I was in Hoschton yesterday working with a Home Dog Training client and his German Short Haired Pointer, Marnie. It was our second visit and things were going very well. Marnie no longer ran to the front door, knew how to sit, no longer barked at the front window every time anyone passed in front of the house, and was doing very well with walking on the leash with minimal distractions. We had solved many of the initial problems and were ready to move “down the list”. My client told me that one of the most annoying problems that he and his family faced with their collie was that she loved to beg and steal food from the table when they were eating. Everything they tried to do only made it worse. They would push her off their laps when she jumped on them at the table and ever tried throwing food from the table to another side of the room to have her go away. She simply ate the food and came back more energized and focused on getting more. They definitely wanted to work on this next.
I love the “Don’t Bug Me When I am Eating exercise because it plays right into the concepts and exercises I have already taught my clients and they already see they can accomplish with their dogs. Being that it is only the second lesson, chances are Marnie still hasn’t completely understood that she is no longer the “Queen of the House” and can do whatever she wants. This plays right into the food and “stealing issue”. Marnie sees food on the table and since she still believes that she is the leader, simply demands it. Being the boss, that food belongs to her and she has every right to take as much of it that she wants. Her jumping and barking is simply her natural way to communicate to my client and his family to “pass the plate”.
So, how to we stop this continual process? The answer lies in my client and his family communicating to Marnie that she is not the boss. At the same time, they need to guide her to the behavior they require of her. They are “the boss”, the food is theirs and the behavior of the pack is their responsibility. We were going to accomplish this through proper canine communication between my client and Marnie and then the enforcement of an appropriate, consistent, and simple rule. Here is what we did.
- I asked my client to “set the scene” of having a meal. I wanted the family to sit around the table and to have some food placed in front of them. The food should be something that Marnie can easily see and also gives off a nice smell of “yummie”.
- The family members nearest Marnie’s approach should not sit under the table, but move their chairs to a point where they can easily and quickly stand up if she begins to approach.
- The family also needs to agree on how close they will allow Marnie to approach when they are eating. There needs to be a boarder that Marnie cannot cross when they are having a meal at the table. This creates a clear and consistent rule of “don’t cross that line when we are eating”.
- Now that we have set up the scene, I ask another family member to enter the room with Marnie. They sit down across the room and the family member releases Marnie.
- Naturally, she will approach the table and “her food”. She has done this time and time again, so there is no reason why she wouldn’t do it then.
- Now, as she approaches the “don’t cross here” line, the family member at the table closest to her stands up and faces her. This indicates to Marnie the he or she is taking a dominant role. The family member then corrects with a firm, unique sound and possibly a passive action.
- This is the natural canine communication technique that I had previously taught the family and that was working with the other exercises and rules. Marnie quickly understands this consistent, dominant action of “I must be doing something wrong”, and submits by stopping or backing off slightly.
- The dominant (standing) family member then praises Marnie for her correct action and slowly sits down.
- If Marnie starts to approach again, the appropriate family member repeats the dominant correction process to reinforce the “that is wrong” with Marnie.
- The consistent repetition of the corrective act and the natural canine dominance displayed by the family members demonstrate to Marnie that they are in charge and that approaching the table when they are eating is not an act allowed by the pack.
- I also instructed them to make sure that Marnie “had something to do” when they were eating. I suggested that they feed her “her dinner” at the far end of the room at the same time. They could also give her a deer antler or her favorite toy to keep her occupied and appropriately focused.
Setting appropriate rules that are simple and “trainable” are key factors to having a great dog.
Please call Robin or myself at (770) 718-7704 if you are in need of any dog training help. We have a lot of good dog training advice at Best Dog Trainers Hoschton Georgia. Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Hoschton Georgia.