tr?id=1702533549982635&ev=PageView&noscript=1 Caught In The Act

Caught In The Act

on 20 August, 2014

Imagine my surprise when I glanced over to the kitchen and spotted Emma, my very own, well trained, 9 year old certified therapy pet, standing on her hind legs like a curious kangaroo. Her head was lurched over the kitchen table while sucking up the delectable scraps from dinner that had not been cleared yet. Lo and behold! That girl just did something I had never seen her do before.

I often hear that from clients, too, about their pup. “I’ve never seen him/her do that before!” or “I can’t believe they just *insert unbelievable, inappropriate canine behavior here*”. However, as our conversation ensues, I often discover that the unimaginable was not completely out of the blue, and there were usually signs indicating it was coming. Signs that we just didn’t observe because, well, we are human, and don’t always do the best job interpreting canine.

If I’m completely honest, I can admit that I should have seen Emma’s inappropriate behavior coming. I have noticed the past month or two that she has been increasingly more interested in our toddler sitting at the table and surveying the edible landscape. I’ve been giving her a verbal correction or telling her to “leave-it”, to which she appropriately responds by backing away. Yet, the behavior was repeated several times at each meal until it escalated into the significant display of graceful table surfing described above.

Since I’m consistently correcting her then why on earth isn’t she getting the point? Why does she keep doing it? I’d venture to say there are, at the least, 2 simple reasons for this. 1) The toddler and the food my furry friend is licking up at the table is definitely worth demonstrating the poor manners for. After all, she is being rewarded with some pretty tasty things from my messy kid. 2) What else would she do? I haven’t taught her an appropriate behavior to engage in while the toddler is eating or food is on the table.

So, if I don’t want to see this table surfing behavior continue, then I need to do something about it! I need to teach Emma, MY 9 YEAR OLD THERAPY DOG, the appropriate way to handle the temptations on the table. So often people ask me why their dog doesn’t do a particular behavior - anything from playing fetch to barking at the door to go out. For some dogs, acceptable behaviors come naturally. But for most, these things must be taught.

In order to do this, I should first stop giving her table food myself! I admit it. It’s a terrible habit that I give into, but oh! The powers of those persuasive puppy dog eyes. Second, supervision is essential. I can’t teach an appropriate behavior if I’m not there directing the situation and managing the environment during the learning phase. I decided I would use her pristine obedience cues (down and stay) in order to teach a new cue to “go lay down”.

After just a few weeks of consistency, my girl learned to “go lay down” on her bed in the living room, or quietly under the table when asked. It’s been a wonderful tool to keep her safe while the kids are romping around or a visitor has had enough of her lovin, too. Often times, simple cues can have so many practical uses. That’s why it’s important to start a pup of any age with some basic obedience manners for dogs. They can be used as the basis for so much more.

You can definitely teach an old dog new tricks, and you can start with a young pup, too. It’s never too late to be caught in the act of training your furry family member.

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