What’s Your Dinner Ritual?

The Case dogs have an evening dinner ritual. This ritual has not changed much in the last few years and deviates very little in its nightly performance. It begins, like clockwork, at 8:15 pm and is currently directed by Cadie, our senior Golden girl. Mike (my husband) typically feeds the dogs their evening meal, so is her usual target. As the self-appointed “dinner getter” Cadie takes her responsibilities very seriously. She is in charge of checking the time (apparently every 15 seconds after 7:00 p.m.), of carefully tracking potential human movement towards the utility room where the dog food resides, and of counting dogs to determine when everyone is in the house and ready to eat.

Chip Cadie Vinny Cooper Dec 2012CADIE AND HER BOYS

When all key factors are in place, Cadie declares “Game On!” and the ritual begins in earnest. First comes the unrelenting stare; laser-beam eyes capable of burning holes through flesh. Cadie’s style is impressive; she sits rock solid still, barely breathing, eyes fixed on Mike’s face. If the stares do not elicit the desired response (dinner), she gradually inches closer until she is perched on the couch, Snoopy vulture-style, her cute little snout hovers inches above Mike’s face. If there is still no food-related movement, she adds the woofing; persistent little barks timed at two-second intervals for maximum annoyance. The paw on the arm is added last and occasionally Cadie feigns a dramatic hunger-induced swoon. (Okay, I made that last part up, but it really seems like something she would try). Finally, if all else has failed and it looks like dinner may not be forthcoming, Cadie enlists her second-in-command, Vinny the Brittany, to help.

With two dogs hovering with pleading eyes, Mike finally gets to his feet and walks towards the utility room. An explosion of happiness erupts! It is time for a DOG PARTY!!! Four dogs, all running, spinning, barking, more spinning, joyous, joyous Dinner Time, Dinner Time – A time for celebration! As Mike measures food into bowls, he sings the Case Family Dinner Time song (Who wants dinner? Who wants dinner? Everybody does! Everybody does! ). All four dogs crowd around for the measuring into bowls; Cadie keeping a keen eye on portions. Once the food is doled out, sitting is required prior to eating and all of the dogs adhere to the single hard and fast dinner rule – eat only from your own bowl. When everyone has finished their meal, the dogs are then allowed to play musical bowls, each thoroughly inspecting and licking every bowl. Finally, dinner complete, everyone goes outside for a potty break, knowing that tomorrow will be another day, complete with a new joyous opportunity for food and the celebratory dinnertime ritual.

Malamutes at dinnerSO, WHAT IS YOUR DINNER TIME RITUAL?

Do you have a dinnertime ritual with your dog? Does your dog have very specific and endearing “dinner-getting” behaviors? Do you have a particular way of responding to these? And, tell the truth now…….do you have a dinnertime song?

Food  is love (emotional brain): When we think about our daily lives with our dogs, we consider many shared enjoyments. And with our dogs, just as with our human family and friends, dinner time is not only about nutrition and food – it is just as much about joy and affection, and ritual. Indeed, there is perhaps no other aspect of our lives with dogs in which we show love more consistently than with the decisions that we make about what, how, and when we feed them. And it is exactly these feelings that cause choosing the best possible food or method of feeding for our dogs to weigh so heavily upon our minds.

And, it is science (rational brain): It is a fact that nutrition is a science that is governed by the same scientific principles and methods as all of the hard sciences such as biology, chemistry and physics. However, for most of us, applying the principles of sound nutrition to our dogs’ daily lives does not feel like science. Rather feeding our dogs feels like love, and caretaking, and nurturing.  And indeed, providing good nutritional care should feel good. Without question, the deep love and commitment that we have for our dogs is essential for caring for them well.

Using both: Still, we need evidence, scientifically acquired evidence, to make informed decisions about nutritious foods and healthful feeding practices for dogs. Critical thinking skills enable us to sort out reliable evidence from information that is based upon conjecture, anecdote, and belief. The good news is that emotions and rational thought are not mutually exclusive, and in fact can play quite nicely together in your decision-making brain. Loving our dogs and wanting the best for them (our emotional mind) plus a set of well-honed critical thinking skills (our rational mind) can work together quite efficiently to help us to make wise food choices. While emotions are essential for decision-making and can influence us in many positive ways, we must also be aware of (and avoid) the cognitive traps that emotions can lead to and that clever pet food marketing campaigns often rely upon. Once you have these skills in place, the resulting smart food choices (coupled with a really cool dinnertime song) can help you to enjoy your dinnertime rituals with your dogs for many years to come.

This essay is excerpted from Chapter 1 of my new book “Dog Food Logic“. If you enjoyed this piece would like to read more, the book is available from the publisher (Dogwise) and on Amazon:

 Amazon Cover                                            Amazon Cover              AMAZON                                                                    DOGWISE

16 thoughts on “What’s Your Dinner Ritual?

  1. “we need evidence, scientifically acquired evidence, to make informed decisions about nutritious foods and healthful feeding practices for dogs. Critical thinking skills enable us to sort out reliable evidence from information that is based upon conjecture, anecdote, and belief. ”

    Amen to this! Lovely post, beautifully written – and such an important message
    .

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  2. Since reading your book, I am not quite so fussy about which of our dinner scraps go as extras into the dinner bowls. These tit-bits are added mid- feed to prevent food guarding. Any scraps are warmly welcomed, potatoes, teeny bits of fat, even veggies are regarded as delicacies by our dogs.
    Gorgeous picture of your dogs.

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    • Hi Nicky – So glad to hear this! One of the messages that I hope that the book provides is that there is no single way to nourish our dogs well, as long as we focus on quality ingredients (foods) and avoid making or believing unsupported claims. Those tidbits are just fine and I bet your dogs enjoy them!

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  3. Dinner is training and playtime for us. Our Cane Corso gets “giant dog” kibble for dinner and has to execute a command for each piece. But he delights in this evening ritual. Recently we’ve added hide-and-seek into the mix and he has a blast using his nose to try to figure out where we’ve hidden the kibble. We all have lots of fun and he gets more mental stimulation than he would from just eating out of a bowl.

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  4. Dinner in my household is a multispecies event where my dog and cats all work together to get me to leave my desk at 5pm to feed them. I am first visited by one very vocal cat and my dog and if I don’t respond quickly or if I tell them I need a few more minutes of work time, I am soon surrounded by my two remaining cats. My crew has dinner and then come to get me a second time for their dessert which consists of baby food that I spoon out to each one as they wait their turn. And YES, we do have a dinnertime song! Thank for this very interesting post.

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  5. Dinner is of course a big deal (as is breakfast), and yes, there is a song for each occasion – different songs. When my partner goes on a business trip, he makes sure I am reminded to sing appropriately (there is also a song for going outside after breakfast).

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    • Hello “P”! Love this – Thanks so much for the morning smile! I very much am taken by the idea of different songs for different occasions……. A song for going walking, a training time song, a “let’s go swimming song”, “time for bed song”……. you could be on to something here……. Nurture your dogs and sing that dinnertime song! :) Linda

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  6. Loving your book Linda, very enlightening and you have a great sense of humor.
    I suppose I need a dinner song to get my boys moving to the dinner bowl, as they aren’t as enthusiastic as your brood.
    I love Katy as being the matriarch of the family dinner ritual and her back up help, Vinny if her chef doesn’t more swiftly enough for her taste.
    Thanks for all the informative and useful info you share with us!

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    • Thanks Melissa! (Glad to hear that my oddball sense of humor was appreciated by at least one reader…… :) Re. a dinnertime song – I think your dogs have so much fun out on your hikes in nature and in their wonderful life with you that they already have the very best “song” in the world! So love the photos that you post of your walks with them – keep ‘em coming! Linda

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  7. I have 2 cats and a dog. Right now the dinner ritual is that the cats come looking for food and if it’s not time to feed them yet I don’t get up. So the dog wanders around looking at them. They yowl at him. He demand barks at them. I go insane. We’re working on it. It’s slow.

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  8. Hi Linda – I bought the e-book and am thankful for the anecdotes – as you note of page 49 – “I also realize that nutrition can be dry as dirt”.

    I am definitely one of those “What should I feed my dog” – “What do you feed your dog” kind of person.

    And I’m afraid that even after I finish reading I’ll still be one of those people!

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    • Hi Gayle, Thanks for your comment and for purchasing “Dog Food Logic”. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. And, you are correct in that the book will not tell you what type or brand of food to feed per se. Rather, I hope that it gives you the tools that allow you to research and select a food that fits with your values as a dog owner and with your dog’s individual needs, while also helping you to avoid succumbing to unsupported claims and marketing hype! Happy reading! Linda Case

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