Who’s the Boss?

Categories: Animals & Pets
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It’s summer. You’re relaxing on a chaise in the sun. Someone brings your favorite drink, tousles your hair, tells you she loves you and goes back to mowing the lawn prior to cooking dinner. Heaven, right? This goes on all summer long, year after year, until one day your special someone comes to you and says, “Get off the chaise and mow the lawn!” No drink, no sweet words. You shrug; it’s unlikely you’ll get off that chaise and onto the mower. Later your someone comes back and hollers, “Hey! I said mow the lawn!” Now you’re a little teed off. How rude! Our arrangement is that you do all the work while I make myself comfortable!

Alternative scenario: someone instead says. “I’ll serve a scrumptious dinner after you’ve mowed the lawn.” You’re curious, but you’re comfy and pretty certain that someone will serve dinner anyway. This time she doesn’t. She promises dinner as soon as you’ve mowed. You go to bed hungry. You wake up hungry. Your belly rumbles. You decide you can catch some sun as easily mowing as on your chaise, so you do. Someone gushes with delight, and you share an especially delicious dinner.

That’s Jack, our Beagle mix whose reformation we’re seeking. His life parallels your fantasy chaise- his own comfy chair, dinner, doting. Occasionally dinner’s delayed, or boring, and Jack grabs goodies off the kitchen counter. Someone might holler, but so what? That donut was tasty! Someone’s disapproval fades when Jack offers his belly for scratching; he has Someone well trained.

This month, Jack’s owner cut his meals in half and doubled his walks. She reported no improvement in overall behavior, and I found his chubbiness undiminished. She’d not motivated Jack to get off the chaise. When we met, Jack was fasted, yet freeze-dried liver still didn’t impress him; fortunately he found nuked hotdog irresistible. With Jack’s interest on hot dog bits, I wordlessly suggested that he sit, using body language. The instant his butt hit the grass, I released a bite of hot dog. “YUM! Give me more!” O.k., as soon as you sit again. Repeat body lingo– repeat instant hot dog. By the third repetition he voluntarily put his butt down in expectation of reward. Not a complete transformation, but an encouraging breakthrough. I advised more intense walks and low-cal dog food.

If your freeloader is all take and no give, establish new terms– you’ll exchange something sufficiently motivating to get your dog metaphorically off the chaise and out mowing the grass. Hunger is a wonderful motivator. So are genuine and enthusiastic praise and approval. Doting attention and “sweet nothings” impact like praise- why work when it’s doled out free?
–Beth Dillenbeck www.Facebook.com/HollowHillsGSD