P. A. T.

Dear Goddamned Beagle,


In my field we have lots of acronyms. Acronyms are letters that, when put together, relieve a person from having to remember or even understand what the full words in a title mean. They’re also really nifty because with just a little marketing one can issue certifications using that acronym, and then other people don’t have to understand what the letters stand for either, but it’s always impressive!

Some of the better-known acronyms are CAT (Constructional Aggression Treatment), BAT (Behavior Adjustment Training), and RAT (Relationship Assessment Tool). There are a lot more of them, but I particularly like those three as they are kind of matchy and rhyme. For some time now I’ve thought about releasing FAT (F**K All That – Just Train Your Dog), but I’m a little sensitive to my own heft, and wasn’t sure how many people would want Certified FAT Instructor, or CFATI, on their web sites and business cards.

Cherry Tomato

You can imagine my pride, then, at announcing the launch of PAT – Passive Aggressive Training -developed with you especially in mind.

Disgusting Cherry Tomato
Egg White

The kitchen is a busy place, and sometimes things fall from counters and plates. How, one wonders, might one teach a beagle not to lunge for things dropped in the course of meal preparation?  Not only is it rude, especially when others don’t realize your occasional resource guarding is largely nonsense, backed up only by your seven remaining teeth and mighty attitude, but it can cause injury if, as recently occurred, said beagle does a snatch-and-grab on a piece of very hot chicken fallen out of a pan.

Enter PAT, the newest answer to the “leave it” question.

You see, Beagle, while you’ll beg, sneak brazenly steal and problem-solve constantly in search of your next snack, there are some things you just won’t eat, vegetables, fruit, and egg whites being the most curious of them. I can only assume it’s the heritage of your unfortunate upbringing that you’d trip Mother Theresa for a Tater Tot, but leave a hard boiled egg white untouched during famine.


It’s a simple protocol, really. The key is to drop or place on the floor only items that the dog doesn’t want to eat. As successive items are dropped, the speed and enthusiasm with which the dog approaches the food slows, eventually resulting in what can only be described as ennui de chien. Yes, Beagle. This is so fancy it gets French.

The protocol was tested in two kitchens. We started with some basic items known to be uninteresting to you – a pickle and a cherry tomato – and moved on to other ingredients.


I’m pleased to report that in just one vacation day, keeping properly hydrated through coffee and wine, my colleague and I were easily able to demonstrate that PAT works within just a few trials. Your rate of approach slowed to a mere stroll when reacting to dropped or placed food items. Your level of interest clearly declined, to the point that it may be fair to say your trust in mankind to provide viable sustenance was, at least temporarily, altered.

The protocol does still need some adjustment. At one point during the pilot study you expanded the testing area, climbing onto the table where a bag of pepper-seasoned potato chips and a cup of tea made for a more satisfactory refection. Likewise, your eventual decision to leave the second test kitchen allowed you to find a Thing’s unfinished bowl of Cheerios in the living room. Access to better eats will need to be accounted for in future trials.gintiltginexploring

Still, these little setbacks are to be expected. No one can manage a beagle’s environment like a beagle, after all. We mere humans have only our wits, a vague knowledge of learning sciences and a bottle of Malbec with which to counter your capacity for provisioning, or what we refer to as “theft.”

With PAT I feel we’re at the dawn of a whole new kind of training and stimulus control, one that completely eliminates pesky resource guarding, begging and food stealing from the canine-human relationship. While PAT’s success relies on creating boredom and apathy in the subject, it also requires involved and nearby humans to eat only pickles, plums, cherry tomatoes, canned goods and egg whites. This part needs to be worked through as allowable menu items may need to be augmented for long-term sustainability, so there’ll be no more trying things from the Whole Foods bag for you, Beagz. We wouldn’t want you learning to like new things.


Your Person




  1. Marjie,
    I love your blog, better than coffee, drugs or sugar for starting the day off with a good laugh and creative thinking. I love you! and your dog. However, I must say that the Beagz path diverges from Piper’s. Piper only practices thievery when no one is watching. He is an observer, and the opportunity to watch a human practicing the art of food preparation trumps (oh, sorry I said a swear word, blush) ingesting the food being prepared. Piper’s mottos are “what are you doing?” “how do you do that?” and finally “can I do that?” The only thing that stops Piper from ruling the world is the absence of opposable thumbs. He can lie in the kitchen just out of range of the preparer’s foot movements and stare… for hours. Dropped food rarely interests him, he is too intent on watching. Even things dropped intentionally to reward his patience, (things that might otherwise whet his appetite , or not, if they were potential theft targets) are disdainfully ignored . However, he definitely has work ethic, and his own strict rules for his behavior. Food left on a counter or on the table is fair game in the human’s momentary absence is fair game. Food being loaded in a momentarily ignored lunch carrier is fair game. Nate’s food in Nate’s bowl is fair game and greedily guarded from poor Nate who must move over to Piper’s bowl which still holds amble food… even though Nate is twice Piper’s size, Nate is a pacifist and won’t defend his bowl. Piper prefers to watch human’s work, and engage in thievery when unobserved. Right now, he’s perfecting the art of lifting delectables out of the sink with his front teeth, while standing on his tip toes. An art Moon, the master food thief of all times, (he was an Aussie after all) long ago perfected, and I suspect he coaches Piper from the realm beyond, since he died about 6 years ago. Have a good morning!

  2. Oooh, she thought the gin was worth a sniff!

    And be careful… Gretchen’s corgis both learned to love — and demand! — raw broccoli on a daily basis.

  3. My parenting philosophy is to “parent through boredom.” Basically, the more boring a parent I was, the more my kids would have to be creative. It was a successful approach and I have self-motivated, interesting children. So… although I think PAT sounds ingenious, it might backfire. At some point that Beagle is going to become creative. Then watch out.

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