Great Expectations

I’ve been thinking about the dog’s dinner. I touched on the topic in “A (more than) fair exchange is no robbery”, but I have more to say. (Thanks to Savannah for reminding me of this important topic recently.)

I’ve seen a number of people on social media saying that it isn’t fair to expect a dog to allow a person to take his dinner, as it isn’t natural. While I think it’s nice that people are considering the dog’s feelings, I believe it’s in the dog’s best interests to learn to be relaxed about his food.

Pet food bowl

If a dog is possessive about his dinner, he may snap at someone who goes too close to him while he’s eating. The people who share his household may normally give him the necessary space while eating, but this is difficult to control if there are visitors. Things can happen very quickly. My bipeds are careful, but there have been occasions when a visitor has come right up to me when I’m eating. If a dog bites someone in that sort of situation, the dog will often have to be destroyed.

If a family’s situation changes and the dog needs a new home then his chances of getting a new family are reduced if he guards his food. Many rescue centres test a dog to see his suitability for rehoming. One of the tests they will perform is to see if the dog guards his food – if he does, he is not considered suitable to put on the list to find a home. What happens next depends upon the resources of the rescue centre, but resources are generally stretched – the dog’s chances of surviving are not good.

It’s easy to teach a puppy to be relaxed about people being near his food. It’s all about expectations – the puppy’s expectations. My bipeds started teaching me to expect good things to happen when they were near my food as soon as I went to live with them. They knew that Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, or Great Pyrenees, can get quite possessive about things even as young puppies, but it’s good to teach any breed of puppy to expect good things as soon as he comes to live with you.

Sometimes when they fed me, my bipeds picked the bowl up after a moment or two to put something nice in it and gave the meal straight back to me. At other times they just came by and popped a treat on the top while I was eating. Sometimes they moved the food aside to show me that there was something tastier hidden at the bottom. When we had visitors at mealtime, one of them would often drop a treat into my bowl.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t long before I was thrilled each time someone approached my food bowl – I had great expectations!

Grilled sausages

I hope they’re bringing sausages!

A few times a week, my bipeds still pop tasty things they’ve been saving for me into my bowl after I’ve started eating. Sometimes they take my bowl to mix the new item in. I’m always pleased because I know something better is coming my way!

More care needs to be taken with an adult dog that is nervous about people approaching his food. If it is safe to approach the dog then you can start with dropping an extra treat in the bowl. If in any doubt about the dog snapping at you then get the advice of a good trainer to remedy the situation. This can still be done by changing the expectations of the dog using positive reinforcement, without making the dog feel threatened.

I’m feeling a bit hungry now with all this talk of food – I hope they’ve saved something tasty to go on my dinner!

See you next Wednesday!

Advertisements

This puppy is not for turning

When I was a puppy I would get bored very quickly if training sessions weren’t exciting. I didn’t see the point in repeating the things I knew how to do, over and over again. I loved learning new things to do and that was how my bipeds kept my interest in a training session. This means I have quite a repertoire of tricks I can do for treats, which is always a good thing!

Still more bones wanted for salvage poster - with dog holding bone up

One of these tricks turned out to be dangerous for the male biped and was abandoned, but some of the tricks have come in useful and I plan to tell you about one of those today.

One of the earliest tricks they taught me was to walk backwards. My biped would be in front of me while I was standing and she would get a treat and take it right under my nose towards my chest. I would tuck my head in to get the treat but I couldn’t quite get it until I took a step back. Once I knew what she wanted me to do, she added the word “back”. After a few weeks we started to build up the number of steps I took to make it more entertaining for me.

When I was a puppy I had a knack for sticking my head, and sometimes the rest of me, into tight corners. My bipeds said that I followed my nose without a thought to getting out again. There’s some truth in that, but I still think it’s a very bad arrangement of furniture if you can push your way behind the sofa and not have room to turn around to get out again! They didn’t like me pushing the furniture out of my way, so they would say “back” to me so that I reversed out. I soon became quite proficient at reversing!

When I was about six months old and almost the size I am now, my bipeds took me with them to visit some other bipeds. I sat very quietly indoors and, when we went outside, the bipeds that we were visiting said that it would be fine to let me loose in the garden. I sniffed around the grass and played with one of my toys while the bipeds all sat and chatted.

Then I decided to go and sniff the large greenhouse that was in one corner of the garden. One of my bipeds called me away and I went back to sniffing the grass. When the bipeds were happily chatting again, I moved away and went back to the greenhouse. There was a gap behind it, leaving just enough room to walk between it and the fence.

I went into the gap and scurried along it, only to be confronted by another fence at the end of the greenhouse. It was a dead end! Before I had time to consider how I was going to get out I heard one of my bipeds say, “Clowie, keep still!”

Dead End Sign

I stayed where I was and it was only a second later that the female biped was right behind me. She said, “Clowie, back!”

I started walking backwards. Occasionally she would put a hand on one side of me or the other to keep me reversing in a straight line. It would have been so much easier with wing mirrors!

When we were out safely the male biped said, “That was a nice piece of driving – puppy and greenhouse intact!”

I don’t get into pickles like that anymore! I’m also much better at reversing now. I can reverse round a corner and I can do a three-point turn with a little help!

Diagram of three-point turn

See you next Wednesday!

A trip down memory lane

I’m inviting you to take a trip down memory lane with me this week, as I tell you a little about when I first came to live with my bipeds.

As soon as we left the house where I’d been living with my mother and siblings, my new bipeds carried me to the car. We didn’t have to go far at all, but I heard some passing youngsters say how cute I was! When we got in the car one of the bipeds sat with me and made sure I was comfortable and safe, so I settled down and went to sleep for most of the journey.

Memory Lane

This is how I imagine Memory Lane

Attribution: By Jongleur100 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When we arrived, they carried me indoors and took me to the kitchen. I had been allowed to investigate a little in my mother’s house, so I knew I was up to the task of finding out about my new home. I set off across the room and I soon came across a bowl of food. I later found out that the food had been intended for Pippin, the cat, but I hadn’t eaten for a couple of hours! I took every opportunity there was to eat while I was growing – I was always hungry!

After I’d licked the bowl clean, my new bipeds opened the back door. The doorstep was a bit tricky for my short legs, but I soon found my way out into the back garden to explore. I walked across the path and onto the grass. I hadn’t been on grass before, it felt springy under my paws. I wandered about while my bipeds kept an eye on me.

It wasn’t long before I heard some other people calling to my bipeds. One of my bipeds went and let some people called ‘the neighbours’ into the garden. They told me that I’m gorgeous and cute – I already knew that, but it’s always nice to hear! They enjoyed stroking me and rubbing my tummy. They didn’t stay very long and I went back to wandering about on the grass. Then I suddenly felt exhausted, so I flopped down for a nap. One of the bipeds scooped me up and carried me indoors and put me on a nice, soft blanket.

The next day I was taken to see a man they called the vet. He examined me and said that I was in good health. He talked with my biped about a number of things – food, vaccinations, worming, and where it was safe for me to go to socialise until the vaccinations took full effect.

Over the next few days I discovered a lot more about my home. My bipeds were pleased that I was already used to all the normal noises in a house, such as the vacuum cleaner and washing machine. I was accustomed to being handled by humans, but they began to do things like looking in my ears – I’m not sure what they expected to find in there! They also looked in my mouth regularly, sometimes touching my teeth and gums – I could have told them my mouth was empty. I’d had my paws touched frequently before, but they started to check between my toes – that tickled!

They brushed me every day. They had trouble persuading me to keep still to be brushed because I didn’t really like keeping still and I didn’t like being brushed. I love being brushed now and I can’t understand why I didn’t like it!

They also started taking me out and about to see more of the world. That was very exciting – I’ll tell you more about it another time.

I expect you’ve noticed that a lot of these things were in the Puppy Plan that I mentioned in my post about socialisation last week – some of it was confusing at the time but it all makes sense now.

I think you’ll enjoy this video of some Great Pyrenees puppies having some fun investigating an oversized drinking bowl.

See you next Wednesday!

It’s a sign

My bipeds quite often communicate with me by gestures. Other people don’t usually notice it’s happening, but those that do notice seem to be surprised. Our sign language is less complicated than the official sign language for bipeds.

Sign language

From Wikimedia Commons.

I think it could be fun watching my bipeds try semaphore, but our communication is a little more discrete than this!

Semaphore demonstration gif

From Wikimedia Commons.

We find it very useful if we’re in a noisy place, such as by a busy road or at a place with lots of people. My bipeds don’t have to raise their voices, they can give me a signal to stop or to sit. That’s good for them, as they don’t like to shout. It’s good for me, as I know they’re calm and relaxed – humans sound stressed when they raise their voices.

They’ll also gesture to me at home if they’re talking to visitors. The sign is usually to tell me I’ve done enough to make the visitors feel welcome and I should move away from them. That’s often followed by the signal to settle down. I always get a special smile when I do what they ask!

If I’m outside, I usually hear them if they come to the back door and I’ll look to see what they’re up to. Sometimes they’re coming out to play! If they want me to come indoors they may call to me, or they may just beckon.

I’ll explain how I learnt the signal for “down”. As a small puppy, after learning to sit, I followed the treat that was held in front of my nose and then taken down to the floor. When I knew what was expected of me, they taught me the word “down”. Then they started not quite taking the treat as far as the floor. Then they’d make the movement without a treat, although I still got a treat! Gradually my bipeds just pointed to the floor and now they just point a finger down.

Most dogs notice things like bipeds picking up car keys means they’re going out. We notice the things you do that mean you’re thinking about taking us out for a walk. Humans communicate far more without speaking than they’re usually aware.

There are some signs I’ve seen many bipeds make without thinking about it. They sit and see the cat is watching them, so they pat their lap and the cat knows the lap is available. A biped may pat the sofa next to them and the dog knows it’s time for a cuddle. One gesture I’ve seen lots of bipeds make, when they’ve been giving their dog treats, is to hold one or both hands up with the fingers spread – meaning that there are no more treats.

Do you use sign language? Do you notice unspoken clues?

See you next Wednesday!

P.S.

I’ve just visited Sammy’s and discovered that I’ve been awarded the Tuesday Teaser First Right Guesser Award! Thank you, Sammy!

And thank you very much, Easy! You’re my hero! If you don’t already know Easy, pop over and see him – I promise he’ll make you laugh!

Sammy's Tuesday Teaser First

A sit in time saves nine

Before I tell you this week’s tale, I want to tell you about two cats that need homes.

Leo has been nursed back to health by Savannah and her family. He now needs a home of his own in the California area. So head on over to Savannah’s Paw Tracks and read about him. He has a special page on Savannah’s blog explaining what he needs from the people who care for him.

Leo, in need of a home

Leo, in need of a home

Basil, in Yorkshire, England, is still looking for a home for a young cat called Mary – more information here.

Mary needs a home

Mary needs a home

This week’s tale

One of the very first things that one of my bipeds taught me as a puppy was to sit. She held a treat close to my nose and, before I could take it, she lifted her hand slightly and moved it above my head. My nose was following the treat and, as I tilted my head back, I sat. She gave me the treat and told me how clever I was. This was such an easy way to get a treat!

We repeated this quite a few times over the next few days. When she could tell I knew what she was going to do and what I needed to do to get the treat, she added the word ‘sit’. I soon remembered the word because I liked the treats. I then began learning lots of other things, but every training session started and ended with a sit. I was also asked to sit at odd times during the day. I didn’t get a treat every time, sometimes I was given a fuss or we played a game for a few minutes. But I always knew it would be worth my while to do as asked, they seemed to like sit a lot.

I decided I could use this to my advantage. When I wanted something I would sit. They told me I was very good and encouraged me to do this. I soon discovered that when I heard them say ‘sit’ to me I no longer had to consider whether I should comply or not – it was always worth it! It became an automatic response, my bottom would hit the deck before the thought had registered in my brain.

But now I come to the downside of sitting so readily. This is a warning to any puppies reading this – make sure that the rewards are worth it because there will be things it stops you from doing.

If only we hadn't been told to sit! (From guzer.com)

If only we hadn’t been asked to sit!
(From guzer.com)

I told you last week about when I was trying to chase some goats – I was asked to sit and I didn’t get to chase them very far. I’ll give you a few other examples of things I haven’t been able to do because I was asked to sit. If I’ve ever been on my way across the kitchen to investigate what’s on the counter, I hear “Clowie, sit!” before I can get there. It’s the same story when visitors arrive, “Clowie, sit!” – how’s a dog to give bipeds a proper greeting while sitting? It’s impossible to leap all over them and lick their faces! If they’ve left the front door open while they’re bringing in some shopping and it occurs to me it would be nice to pop out and investigate – yes, you’ve guessed, “Clowie, sit!”

One day, just after I’d been asked to sit when there was something exciting to do, I heard one of my bipeds say, “Isn’t ‘sit’ wonderful? There isn’t much mischief a puppy can get into while sitting!”

That was obviously their cunning plan all along! They have used ‘sit’ to modify my behaviour. But I have also worked it to my advantage. I have perfected a really pretty sit that they find very hard to resist. When I hear them open the fridge door, I can get there from anywhere in the house in less than five seconds. I’m usually right behind them, in my pretty sit, before they can close the door again. I don’t always get something, but sometimes I do and there’s never any harm in asking! My lead hangs on a hook and if I sit with my nose touching the lead, I usually get a walk. I think it’s worked out fairly well.

See you next Wednesday!

P.S. If you were wondering about the title, there’s a saying “a stitch in time saves nine” and it means that a timely effort will prevent more work later.