Closeup of a Fawn Pug laying his head on a toy.
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Never underestimate the power of the pout.

Even our dog, Boise, a 4-year-old poodle-spaniel mix, adheres to the adage: "The pouty pooch gets the pretzel."

OK, I totally made that up. But it's true.

As we get more sophisticated, we refer to this pouting as passive-aggressive behavior.

Boise is the prince of pout, the wizard of whine. He whines to go outside to do his business. He whines when his food bowl needs refilling. He whines when one of us is sleeping past our 5:45 a.m. weekday wake-up time.

Boise ess- entially has a three-word vocabulary. Actually, it's two "words" — a high-pitched whine and sharp bark — plus a gesture, a quick flick of his head toward an object of desire. This could be a slice of pizza on the kitchen counter or a baby squirrel in the backyard.

When it comes to getting our needs met, we all occasionally whine. This is doubly true if we are low on the totem pole by age or rank.

Because Boise is at the bottom of our family's hierarchy, he has become the most efficient pouter in our clan. There is very little he can't command with a whine. His whine is so relentless it sounds like a crazed mosquito caught in your ear hole. He puts his head in your lap, looks up at you with his big, expressive eyes. Eventually, you will cave and give him what he wants.

I've noticed that my younger son, age 10, has discovered the power of the pout, too. It's a weapon he uses against his 15-year-old brother, who is beginning to need grown-up stuff like a used car and a laptop computer.

Sensing he is getting the short end of the stick, our 10-year-old has learned to push out his lower lip, drop his head and shuffle his feet. Last Sunday is a case in point. The two boys and I went shopping for a computer for my older son.

On the way to the mall, I tried to lay out the plan so my younger son wouldn't feel slighted.

"We are taking a little pinch of your brother's college money because he needs a computer for homework," I explained. "We will do the same for you when you are in the ninth grade. OK?"

"OK," he said tepidly.

What should have been a one-hour trip turned into a three-hour ordeal because I insisted on making several stops while trying to save $50. By hour three, my older son didn't even want a computer anymore and my younger son sensed an opening.

"Daddy, when are we going to look for my new bed," he said, tugging on my shirtsleeve.

"Buddy, can't you see I'm busy right now," I said, pacing around the computer store. "Anyway, I need to talk to Mommy about the bed."

Cue the lower lip. Immediately, he began to shuffle his feet and look sad. As often happens, big brother tried to come to the rescue.

"Buddy, maybe we can go to Rooms To Go after we leave here," he said, nodding in my direction. "Right, Daddy?"

A practiced pouter like our 10-year-old doesn't take "yes" for an answer.

"No, that's OK," little brother said forlornly. "Daddy says he has to talk to Mommy."

I jumped in.

"No, we can swing by Rooms To Go," I said. "Just let me finish up here first."

By now my guilt was beginning to rise like warm dough.

"No, that's fine," the 10-year-old repeated, twisting the knife more.

Unsaid: "I am clearly the unwanted child here, Daddy. Nobody loves me. Why didn't you just stop after one son if you didn't want to buy me a proper bed? I'm practically homeless in that tiny twin bed I've had since I was 2."

Yes, at its highest level, pouting is an art form.

Need proof? Thirty-six hours later, the 10-year-old was strutting around the house, having ordered a new double bed on

"Can't wait until Thursday," he said cockily. "That's when my bed gets here."

Little fox.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfree or 423-645-8937.