Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Helpful Tip: Food Bowl Time

It's been awhile since I've served up helpful tip. I recently joined in on a discussion about dogs who get over excited around feeding time. My first thought was --what's wrong with you humans. You don't get excited right before a good meal?

Apparently, many of you don't seem to like all of the hullabaloo some of us have around meal time. I don't see what the big deal is. Much of what we do is natural. Food is good, so I'm going to be excited. When the humans make a big deal out of me getting a meal, I'm going to be even more excited. Of course I'm going to do all sorts of cute things to try to get you to feed me: I'm going to nose you, I'm going to beg...I'm going to use every trick in the book I can think of that has ever been remotely effective in you giving me food.

Okay--I suppose that can get a little annoying.

Back to my helpful tip. When I was a young puppy I didn't really have a bowl for my food. I wasn't deprived. Rather, my human fed me most of my meals from his hand. He'd sit down on the floor with me. I'd crawl all over him tying to get the bits of food. I quickly learned I had to do something to get food. How exciting, right? If I sat down, I'd get food. If I touched him with my nose, I got food. If I touched him with my paw, I got food. If I rolled over, I got food. How great is that? Once I got into the swing of things he changed it all around. All too soon it just wasn't any activity I did resulted in food. I had to do something specific. Sitting got me food--crawling all over him did not. That was easy enough. Right?

Keeping me on my paws at all time, he switched things around again. Now he'd put food in a bowl but I wouldn't get to eat it. Isn't the mean? I'd sit. No food. He'd just say "leave it." Fair enough, maybe if I roll over? Nope. "Leave it!" How about I give him a little paw? That always did the trick. Nope, leave it. I was confused. I finally gave up and just stared back and forth between my now crazy human and the perfectly good food in a bowl. Finally! "Take it," the human would say.

He pushed this a little too far one day and left me waiting there for an extended period of time. Mean human.

My point here isn't any of this. All of these tasks were chained behaviors leading me up to a very important task. This is something that every dog should be able to tolerate. This is what I was chatting on Facebook about.

What is so important, you ask?

The human started putting down a bowl of my food, have me take it, and in the middle of my meal he would say "leave it." Not only was I (a) expected to stop eating -- I was also expected to (b) tolerate him taking my bowl away from me and (c) tolerate him eating (he was just pretending, of course) my food.

What's so important about this? Everything! It's the glue that holds everything else I learn together. I started to develop impulse control (I don't bit the human even though I'm ticked off at him); I learn patience (I get what I want if I wait quietly); I learn to tolerate the unexpected (people can pet my roughly, grab my tail, pull a toy away from me, and otherwise invade my personal space and I'm willing to be a good sport about it all).

I started to learn how to do all of this at my food bowl--one little yummy morsel at a time.

Be careful with this one at home folks: some older dogs have already learned resource guarding and might bite if their food is taken away. Some puppies have a lower tolerance threshold and may snap. Go slowly and if you have any doubts, get the help of a dog coach you trust.

1 comment:

  1. You are such a cute, smart puppy. I've learned so much from you already!