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!

Train your dog in 30 seconds

Can this possibly be true? Yes, there are all kinds of things you can usefully do with your dog in 30 seconds.

What’s the snag? Well, just like those fitness plans that promise you can get fit in 30 seconds, I’m not talking about just one period of 30 seconds. You need consistency and repeated instances of 30 seconds. Unlike interval training, you won’t need recovery time after the 30 seconds and you don’t need another 30 seconds straightaway. Each 30 seconds is easy and fitted into your day whenever you have a moment.

Stopwatch

Attribution: Wouterhagens (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ll tell you about some of the things my bipeds did with me in 30 seconds. They would often ask me to “sit” – I’ve explained in “A sit in time saves nine” that this is one of their favourite requests and that they brainwashed me into sitting almost automatically. Well, this is how they did it – 30 seconds here, there and everywhere to request a “sit” and now my bottom parks itself as soon as they say “sit”!

They sometimes asked me to “stand”, or do a “down”, even a very brief “stay”. Sometimes they would just quickly look in one of my ears and give me a treat. At other times they would check one of my paws and give me a treat.

I love being brushed now, but I had a phase as an adolescent when I hated it! They would often come up to me and briefly brush my tail or the backs of my legs, those were the parts I most disliked being brushed, and then they gave me a treat.

Dog biscuit

Another thing my bipeds would do is give me a treat, or just tell me I was being good, when I was settled down quietly. This doesn’t sound like training at all, but it is giving positive reinforcement to a desired behaviour. Even now I’m grown up and know how to behave, I love hearing that I’m good! And I’m pleased to say that they’re still in the habit of telling me so frequently – bless their little cotton socks!

See you next Wednesday!

My puppy is a thief!

I am answering a Frequently Barked Question: How do I stop my puppy from stealing things?

I have been told about puppies running away with items of clothing when their bipeds are getting dressed, puppies running off with the remote control when their bipeds want to watch television, puppies unpacking the children’s school bags and puppies taking and chewing shoes – to name but a few things these rascals are getting up to.

Puppies just want to have fun! The idea of ownership is a very human view of things. Your puppy is inviting you to play. If you’ve ever chased after your puppy to get something back then you’ve inadvertently accepted the invitation and rewarded the behaviour. Playing at keeping an item from bipeds is a lot of fun! I love to play this game in the garden where there’s plenty of room to run around, but I only do this with one of my toys when my bipeds have agreed to play. I will explain why I stopped trying to take things from my bipeds.

Pyrenean Mountain Dog, or Great Pyrenees, puppy with Tibetan Terrier puppy

Puppies just want to have fun!

My bipeds tried to avoid situations where I could take something and they also did training with me so that I would learn not to take things. My bipeds were very tidy when I was young, they put everything, even all their shoes, into cupboards so that I couldn’t often get hold of anything I shouldn’t – I can tell you now that being tidy doesn’t come naturally to them! They also only allowed me in certain rooms – the ones where they weren’t leaving anything interesting for me to get at!

My bipeds ensured that I had plenty of playtime at fairly regular intervals and I had short training sessions. One of the things they taught me was “give it”, which meant that I should exchange whatever I had for something that they were holding to give me. Sometimes I had to think hard about whether I wanted to swap, but they were always offering me something more interesting.

They also taught me “leave it”. They began this by putting a fairly boring treat on the floor and when I went to take it they covered it with a hand. I didn’t try very hard to get it and when I stopped trying I was rewarded with a very tasty treat. When I knew the request to “leave it” they gradually did this with more interesting things, but the reward was always nicer than whatever I was being asked not to touch.

Cartoon of dog raiding rubbish, drinking from toilet etc.

A few examples showing when “leave it” could be useful!
Attribution: By LELE43 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

They also worked with me on sitting when asked. This seemed an easy way to earn a tasty treat, lots of praise, or some playtime with them. We did this so often that “sit” is almost automatic and they use this to their advantage!

With these three requests at their disposal, it was impossible for me to run off with something and have a game. If they saw me about to pick something up they would say, “leave it”. I would get a treat and then be encouraged to play with one of my own toys. If I managed to pick something up before they noticed, they would ask me to “sit”, and then they would approach me and ask me to “give it”. Again, I would be given a treat and encouraged to play with one of my own toys.

I noticed that if I was settled down playing with one of my own toys, they would often give me a treat as they walked past. They would also tell me how pleased they were with me and sometimes they would join in the game with my toy! I gradually gave up trying to get them to play with things like the remote control, as they never joined in. It was more rewarding to play with one of my own toys and if they chose to join in that made it even better!

See you next Wednesday!

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.

The Law of Diminishing Returns

I’ve told you a few tales about puppy classes and how I tried to liven them up. Some of the things we were asked to do were very boring and, I thought, pointless!

This particular week, I was fifteen weeks old. We had been playing, having a wonderful time, and then it was the part of the evening I disliked. The trainer told our bipeds to get us to sit, or lie down, quietly and to look in our ears, look in our mouths, check our paws and then brush us. Didn’t she know that my biped had already done this at home earlier? It was such a waste of time when there were so many puppies to play with!

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