Life, Dora Style: Mastering Manipulation

Those who have encountered my dog know that what Dora wants, Dora usually gets. She is a diva, plain and simple. Love her to pieces but she can be a challenge sometimes.

I recently did an online quiz that rates your dog’s personality type (visualize the “rate your mate” type Cosmo quiz we all did as teenagers). What did Dora come out as? Fox – sly and not afraid to sneakily find a way to get what she wants. Colour me convinced. Shocked I was not.  If anything, I felt validated and assured that my dog (or I) wasn’t crazy, that she’s just a bit of a bitch – literally and figuratively. (I, of course, mean this with nothing but love).

The standard "I'm a cute fuzzy princess" look...
The standard “I’m a cute fuzzy princess” look…

With this scientifically confirming knowledge in hand, I began to pay closer attention to Dora’s crafty methods. Whether it be in pursuit of a treat or couch buddy, let’s just say the dog knows how to work a room.  Everyone is putty in her fuzzy little paws. With just the subtle flash of dewy puppy eyes and a perfectly timed whine, I have seen manipulation at its fullest theatrical mastering – all from a genuinely sweet twenty pound fur ball.

There are so many stories I can share where Dora non-verbally achieved the seemingly impossible. She has a very specific look that she gets which, after nine years of cohabitation, I still can’t quite figure out its intended meaning. I’ve sum it up to she’s either processing or devising a very specific plan. Now, after paying closer attention to her sly foxy ways, I’m leaning more on the ‘she’s hatching a plan side’. Yes, I do think she’s that smart.

The most obvious example of Dora knowing exactly what Dora is doing came four years ago. Faced with a new neighbour puppy, Dora took an immediate dislike to the swatting paws and playful teeth filled nibbles. It definitely was not love at first sight. Dora apparently saw herself as too refined to stoop to such ridiculous levels and blatantly refused to associate with the little Boston Terrier who had moved in next door.  As the little guy got bigger, the loathing grew stronger. While a friend was taking care of Dora as I was out of town, she took Dora and the neighbour pup for a summer evening walk. Dora being older and apparently wiser, she was okay to be off the leash without fear of bolting. The pup was not and needed to be tethered to the nearest human to ensure no grand escape took place. It was during this romp that Dora’s cunning ways presented itself in full Technicolor. Even though Dora was off leash she would plop herself down not two inches from the end of the others pup’s leash, seemingly fully aware that it was far enough for him not to touch her but close enough to piss him off. It was painfully obvious that the little shit knew EXACTLY what she was doing.

The "I'll gladly accept the food you're eating" stare...
The “I’ll gladly accept the food you’re eating” stare…

There are numerous other incidents that share the same outcome. Her specialty has to be in convincing you that, despite being in the middle of a necessary chore or finishing an important deadline driven task that, in that very moment, playing toss is the only logical thing that makes any sense in doing.  With a delicate mix of staring, whining, and just a pinch of close proximity hovering, Dora can entice even the most stressed individuals to succumb to squeak toy mania.  I have become so conditioned that the simple sound of a squeak toy has come to mean that what I am doing is about to come to an abrupt end – and that I’ll only be wasting precious toss energy if I try to fight it.

Dora also has a specific daily routine that changes with the seasons. Summer is for enjoying meals outside on the patio so she can survey the sensory storybook that is the backyard. In winter the expectation is to cozy up to the fireplace downstairs so she can take a nap in its warmth. It doesn’t seem to matter if you have other things to do or plans to attend, Dora knows exactly how to position her body, flash her eyes, and delicately place a perfectly timed whine to ensure that her desires are carried out. In fact, just now I’ve had to get up from my desk in order to “spot” her while she jumped on the couch for one of her many daily naps. Her eyes are piercing through me as I write this as I know she wants me to sit with her. (For reference, I should note that Dora prefers to sleep when she is in physical contact with someone, whether it be just a light touch of her paw or a whole body spoon. To this day, I still can’t sleep without something alongside my back as that is her nightly location of choice).  Although I will say the “nap with me” eyes have nothing on the “treat, please” eyes. That stare cuts right to your soul, whether you are looking at her or not.

The "I'm really paying close attention to what you are doing" head tilt...
The “I’m really paying close attention to what you are doing” head tilt…

I guess in retrospect it’s pretty obvious that my dog has ME trained, rather than the other way around.  She is such a cute little devil that I can’t help but cater to her every whim; after all, she has given me so much just from being in my life.  I must admit however that the leash incident, as it has come to be known, still has me doubting that she doesn’t know what she’s doing. I tried hard to come up with a lesson for her manipulating ways, but all I could devise was this:


While this concept can have both positive and negative approaches, I think the ultimate teaching is to be respectful to both self and others. There’s nothing wrong with going after what you want, but being malicious and mean won’t get you anywhere worth going. Subtly in slyness is paramount. Especially if is done with dewy eyes and a crooked grin.

Erica 🙂

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