if not, great! it’s a tool. Keep working with your dog. 
    • Give treats?! some dogs *need* to build a happy joy love bond and they are driven by their bellies. If your worried, slowly wean them down while increasing demands. the best training when it’s fun for you and your dogs. Keep working with your dog. 
    • Don’t give treats?! some dogs live to please their humans and while a piece of liver is keen, they would rather feel the joy from you as a reward. It’s okay to not give treats during training. it’s okay to give treats during training. the most important part?! that you are *doing* things with your dogs! Keep working with your dog. 
    • Clicker training!?! I have a rather personal grudge against anti-clicker training people–I spent YEARS not understanding that clicker training is FUN! I was told you can do clicker training or not, but you can’t do it only once in a while. Lies. that is a flat out lie. Clicker training is super fun and helps dogs grasp exactly what you are looking for, but you don’t ALWAYS have to have a clicker. it’s just another fun tool to keep things interesting. Keep working with your dog. 
    • Extend-o-leashes – Holy crap, if there is one thing that the poor people who work at vet clinics and pet stores hate, it’s extending leashes. I can’t blame them, they see them being used in the worst ways. Sure, let your dog be in total control in a large pet store! what could go wrong? Such was the hatred for extend-o-leashes that I bought one super stealthily online and told no-one. I wanted it so that I could let my dog go outside in mid winter in the Midwest while I stayed inside. Which was perfectly FINE. If you love your super long leash, awesome! use it safely. If you need to be in tight control of the dog, use a different leash or lock it short. If you need the dog to be able to go 30 feet but still be connected to you? you are using the correct tool. Keep working with your dog. 
    • No-pull harnesses – read about them, use it wisely. Ensure dog is wearing the correct size and safe. Keep working with your dog. 
    • Gentle-leader-type head collar – if you have a dog that you are finding hard to walk on a leash, slowly introduce the head-collar, and give it a try. It is so much better to have a dog be able to go for a walk then to have them stuck at home and never leave because you can’t control him. Keep working with your dog. 
    • Pulling harnesses – If you can use it safely and it works for you, rock on! To each their own, and keep working with your dog! 

    So, I don’t know if my ultimate message has made it through, but it boils down to this: whether you have a 200lb behemoth or a 2lb danger-floof, the more you interact and do things with your dog, the happier you both will be, so remember to keep working with your dog!

    Also, no-one out there knows everything, so take that into consideration as you are finding your way. While it is always easy to think of someone else’s way/method/tool as being the wrong way/method/tool, before you make any final judgements about anything, spend some time and think about it and see if maybe you should try it. 

    And always, keep working with your dog!