Kathy Diamond Davis

Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States

Author of the book "Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach Others," 2nd edition published by Dogwise Publishing. Canine Behavior Series at www.veterinarybehavior.com

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Of Weight, Eating, and Dog Handling

I have a tale to tell about planning and lack thereof, but with a Master Plan. My sleep is wacko again, and I wind up needing to eat but not having a way to plan in advance because I simply don't know in advance whether I'll be eating in the daytime or the middle of the night.

I woke up at 11 last night after 8 hours of sleep and fixed my medication, some psyllium husk in water, and 6 cups of cocoa-powder-laced herb tea. Sipped the "big gulp" while combing dogs and watching TV and pondering what I was going to fix for my meal when I finished with them. Decided on boiled eggs, canned tuna, mustard, and green beans. My tummy likes the beans better in a salad like that these days than chopped onions, and I rarely have celery or bell peppers on hand to use.

Finished the dogs and my drink and went into the kitchen, started brewing another hot tea and peeling the boiled eggs. I wanted to use them up, so I peeled one for each dog, too. That task goes like lightening when I peel them with a spoon. I had the beans cooking in the microwave with some chicken broth to add volume to the sauce.

With all the eggs peeled, I set mine in a bowl on the counter and went to give the dogs theirs, carefully so they wouldn't rob each other. As I finished giving them, I thought I'd better check on the oldest, and make sure she ate hers instead of guarding it to start a fight with another dog stealing it. She hadn't even started, so I stood there prompting her to eat...each...bite.

I started thinking, this is taking so long, I hope Believer leaves my eggs alone. I looked around and she was out of sight. I called her and she did not come. I got Spirit done eating hers and went into the kitchen. Sure enough, my eggs were disappearing, and Beevy was on hind legs eating fast!

She hadn't touched the last two, so I rinsed them as I told her the gig was up, and thought, okay, how will I adjust this food for myself? I could have boiled a couple more eggs, but why bother? I switched to my sauce that has a little olive oil in it, and added sliced black olives. The nice thing about "salad" is how adjustable it is. I was very happy with the calories, carbs and satiety of this meal.

I didn't scold the dog. It wouldn't have influenced her choice at the next opportunity, because she had already had a great reward by getting to eat the eggs. I wasn't mad. It's nice to feel that peaceful about food--and about dog training. If I'd known I was going to be out of the room like that, I could easily have secured the eggs. It's not a dog's fault for acting like a dog. I was glad I had peeled them, because she will eat the shells if the eggs are not peeled. That is said to be okay for dogs, but I'm skeptical.

Eggs are one people food that is good for dogs as long as the whites are cooked, and she had no upset tummy. That was good, since I needed her assistance later on a shopping trip. My computer printer bit the dust yesterday and I had to go pick up a new one. Got my first Canon, and it seems nice.

Anyone who is worried about cravings this week, try to get some 500 mg L-glutamine capsules at the health food store. I take them with my arthritis medicine twice a day, a total of 4 pills a day. That's one reason my thinking about what to fix for that meal was relaxed and not hunger-driven. It totally takes the edge off. It does a lot of other good things, too, including help to heal damage to the esophagus from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication.

Doctor Atkins recommends taking 500 mg a half hour before eating, if I remember correctly. L-glutamine is an amino acid, a component of protein that is found in chicken and is harmless. I did not start using it until I reached maintenance, because during the weight loss phases I wanted to learn to manage cravings with how I ate, and I really did learn that.

I would like to take L-carnitine, too, but I can't seem to keep enough of it on hand. It's another amino acid that Dr. Atkins recommended. I took one bottle of it, but taking 4 a day with only 60 in the bottle, it goes so fast.

Leading with the diet works because it keeps physical cravings and emotional upsets from bad eating out of your day. A human body feels food cravings when the insulin level goes up in reaction to a release of glucose into your system due to the way you're eating. That kind of craving is normal, but for people with an addiction problem to food, emotions and rationalizations and other mind games then jump on your back, too. You're weakened by the physical effects, so it's harder to hold out and eat right until your body gets straightened out again.

NOBODY needs that extra physical stress on top of what life already hands us. You can keep your life more peaceful by making the right physical eating choices, and that "leading with the diet" keeps your emotions about eating much easier to control, too.

I hit goal at this time of year and that first holiday season at goal I knew I'd better be very careful with the eating. I had to adjust my eating to stop losing, or risk losing too much, so I really was in the position of going to maintainance at the holidays. And I was just months into menopause, too!

If you go through all the phases of Atkins and experience the normal stalls on the way down, by the time you hit maintenance you have learned a lot about how your body reacts, but not everything. Hopefully you will have learned that maintaining at the same weight does not allow for going off Atkins. It only allows for some minor adjustments.

Unless you are a 25-year-old hard exerciser--preferably male!--you will have to continue to be very careful with your eating, for life. If you are diabetic and have any sense, you will especially WANT to be careful with your eating, because controlled carb eating does such a splendid job of regulating your blood sugar. If you have food addictions, same thing, because that jet-propelled blood sugar makes your body do a number on your emotions that you really don't need!

As I reached goal, I kept reminding myself--those of you who were around at that time may remember--that I did not lose the weight by my own power in the first place. It was not my accomplishment and it was not on me to keep it going. I would always need the miracle, but God would always be there--if not, why would he have done it for me in the first place? It was given to me to strengthen my faith, and the faith of others around me.

This is also what 12 step programs such as AA and Overeaters Anonymous teach. Getting out of the food--or the alcohol or the narcotics or the gambling or the sex addiction--is not something we "gut out." Eventually that approach will fail most people. But if you surrender to God--in 12-step terms, surrender to your higher power--you tap into real strength.

I don't have to be strong enough to keep the weight off by keeping the eating in line and the exercise in line. I have to be willing to surrender, and I have to renew that willingness with every choice I make all through every day. The strength resides with God, and I am given strength by turning there for it. When my dogs obey me, I can give them more privileges and more freedom and still keep them safe. I help them obey. I love them like crazy and all I want is what's best for them, not to "boss them around" just to prove I can. God IS love, so he's better at it with me than I am with them. Faith that actually works is real faith.

---Minus 181 pounds on Atkins in 21 months, now at goal weight since 10/24/2003. I'm in the middle of a miracle. Thank you, God.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Answer to Dog Question

I got a question on a GSD, 9 months old, whining like crazy in training class and struggling to get to his humans when separated from them. Here's my response:


Anxiety and eagerness to get busy causes the whining, which is common in breeds such as the GSD and also the Labrador. Training can fix this, but it won't be training "not" to whine--it will be training to do a lot of stuff! He's just a baby in German Shepherd time.

This is a breed that needs a ton of training, and they do brilliantly at it. You need the right trainer, and I think it would be wise to get some private coaching along with classes. It has to be the right approach, because of course the wrong handling at this age can ruin a dog's temperament. He sounds like a soft dog for a GSD--right up my alley, since I am nuts for the Belgian Tervuren. They're like "GSD-lite"!

Your dog needs to be trained with plenty of practice, lots of reward, prevention from making mistakes without harsh corrections (definitely not an electronic collar), and a wide variety of commands. If he were mine, our daily sessions would be an hour outing--since his class is probably an hour, he needs practice maintaining control for an hour. As a herding breed, he needs to get out away from the house to a wide variety of safe settings in order to socialize him to the wide world.

I would be working on these things with him daily:

Stays, one sit, one down and one stand per day, every day, some days on-leash during the outing and some days off-leash in the house. On class days, I'd watch time carefully and return to my dog at his correct time, no matter what the class is doing. Arrange this with the instructor. Also keep him on leash even if other dogs are off leash. He's too young and too anxious to be off-leash for group stays in class yet. Practice success, not failure.
Walk on a loose leash. Never move forward with a dog on a taut leash. Always loose, loose, loose!
Focused attention everywhere, especially at class!
Retrieving--at this age I'd be doing "Hold It" for up to one minute very gently, and stimulating the "Take It" with exciting play
Come when called, on leash or long line on outings and off-leash at home
Fancy footing. I teach the dog to walk on my left, on my right, turn left and right, about turn to the right and to the left, zig-zag, doodles, negotiate through posts, take backward steps in heel position--everything I can find and think of, to help him learn to move with me.
There's more, but my brain is freezing up! This sounds like a long session, but it shouldn't be. Most of the time should be happy walking and talking to him, with stops along the way to do an exercise or two and move on. Keep it fun, fun, fun. He is a baby. His joints probably hurt, too.

Do NOT ask for fast sits or downs at this age. Gently ease his hiney into a "big boy" sit by tickling at his tummy if he does a puppy sit, but do not force a straight sit at this age. His hips are all over the place. He needs to be learning to LOVE working with you. There absolutely do need to be definite limits on his behavior, so he can take pride in himself and feel confident that he can do what you want. He needs praise and rewards that he EARNS. This breed is definitely capable of good self-esteem, and he needs that.

Ask your veterinarian about trainers in the area who have good results with soft dogs--such as Shelties. They're herding dogs, too, and someone who is really good with a breed like that can get on the right wavelength for a soft GSD. You don't want a heavy-handed trainer or someone who believes in training by tricking the dog.

You also do not want the trainer correcting your dog, AT ALL. This is the wrong breed for that. Any corrections need to come from his trusted humans, no one else. You keep the leash, other than the trainer holding it and just keeping your dog happy, such as for the supervised separation of the Canine Good Citizen Test.

The articles of mine listed below the following link will help you:


Stress Whining
Loose Leash Training
Socializing to People, Places, Things (3 articles)
Stay Training
Retrieving in Play
Eye Contact
"Attention, Please!"
Training: What Does Your Dog Need?
Training Classes
Herding Dog Heritage

Kathy Diamond Davis, author, "Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach Others," 2nd edition published by www.dogwise.com; and the free Canine Behavior Series at www.veterinarypartner.com. Note: I am not a veterinarian.