our moody dog

Our dog is a rescue, a mongrel from the streets.

Scrapping for food and survival on the streets, she’s developed a few behaviours. The first few months of living with us, she’d growl and bark at us whenever we would feed her. Food aggression is common amongst dogs and who knows what trauma she's been through. Over the many days we’ve had her, my wife has worked on training her and this has mellowed her down.

But even today, after almost 2 years, any time delay giving her food, she gets a little wonky. She gets hangry. She barks, and she turns into a different personality. She behaves like a complete ass and any one besides me and my wife, if present in the house, are harassed a bit.

not the dog's fault

At the start, we didn’t realise this was coz of her getting hangry. But by slowly getting into a routine - walking her by 4 pm, and feeding her by 5 pm, we realised that it made her feel more chill. Predictable food and timely food calmed her down.

She plays with us a lot more and is better behaved. Whatever trauma the dog has, there are simple workarounds to tell her she’s loved and doesn’t need to fight for her food anymore. It is only when we miss the schedule, or we expect a different behaviour, or tell her “we aren’t gonna eat your food” and nonsense and expect her to understand.

Initially, we'd get angry and yell at her when she would behave like this. From telling her, as if she understands, that we are not going to eat her food to just being annoyed with her, we did stupid things as well. This is something deep-rooted in her, and this is not the sensible way to help her out of it or avoid this situation.

This is simply a pattern that keeps repeating.

dog food,dog bowl,dog kibble,dry dog food,paws,dog paws,dog food bowl,grain free dog food,dog treat,pet food,dog,pet,dog eating,dog feeding
Photo by Mathew Coulton / Unsplash

Feed her on time or early, after tiring her out = a happy dog.

Delay her food = activate her food aggression and trauma = a hangry dog.

funny how this applies to all of us

Just like our dog, all of us are pattern machines. You press one button and we exhibit a series of behaviours. You press another, and a different set of actions and behaviours. You think you are unique but think about how predictable you really are.

And you can use this to your advantage. Just like the simple routine tweak for our dog, you can find your triggers and avoid them when possible. And lean into them at other times.

some patterns you might have

I'll use a couple of common examples I hear from my students, and from my personal experience.

One is cravings. You are mulling about, a bit bored and you keep opening the fridge. And before you know it, you've munched on a bunch of things without meaning to or actively taken a decision on.

Another is going to a party with the intent of not drinking and being convinced to drink and chill.

Or not planning on a treat day but ending up with eating a bunch of things you feel you shouldn't have.

Most of these happen when we are on a strict diet and when our diets and our lives don't dovetail well. Of course, if every night is a social night, you will need to learn to be social without drinking or eating pizza or whatever. But you don't need to skip every night. You don't even need to skip every night for a few weeks at a stretch.

Instead, analyse when things go poorly. You put yourself into a box and in a situation that's uncomfortable without making your peace with it. You are going out to meet your friends but aren't going to drink, coz that's in line with your goals. Great! You are going to drive, and so you don't drink or stop with one. That's simple.

Photo by Andrew Ridley / Unsplash

Or you aren't sure. You kinda wanna drink but you are trying to lose weight again. Well, see how often you "break" your rules. Too much = shut up and follow the plan. Or you get too frustrated too often, then lean into it. Have a better week overall and just chill the fuck out and have a good time with your friends.

get out of the guilt pattern

You get cravings every time you diet? Well, maybe not such a strict diet then. But a slightly relaxed version. Instead of 4 weeks of no-sugar, how about 12 weeks of sugar once a week?

Figure out your patterns. Do something slightly different. Don't fight them.

If it means not meeting or socialising for 5 days and then meeting them and not worrying about it, it is what it is

If it means getting your protein and veggies before stepping out, that’s what it is

And when you fail to follow the plan, don’t get frustrated. that’s a pattern you can get out of - the guilt, the blame, the annoyance. Instead, just eat the cake, and chill and go to the “happy, enjoying the day” pattern.

Like my dog getting hangry, a pattern you can get out of is this guilt and beating yourself up. Start there. You'll go places.