Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Keep Them All on a Leash: Columnists

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Keep Them All on a Leash: Columnists

Article excerpt

The trouble with Charlie is that he doesn't know when to stop. If you give him an inch, he takes a mile; if you glance at him affectionately, he nudges your hand, drools on your trousers and gets intimate with your leg. That's because he's a dog and dogs aren't good with boundaries. It's only his fear of reprisal that stops him from pissing on the carpets, raiding the fridge or humping the dog next door. To live with a dog, you have to have firm rules. Dogs like to be in a binary world where good behaviour is rewarded and bad behaviour punished. Hence I tell Charlie that he's a "good dog" or a "naughty boy" and nothing in between.

This is at odds with current "mindset" theory, which dictates that we should focus on the action rather than the subject. But since Charlie, like many teachers, is too busy licking arses to read Carol Dweck, I don't suppose he minds.

I explain this Manichaean canine philosophy to visitors but it's not always noted. Last week, one of my cousins arrived and, despite being apprised of the Domestic Dog and Visiting Family Members Act, subsection 37, clause (iv), which states that "the feeding of titbits is expressly forbidden", she gave Charlie a cheese sandwich. Not only that, she fed him from her fingers. She couldn't have damned him more if she'd given him crystal meth and set him up with a dealer.

The next day, he gave in to his previously subjugated primal urges. During afternoon walkies, he craned his neck across the pavement and gobbled a little girl's ice cream. …

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