Thursday, February 18, 2010

Our Beagle, Food and the Kids

Our dog has been real obnoxious lately when we are eating. She is a beagle, a breed of scent hound known for being extremely food-oriented and food-motivated. Before kids, we never ever gave her any people food, partly because she has some food allergies but also to help discourage the begging. But now there are kids and a highchair and food being dropped on the floor and food being left on the table within dog nose/tongue reach (she is big and tall for a beagle). The dog is becoming insane.

The rule is that the dog is not allowed in the kitchen while we are eating, but she can come in and clean up the floor when we are done and release her. We consistently enforce the rule (although the nanny does not always enforce it), but stubbornness is also a well-known trait of beagles. We constantly tell her to get out of the kitchen. She KNOWS she is supposed to stay in the family room on the carpet while we are eating mere feet away in the kitchen which is open to the family room. Yet every chance she gets, she tries to find a way into the kitchen. More than 2 dozen times each meal, we are telling her to get out of the kitchen, to go sit down, to GET OUT! Even the Pumpkin knows this, and in fact tells on the dog every time she makes it into the kitchen.

Then the other evening, she snuck in the kitchen when I was up getting a spoon or something. I turned around to see the dog's face stuffed into the highchair WHERE THE BABY WAS SITTING. As I was reaching out to the dog and telling her no, the baby let out a cry. That dang dog took the teething biscuit right out of the baby's hand! She didn't bite the Pookie--she's not a biter, and his hand didn't have any marks on it--but that is unacceptable!

So now when she doesn't listen and can't seem to help herself from trying to get into the kitchen and get the kids' food, I make her go upstairs and put her in her crate. She howls and whines, but she is at least out of the kitchen and I can let go of some of the tension from constant vigilance. I know she wants to be part of the family, as beagles are also extremely social, pack animals and generally hate to seperated from the pack. But she can't seem to help herself, and I can only take so much.


The summer of 2001, Londo and I had been talking about getting a dog. Our cat was two years old, fiesty, sweet and, well, a cat. While I loved having the cat, I had grown up with dogs in the house and really wanted a dog. Londo was on board in theory, but maybe not sure of how ready he was. He grew up with cats and dogs, but in he lived in the country where the animals stayed outside. This would be a big adjustment for him, and he wasn't sure how to account for the house training when we were both working full days and he had grad school.

On September 11, 2001, tragedy struck. That day, Londo and I both came home early from work, sat on the couch stunned and watched news channels all day long. By evening, I turned to Londo and say, "We are getting a dog this weekend." He immediately agreed.

To me, dogs are so comforting. In times of distress and pain, the dogs I've had come right up to you and snuggle their sweet, furry faces into you, willing you to feel better. That day, I longed for that type of comfort. Our cat is not a lap cat, and though he is good for leg rubs, he does not provide that unconditional, want-you-to-feel-better, sympathetic snuggling that dogs do.

I had done a lot of research on breeds, and I felt that beagles would be the best breed for us and still be under the weight restriction of the apartments where we lived at the time. I followed up on an ad about beagles for sale and made plans to visit the breeder that weekend. We drove 45 minutes to a house in the Georgia countryside and met with a friendly woman and husband, who showed us their latest litter of beagles. We were the first to respond, and we would get the pick of the litter. We did all the little dog personality "tests" and picked out an adorable little puppy with a mostly black back, cute "tick" markings on her belly, a black/brown/white face and the softest ears you've ever felt. She was not too shy, not too agressive.

We brought her with us when we went inside the house to sign the papers. She had never been inside before, and she was overwhelmed. She scampered under the dining room hutch, and we had to pull her out when we were ready to leave. On the 45 minute ride back to our house, she rode in my lap the whole way, sleeping while I stroked her soft puppy fur.

Like the cat, we named her after a science fiction character (cause we are geeks like that). She loved the cat right off, although the cat took some time to adjust to her. She also loved the cat's food and litter box, both of which had to be put out of her reach very quickly.

She's always been very good natured, although a bit needy and stubborn. She's been a wonderful dog, and we feel so lucky to have her.


The dog believes that the nanny comes to our house every week day for her. I'm sure of it. Our nanny loves the dog and gives her a ton of affection, though she is sure to reprimand her and try to enforce the rules of the house (mostly). The dog LOVES the nanny. She also loves being able to hang out in the house all day with her and the baby. Our beagle has some separation anxiety issues, which is common for the social beagle breed. If she is alone in the house, she needs to be in her crate where she feels safe and secure.

Every day, the beagle goes WILD from the moment she hears the lock in the front door jingling until the nanny makes her way through the baby gate into the family room, yelping and running around in circles. This at least distracts the dog from trying to get into the kitchen for, oh, a nanosecond.


When we pulled the highchair out of the basement for the Pookie, the dog was SO excited. She knew what this meant, and she couldn't have been more thrilled. I should have known then that she was about to become a huge pain in the butt. I still had hope that she would be somewhat manageable, as she had been since the Pumpkin was out of the highchair. Beagles have great memories and are really smart dogs, but they can also be persistent and sneaky. Our dog remembered that the highchair in the kitchen meant more food on the ground, and I believe she started right then to planning ways for getting that food before any humans could stop her.


This morning, the dog was being relentless. It was one of those breakfast times when everyone needed something at the same time, and I hadn't even had my coffee yet! As I jumped from one breakfast-making activity to another, the dog snuck in the kitchen under the table, dove into the kitchen to try to snatch up the food the Pumpkin dropped, and then snuck in again and stuffed her face into the highchair next to the baby's leg!

Keys jiggled in the front door, the dog went crazy. I sighed and put my head in my hands. The nanny came in, greeting the dog while trying to keep her from jumping up and from running into the kitchen. Once the nanny took over feeding the Pookie, I went upstairs to finish getting ready. I took the dog with me.

I did my makeup and put on work clothes, and the dog sat in front of the bedroom door whining to be let out. Downstairs there was FOOD! and the NANNY! and FOOD! Finally, I opened the door and let her out, though I stayed behind to collect a few last minute things.

As I walked down the stairs, I could hear the Pumpkin trying to get the dog to do something, or not do something, I wasn't sure. I immediately thought she was after my daughter's food, and I was getting frustrated. But when I looked into the family room, my daughter was in there, and the dog was right near her. I asked what was going on, and the Pumpkin said that she was trying to get the dog to play with her toy. Not the Pumpkin's toy, I quickly realized, but a dog toy.

The Pumpkin was throwing the dog toy so that the dog could chase it and fetch it back. The nanny was playing tug of war with the dog. I showed the nanny and the Pumpkin the best and safest way to get the dog to give the toy back so that the Pumpkin could throw it for her again. Then I watched them as I cleaned up the kitchen. The Pookie was in the nanny's lap, enjoying the entertainment by two of his favorite things to watch.

The Pumpkin threw that toy for the dog until my sweet little dog was too tired to keep playing. She plopped herself down and chewed on the toy. The Pumpkin at first tried to get her to keep playing, but I explained that she is an old dog and gets tired. She needs to rest a bit. But wasn't that fun? The Pumpkin seemed to understand, and we got her shoes on and left for school, calling out good bye to the nanny, the Pookie and the dog (and the cat) on our way out the door.

Beagles are also known for being great with kids. It was a large part of the reason we picked a beagle, knowing back then that she'd (hopefully) be around when we started having kids. She's a great dog.


Becoming Mommy said...

Your beagle sounds alot like our kerry blue. Both big and tall for their breeds. Both gotten only after a lot of research. Both have to be careful what they eat. Both horrible beggers who make us insane and have selective hearing.

But ultimately, awesome family dogs who are perfect for homes with little kids.

Maria said...

Just last night I was re-researching dog breeds and trying to decide whether we're really, really ready for a dog, and whether we can handle a puppy or what to do. I love that unconditional affection and doggie love! Not to mention the protection for a single mom and daughter…

Would it help at all to put the crate closer to the kitchen so when the dog is in the crate she's not isolated? It does seem that the crate is the best place for her while there is food around, to take the possibility of sneaking and filching out of the equation in her doggie brain.

You're encouraging me to make the leap too!

Burgh Baby said...

Ugh. Our dogs were always fantastic about not begging or stealing food, but lately Alexis has been sneakily GIVING them food under the table. It's turning them into monsters and I'm so busy yelling at all three of them to knock it off that I don't think any one of them even hears me.

mom2boys said...

Aww, very sweet stories.

hush said...

Ever watch "The Dog Whisperer" with Cesar Millan? He is amazing and I totally think he is on to something with his ideas of pack behavior. We can't really watch it as much as we would like to because our dogs bark at the dogs barking on tv!

caramama said...

@Becoming Mommy - EXACTLY!

@Maria - I love the beagles, but they do have some issues. Then again, no one is perfect--even dogs! I think they are totally worth it anyway. The crate closer to the kitchen is actually worse. It's the being separated from the pack that's the problem, and it is worse when she can see us but not get to us.

@Burgh Baby's Mom - Oh that's the worst! The Pumpkin tried to feed the dog a couple of times, but fortunately she actually listened to us about that and stopped.

@mom2boys - She really is a sweet dog and adds a fun (if sometimes frustrating) dynamic to the house.

@hush - I have watched that show, and he makes some really good points. I used to have more time and honestly more interest in working with the dog. Funny how kids change that, isn't it? Lately I've been trying to apply some parenting techniques on the dog. Not too much success yet...

Karen said...

Sounds like you have a winner of a dog, except for that begging thing. But honestly, that's any dog.

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