Review Category : Contributors

Self-control important in financial markets

By Charles Tumlin

It turns out that one of the best predictors of future success is the ability to manage “hot” emotional states and to learn self-control. The past two months in the equity markets have given just that opportunity once again.

Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel concocted an experiment involving 4-year-olds and marshmallows to test self-control back in the 1960s, and only understood its significance much later.

As Jonah Lehrer writes in The New Yorker: “For decades, psychologists have focused on raw intelligence as the most important variable when it comes to predicting success in life. Mischel argues that intelligence is largely at the mercy of self-control: even the smartest kids still need to do their homework.”

This is very true in financial markets. Temperament trumps brains when it comes to making money over the long run. You can have a great plan, but if you do not have the discipline to execute it, the plan is useless.

News flow in financial markets — much of it alarming, since scary new always gets better ratings — gives investors a multitude of opportunities to behave badly. The best strategy? Distract yourself.

At the time, psychologists assumed that children’s ability to wait depended on how badly they wanted the marshmallow. But it soon became obvious that every child craved the extra treat. What, then, determined self-control? Mischel’s conclusion, based on hundreds of hours of observation, was that the crucial skill was the “strategic allocation of attention.” Instead of getting obsessed with the marshmallow — the “hot stimulus” — the patient children distracted themselves by covering their eyes, pretending to play hide-and-seek underneath the desk, or singing songs from “Sesame Street.” Their desire wasn’t defeated, it was merely forgotten. “If you’re thinking about the marshmallow and how delicious it is, then you’re going to eat it,” Mischel says. “The key is to avoid thinking about it in the first place.”

According to Mischel, this view of will power also helps explain why the marshmallow task is such a powerfully predictive test. “If you can deal with hot emotions, then you can study for the S.A.T. instead of watching television,” Mischel says. “And you can save more money for retirement. It’s not just about marshmallows.”

As Mr. Mischel points out, it’s not just about marshmallows. When clients ask me what to do in volatile markets, I only half-jokingly suggest that they read the sports pages. Focusing on the business news is just going to make you more likely to react. The more impulsive you are, the more likely you are to make a poor decision.

Self-control is very important when using return factors, none of which offer smooth sailing. Whether you are implementing relative strength or deep value or whatever, the market is going to gyrate and test you — basically do everything possible to get you to abandon your plan. A systematic, rules-based approach can be very helpful in this regard. If you have chosen a successful long-term strategy, more than anything else, your results are going to be dictated by how well you can follow it over the long run.

This article was written by Dorsey, Wright and Associates, Inc., and provided to you by Wells Fargo Advisors and Charles Tumlin, Financial Advisor in Beaufort, SC, 211 Scott Street, (843) 524-1114.  You cannot directly invest in an index. Wells Fargo Advisors did not assist in the preparation of this article, and its accuracy and completeness are not guaranteed. Investments in securities and insurance products are: NOT FDIC-INSURED/NOT BANK-GUARANTEED/MAY LOSE VALUE. Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, Member SIPC, is a registered broker-dealer and a separate non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.

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Professional volunteers

By Lee Scott

What happens to a person when they retire? I was pondering this question earlier this fall when I attended the Friends of the Beaufort County Library book sale at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. As my husband and I walked around the endless tables filled with history books, cook books, fiction and non-fiction, we had a chance to talk to the volunteers.

The entire team there had such energy and enthusiasm for the book sale and thanked us for supporting the fundraiser.  It was interesting to discover that many of these volunteers  came  to the Beaufort community from all over the United States. A majority of them were Baby Boomers who came here after working in their professions for 30 or 40 years; professions that defined them. When I asked a few of them what they did before retiring, their responses were, “I used to be … (fill in the blank)”  a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, a business owner or a soldier.

The truth is that just because someone has stopped practicing a profession doesn’t mean they have stopped being that professional. Doctors don’t stop being doctors and lawyers don’t stop being lawyers. We can’t disregard the years of education, training and experience that come with any career.   Thankfully, all that talent does not disappear when the paycheck stops.

We are lucky to be living in an area with so many “unpaid professionals” who contribute  unpaid volunteer hours to our community. According to the Volunteering in America  website,, South Carolina registered 133.4 million hours of volunteer service in 2013.

There is an incredible amount of talent working without pay to help strengthen our community. Many nonprofits, for example Friends of Caroline Hospice, Habitat for Humanity and multiple local churches, depend on these professionals.

And  many  of the veterans who return to this area donate their unpaid hours  to military-related nonprofit organizations such as The Wounded Warrior Project and Wreaths across America.

It is very clear to me that the volunteers in our community are not “used to bees” — they are vibrant individuals translating all that energy and  knowledge to help improve our community. Retirement has a whole new look to it now.

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Turkeys and dogs CAN be friends

By Tracie Korol

The holiday season opens soon with all the rich foods, relatives, decorations and happy chaos. As we settle into the hustle, let’s remember our Best Friends appreciate happy, safe holidays, too.  When planning for the holiday season, consider the following:

Train, don’t complain: Our dogs don’t come pre-programmed; they rely on us to teach them acceptable behavior. Jumping up, stealing food, counter cruising, idiot barking and digging are all perfectly normal behaviors … to our dogs. Unfortunately, they are also behaviors that irritate owners. When holiday houseguests arrive, when there’s an excited energy in the air and when the household is completely off schedule it becomes the perfect time for our dogs to engage in unwanted activities.  Help remind your dog to remember what is expected of him by practicing and rewarding desired behaviors on a daily basis before the big day arrives. Even your old, well-trained been-around-forever dog will welcome the attention of a brush-up of basic skills.

The gift of management: In a perfect world our dogs would behave like those robot-dogs in the Hallmark specials.  However, in the real world we need to affect our management skills to out-think or pre-think our beloved pets. Use your dog tools — baby gates, tethers and x-pens are extremely useful in keeping Rooster out of the high-level distraction entertainment zones. Whenever possible, give your dog something to do rather than let him get creative and find something to do. Pre-gift your dog a stuffed Kong or a Buster Cube. Working a food puzzle or a chew is the dog equivalent of “sit and color”.

Cooking or catastrophe? On Thanksgiving Day + 1 where would you rather be — lounging on the couch with your dog, hitting the Black Friday sales, or at the vet’s office praying that your dog makes it to T-day + 2?  The best safety tip for Thanksgiving is: Keep Rooster out of kitchen! Not only will this prevent his unwanted interaction with highly desirable contraband, accidental injury from falling pots or knives but it also prevents you from tripping over him and finding yourself in the ER. Remember, dogs are not discriminating when it comes to yummy foods; they are happy to eat greasy turkey flavored baking string, napkins, toothpicks, shrink-wrap, pop up timers, roasting bags, skewers, tin foil and styrofoam plates. Plus, your vet is happy to fish it out of your Best Friend for a hefty fee. Push cooking gear to the rear of the counters and put up the trash cans before you sit down to dinner.

Leave the leftovers: While it’s nice to think we’re going to maintain a good diet through the holidays, the solution is not peeling off the turkey skin and handing it to the nearest dog. Rich, fatty foods will cause stomach problems ranging from simple upsets all over the carpet to pancreatitis, a serious condition often requiring hospitalization. At your holiday table, provide tiny bowls of kibble or baby carrots for guests, who might feel guilty in their own personal gluttony, to slip to the dog lurking under the table.

Respect each other: Avoid forcing your dog on non-dog people and do not let your guests force themselves on your dog. Some folks become very uneasy upon getting “haired up”, and conversely, some dogs do not care to serve as eye-poking-fodder for the curious grandchild. Set clear ground rules for how your dog is to be treated and if necessary, be prepared to remove your Best Friend if guests are unable or unwilling to follow them.  Watch your dog for signs that he’s uncomfortable—yawning, lip licking, turning away or actively trying to get to anywhere else. Keep an eye out for “the freeze”, a clear dog sign that someone is about to be bitten. If you know your dog has a fear or aggression issue, do everyone a favor and park him, with his Kong, in his crate, away from the action.

And, finally, be grateful. Your Best Friend provides companionship for your most mundane activities, cuddles when you’re blue, a warning bark for the noise in the night, a playmate and exercise partner and he doesn’t snicker when he sees you naked. That’s a really good friend.

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What am I pretending not to know?

By Martha O’Regan

This question rose up in me several months ago and I jotted it down like I do when something comes to mind that doesn’t feel like my own — something that is deep but feels really important to ponder. Frankly, I didn’t really like this question so I turned the page quickly only to stumble on it several times since then … again, just moving right along.  But each time the question was repeated in my mind, the more I became aware of how much I was choosing not to know, see or hear in several areas of my life. It made me realize that although there are many things we truly don’t know because we’ve never learned it, there are many things we don’t want to know because it would mean changing something in our lives that could be uncomfortable, boring or just simply unpleasant.

As an example, I have used a non-dairy creamer in my coffee for a very long time, refusing to read the ingredients like I do most everything else I put in my body (you did catch the “most” part?)  I didn’t want it to change my morning ritual so I consciously ignored the obvious every time I made my coffee. Then I “accidentally” clicked on an article while on Facebook that went on to describe all of the poisons in non-dairy creamers and what they do to the body.  Darn it! Now I can no longer pretend not to know! So, off I went in search of an alternative with fewer evils. I must say, I am grateful the article appeared before me because I do feel better without all that extra poison.  Why was I pretending not to know something that was actually harmful?

We humans are so quirky, aren’t we?  We know what we know and keep doing what we do, even it isn’t serving our highest good.  Up to now, these habits, patterns and behaviors have all been created through unconscious repetition of thought and/or action over days, weeks, years or decades, both by us and around us. All repetition creates a neural pathway or a messaging signal from the brain that over time becomes our personal reality, also known as our personality. This embedded behavior or habit can be either healthful or harmful.  Once we stop pretending not to know the ones that aren’t supporting our health, happiness and success, we can begin to un- or re- create patterns through conscious repetition of empowering thoughts or supporting action. It really is quite simple — just not so easy — right up until it is.  This is the magical moment that “shift” happens and you’re off on a new direction with a new personal reality.

So, what are you pretending not to know? What are you choosing to do that deep down you just know is keeping you from a more abundant and vital existence? At first, the question can be a real nuisance, so feel free to ask it to return when you are more prepared to contemplate it.  Each time it gently rises from deep within or brightly appears like a neon sign, just allow the question to dance around in your mind. Over time, you can’t help but begin to pay attention to the nudgings, ah ha’s and wow moments that show up in your thoughts, conversations and experiences slowly aligning you on a more healthful and joyful path.

You’ll notice that with repetition, you can no longer pretend to stay unaware of that limiting behavior, and instead begin repeating a new mantra, exercise or nutritional habit. At first, it will feel as though you are trying to turn an aircraft carrier from a dead stop, but eventually momentum picks up and you will notice you’ve made a 180 degree turn and are back in the steady flow of your intended joyful journey. Live Awake in JOY!

Martha O’Regan, is Your ‘B.E.S.T. Life’ Coach, supporting you in Creating and Allowing the B.E.S.T. Life of your Dreams!  Contact her at 843/812-1328 or to discover just how easy it can be to create change in your life.

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‘You don’t know me’

By Lee Scott

“Nancy Pong, you don’t know me!”

This was a line from a Jennifer Lopez movie, “The Wedding Planner.” The scene goes something like this: After having a few drinks too many, Mary,  Jennifer Lopez’s character, realizes that she can’t find her keys and starts to buzz her neighbor’s buzzers to let her into the building. As she presses the button for Nancy Pong’s apartment, Mary admits to herself that Nancy doesn’t know her because she, Mary,  is too busy to make friends with neighbors.

How many of us can relate? What stops us from introducing ourselves and greeting a neighbor? Mary’s excuse in the movie was because she was too busy.

When I moved onto my street, I was amazed at the number of friendly people who stopped and said hello. They dropped off cookies and flowers and made us feel welcomed. How nice to have neighbors who actually talk to you.   What a great introduction to the South.

The practice doesn’t have to end with the neighbors on your street or in your building. You can extend it to others. I have started to talk to people in coffee shops and nurseries and other locations only to find that they know someone from my hometown or go to my church or live in my community. Just a simple “Hi, I am new to the area” has sparked stories of when people moved here and their experiences. It was amazing the number of people who then also recommended their church or service providers or other helpful tips.

It made me realize too that I had not been saying “hi” to people in my old hometown. I was not one of those residents who made small talk at the coffee shop. I was too busy, like Mary, to get to work. Too busy to make eye contact for fear someone would actually want to talk to me!  It is no wonder that many Northerners are considered standoffish.

I don’t know if it is the warmth of the days that makes a difference in the South or just a calmer way of life, but I know that people seem friendlier here and because of it, I am friendlier.  When I am shopping downtown and a tourist asks me a question, I make sure I take the extra moments to answer the questions and welcome them. Maybe it is one of the reasons people like to come back here to either visit or live — someone has stopped, looked into their eyes, and made contact with them, unlike Mary and Nancy Pong.

Lee Scott, a writer and recent retiree, shares her everyday observations about life after career.  A former commercial banker responsible for helping her clients to reach their business objectives, Lee now translates those analytical skills to her writings. She recently moved to St. Helena Island with her husband and two cocker spaniels. She enjoys boating, traveling and reading. 

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What’s with the hot spots?

By Tracie Korol

My neighbor dog, Miss S, currently has two hot spots. She was clear on Monday; by Wednesday afternoon she had a weeping, oozing wound on her right front leg and another on her flank. Her gooey messes might be pyotraumatic dermatitis, wet eczema or Staphyloccocus intermedius, but they are what we generally group under the heading of “hot spots”.

They are warm and swollen to the touch, certainly painful and often smell dreadful.  They can be triggered by bacteria, yeast, fungi, fleas, lawn-care products, irritating grooming products, anxiety, stress, boredom or as a reaction to having been recently vaccinated.  In many dogs hot spots mark the return of autumn.

Most vets will treat hot spots by shaving the area, washing with disinfectant soap or rinsing with a liquid antiseptic. They will often use astringents, hydrocortisone sprays, antibiotics and steroid injections or pills.  If the dog can’t leave the spot alone, she may be sentenced to the Cone of Shame, E-collar (the lampshade device) that prevents her from getting at the wound.  Any dog can get a hot spot, but our pets are especially prone given our humid climate.

Because hot spots tend to recur, holistic practitioners tend to look beyond the obvious symptoms to the underlying causes. Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD, my mentor and author of one of my favorite reference guides with the longest, most unmemorable title (“Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats”) maintains all skin problems stem from the same health problem. He maintains that skin disorders stem from: toxicity from poor-quality food, environmental pollutants or topically applied chemicals; routine unnecessary yearly vaccinations that induce immune disorders in susceptible animals; suppressed disease (conditions that have never been cured that reappear as periodic skin discharge); or psychological factors such as stress, boredom, frustration, irritability.  Miss S is morbidly obese, eats garbage kibble and is confined on the back porch 16 hours a day. I’d wager her hot spots are a trifecta of causality.

What’s the cure?  Dr. Pitcairn says it’s all in the diet. I believe him.

He recommends a short fast followed by an improved diet, absent any processed grains, soy, chemical preservatives, artificial colors, flavors or synthetic vitamins.

The short fast (a couple of days, fresh clean water always available) will encourage the body to burn up fat deposits where it holds impurities. By the time your dog returns to a clean diet, her body will have already started the healing process. But what do you do in the meantime when your dog has a great, nasty owwy?

Despite a stellar diet, my Bea would routinely sprout a hot spot on her left hip every autumn. Before she could worry it into a full-scale drama, I would shave the area, wash it gently with an anti-bacterial soap, and apply tea tree oil diluted w/a neutral carrier oil.  Often by the next day her little wound would be scabbed over leaving her to sport a fur excavation site for the next three months.  Tea tree oil worked for The Bea.  As it is a bitter, smelly oil her only reward for worrying the site was the slobbery “get this off my tongue” reaction we’ve all seen. Tea tree is a powerful essential oil, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and used by Australian WWII troops to fend off trench foot in the South Pacific Theater.  It’s also known as melaleuca oil of MLM notoriety.

Herbal treatments such as powdered goldenseal, comfrey tea or chamomile compresses will soothe and dry the wounds. A couple of plain old black tea bags soaked in hot water, squeezed almost dry and left to cool can be applied directly to the hot spot for as long as your dog will allow.  The tannins in the tea will help dry out the wound plus the cooling compress AND your personal attention will be soothing.

Holistic philosophy says that organisms function as complete units that cannot be reduced to a sum of its parts.  If your dog gets a hot spot, certainly treat the “part”, but then look beyond the immediate emergency to find the source of the problem. With hot spots, as with other health issues, if the complete unit is healthy it follows that the parts will be healthy, too.

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Maintain eye health with diabetes

By Mark S. Siegel

Diabetes is a disease that affects the body’s ability to produce or use insulin effectively to control blood sugar (glucose) levels. Although glucose is an important source of energy for the body’s cells, too much glucose in the blood for a long time can cause damage in many parts of the body, including the heart, kidneys, blood vessels and the small blood vessels in the eyes.

When the blood vessels in the eye’s retina (the light sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye) swell, leak or close off completely — or if abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina — it is called diabetic retinopathy.

People who are at greater risk of developing diabetic retinopathy are those who have diabetes or poor blood sugar control, women who are pregnant, and people with high blood pressure, high blood lipids or both. Also, people who are from certain ethnic groups, such as African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, are more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy. In fact, a new study confirms that diabetes is a top risk factor for vision loss among Hispanics.

Something to remember: diabetes can cause vision in your eyes to change even if you do not have retinopathy. If your blood sugar levels change quickly, it can affect the shape of your eye’s lens, causing blurry vision, which goes back to normal after your blood sugar stabilizes. Therefore, it’s important not to change your glasses prescription unless your blood sugar levels are normal.

Did you know there is also a link between diabetes and cataracts? Permanent blurring of vision due to cataracts can also result from changes to the lens due to excess blood sugar. Cataract surgery may be necessary to remove lenses that are clouded by the effects of diabetes and replace them with clear intraocular lenses (IOLs) to restore clear vision.

Maintaining good control of your blood sugar helps reduce episodes of temporary blurred vision and prevent the permanent clouding of the lens that would require surgery to correct.

Mark Siegel,  MD, FAAO, Medical Director, Sea Island Ophthalmology,

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Prepare for a frosty November … brrr!

By Susan Stone

Well, November certainly came in with a blast! Brrrrrr! With 40 mile an hour winds and temperatures in the upper thirties, our beloved plants found it as much of a shock as we did. November marks the beginning of frosty nights and cooler days, a very welcome change after a hot summer for many of us. As shocking as it feels to us, just think of our plants unable to move out of the wind or protect themselves from the frost. They need our help!

Over the years I have seen some pretty creative methods used to keep plants from freezing to death. The obvious is to move them some place warm, which is fine if you have the room and the sunlight to support them. But what if you don’t? Or what if they’re planted directly in the ground?

Here are a few tips to help you save your favorites:

• If you have a shed or outbuilding to store plants, a single incandescent bulb will generate enough heat to keep temperatures above freezing. Obviously, the larger the shed, the more lights. The more airtight, the better the heat stays in. Simply adding some plastic sheeting to walls and drafty windows will go a long way to insulate the building inexpensively.

• Create a cold frame for your favorite smaller plants by making a plastic tent. There are many simple do it yourself ideas on line. Adding a brick or paver floor will absorb heat by day and keep the plants warm at night. You can also use an incandescent light, but please use fixtures that are rated for “outdoor use”, to avoid electric shock and tripping circuit breakers.

• For the plants you cannot move, try the old-fashioned Christmas lights. It’s a good time of year to find them in the store. You want the large bulb string lights. They get good and warm! You can string them on the plant or simply lay them on the ground around the base of the plant, then cover with a bed sheet. I avoid using plastic for obvious reasons around anything warm.

• Using sheets to protect your palms; The Sagos are especially sensitive to frost. I usually only cover the heart, or the center of the palm to protect next year’s growth. I have found that it doesn’t matter if you cover the whole plant once the temperatures get below freezing.

Large plants such as bananas and palms will rebound from most Southern winters. Last year was particularly cold and damage from freezing was wide spread, but once the “ugly” was pruned away, most of the plants did very well over the summer.

Frost is good for your winter crops. It seems to sweeten the greens, so don’t worry about broccoli and collards, they’ll be just fine. Lettuce is more sensitive so you may want to harvest just before a frost forecast. Lettuce doesn’t ripen, it just gets bigger, so you can pick at any time.

From now until April, the pendulum will swing back and forth; warm to cool and perhaps even hot to cold and back to hot again. So enjoy this beautiful season of changing colors and changing days. It is a rich time of year in the Lowcountry!

Remember, your Number 1 defense against cold damage is hydration. I hear people debating all the time, water or don’t water? The jury is in — Water your plants!

Please send your garden wisdom and garden questions to Susan at;

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The new shorthand

By Lee Scott

When I was in high school, my father had a secretary who would take shorthand and then type up his letters.   For those of you that don’t recall this antiquated practice, there is a definition supplied by Wikipedia.  “Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases speed and brevity of writing as compared to a normal method of writing a language.” Welcome to the 21st century and the new art of shorthand called texting.

I never learned shorthand, but I have found myself having to learn the new abbreviated language. It began with my cellphone carrier and its Directory Assistance texts.  These texts  gave me not only the telephone number, but the business name, the address and map directions to get to the business.

Along with these texts came a new phrase for me. “Data chgs apply” which meant that I better check out my phone bill  because “chgs” meant charges.

Once I got started, the whole process snowballed and I had to learn the language. The first lesson was from my daughter: “Where R U?” Easy enough, but my fingers typing on the phone came out, 200 miles away, instead of 20 miles and she wasn’t home when I got there.  When I texted, “Where R U?” she didn’t respond because she had gone to the movies. So much for communication.  I had to learn some basic rules.

Rule One: Make sure that you correct all your mistakes before you hit send.

Rule Two: Make sure you know the basic text words like LOL. My girlfriend thought it meant “Lots Of Love” and wondered why I would respond to some of her texts with LOL.

Rule Three: Auto-correct is Not your friend. This program changes the simplest words or phrases into something obscene.

Rule Four: Make sure you know to whom you are sending the text. A particular erotic email to a spouse can be misinterpreted if it goes to your business partner or client.

Rule Five: Watch out for younger family members. They send “Group Messages” which can really get you in trouble when you mean to send a text to just one person.

Rule Six: Go to one of the senior pages on the Internet and learn some new text abbreviations. My favorite response to “Where R U?” is “OMMR”  On My Massage Recliner. I laughed because some of the “senior texts”  are really imaginative.

And for those that are having hearing issues or don’t want to shout into the other room, this new shorthand is ideal.   My husband and I have started to text each other when we are in the same house, like right now.  “Boatng?”  “10-4” Time to go.

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Thanks for sharing

By Tracie Korol

Perhaps this scene has happened at your house: TinyDog, 7 pounds of orange fluff, grabs the meaty bone and drags it under the coffee table. BigDog, 75 pounds of mixed-breed approaches, eyeing the bone with intent. TinyDog lets out a dangerous growl much more ferocious than thought possible from something the size of a bedroom slipper. BigDog backs off and you chuckle at the little drama. We in the animal communication world refer to this behavior as “resource guarding”.

A dog that defends his food or a treat from other dogs is exhibiting completely normal and appropriate canine behavior.  In the wild, where food equals life, the dog who gives up his food is a goner.  Dogs usual subscribe to the “possession is nine-tenths of the law” philosophy, so it’s generally not worth the risk of injury to argue over a scrap of food or a bone.  It all works out in the end, pack-wise.

While resource guarding is acceptable and understood behavior, dog-to-dog, it is far less acceptable when it’s directed at us.  For our own safety we want dogs to understand that everything they have is really ours.  I call it the “I have thumbs (and you don’t)” principle.  But dogs are confused by our ignorance of the “nine-tenths” rule. Nice guys that they are, they’ll accede possession to their owners without fuss, most of the time. But, every now and again, our Best Friend may aggressively assert ownership rights to a precious toy, a tasty treat or a bowl of food.  Then we have a problem.

Generalized food guarding is the most common manifestation and often the most dangerous as it’s almost impossible to control the presence of food in a dog’s environment. No matter how diligent you are, your dog will find the half-cookie between the couch cushions, the desiccated chicken bone on the street or the kitty deposit under the shrubbery. We’ve all yelled, “drop it! dropitdropitdropit!” while the dog clamps down even tighter, plants his feet and shoots you The Look. When this happens it’s obvious he is not comfortable with you in his “space”.

Here are some levels of guarding behavior to watch for:

Level One: Ideally when you approach your dog’s bowl, he’ll stop eating, wag a bit and lean in to greet you.  He’s letting you know he does not perceive you as a threat to his dinner, or if he does, he doesn’t care. He’d be happy to share.

Level Two: A slightly less perfect reaction to the same scenario is that Dog looks at you, wags, and continues to eat.

Level Three: If Dog is a little uncomfortable about your distance from his food, he’ll tense his body. He may still wag. Watch the speed of the wag, though. If the speed of the wag increases as you get closer, paired with the tension in his body, he is communicating your presence is making him uncomfortable.

Level Four: As his discomfort escalates, so does his body language and behavior.  At this level you’ll see a glare (The Look) or the whale eye, perhaps a bit of a snarl, or a low growl. He’ll start eating faster to prevent you from getting any of his food.

Level Five:  If the food is portable, he’ll carry it away from you — under a table, into his crate — and growl at you from there.  If he can’t pick it up, he may nudge it away from you if you continue to approach.

Level Six: A serious food-guarder is liable to put some teeth into play at this point. A snap is the next step. No contact with flesh, but a blatant message of “don’t touch my stuff!”.

Level Seven: Here’s where the threat to your safety, or the safety of a passing child, becomes deadly serious. This may be the actual break-the-skin bite. Contact is hard and fast and pretty scary. It may also consist of a series of bites up the transgressor’s arm.  In kennel, I learned this lesson the absolute hardest way when I attempted to remove a wastebasket full of old dog food from the attentions of a determined, (intact, I might add), Tervuren. There is absolutely no warning and, man, does it hurt.

Level Eight: Severe food guarding can be triggered at a distance. At this level, even a person’s presence on the other side of the room can escalate very quickly.

Rehabilitating a guarder can take a huge commitment of time, resources and emotion. I applaud responsible dog owners who are willing to make the commitment required and I cheer when I receive reports from those who have been successful in getting their dogs to share.

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