Dog’s Eye View: We give them the world
I often get asked to help families with dogs that seem to have taken their role as the faithful companion for granted. Imagine the happy dog that lives in a palace, eats from a buffet, is showered with gifts and has the services of a personal trainer at his disposal every day.
I must say that I prefer this mindset over that of so many years ago where a dog’s lot was to be tied to a dog house in the backyard.
However, our dog Buddy may lack motivation to do what we ask partly because his every need is met with food constantly available. He’s free to run with other dogs and people. All of this is his for the taking without our intervention.
These are not bad dogs. These are dogs that have been given the whole world out of love. We love our dogs so much, we think they will love us back in the same measure. I’ve experienced this myself first hand.
My very first dog was an example of my lack of understanding of the principle of “learn to earn” rewards and praise. The outcome was not good. That was a long time ago, and I wish I had had the knowledge then that I have now.
There’s a simple way to jump start a new relationship with a current family dog. This is a great way to work with a newly adopted dog as well. Simply stated, I start by putting away the food bowl and begin hand feeding Buddy. Everything good and necessary for life comes from my hand. I leave water down for him.
I wear a treat pouch during the day. I’ve filled it with a measured amount of food that is required for Buddy’s daily needs. I may sit quietly in a chair and offer him a handful at a time or I may just go about my daily work and, whenever Buddy comes to me or looks at me, I offer him more food. It’s important to understand that I do not withhold food from him but offer it quickly for any show of engagement with me.
In Buddy’s eyes, I have become a valuable resource. There’s more to our relationship than just coexisting in the same house. The buffet is closed.
How long do we continue hand feeding? I want Buddy to feel comfortable eating from my hand inside the house and outside just standing around. The outside environment is always more challenging and distracting. I want to see Buddy really seeking my eyes and giving me attention.
In response to the question, “How long should I do this?,” a horse trainer that I know said, “Take the time that it takes, and it’ll take less time.”
Every dog is different. I’m inclined to say keep it up for at least a week or more, and then intermittently. The important thing is Buddy’s response and change in behavior.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training, LLC with more than 30 years of experience.
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