Dogs are always testing the waters, trying to find new ways of getting what they want. If we're not on our toes, they always manage to teach us some new tricks. It's quite endearing, really.
Begging at the table
Dogs will beg at the table as long as it works, at least sometimes. If it NEVER works, they will stop trying, even though every now and then they might test whether the rules still apply.
They will stop trying unless something changes.
If one thing changed, maybe other things changed too, right? Gotta try and find out!
Last week, hubby was down South doing some courses and staying with his brother who has two German Shepherd dogs. There are stringent rules about begging at the table at their house. No begging at the table, no giving any food to the dogs at the table ever.
The dogs know the rules and don't bother trying.
But something had changed.
There was a new person at the table. "Maybe this person doesn't know the rules and might give us something," figured the dogs. They'd be fools if they didn't try. So they kept trying for all they were worth.
Hubby's brother was starting to get upset, trying to discipline the dogs.
"Just let them be," hubby said, "they'll figure it out eventually."
To the dogs' disappointment, the new person at the table didn't have any manners and didn't share any of their food.
So eventually they stopped trying. Took a while because there was steak for dinner and that is certainly worth the extra effort.
Because at our house the dogs always get something off the plate at the end of the meal, hubby asked if he could share a bit of his meat with them when the dinner was over. He could, as long as it wasn't at the table. So they all went outside and the dogs each got a bit of steak with a side of hubby's fingers from all the excitement.
At home we don't have to go to such lengths; at the end of the meal we share some at the table. Our guys know they have to wait for us to be done first and then they get something. They know there is no point of trying to get anything earlier. So they wait patiently. The fact that what we share at the table isn't at all detrimental to their patience.
Can't blame a dog for trying.
There is no need to get bent out of shape when dogs are trying to test the rules, whether it is because enough time has passed or because some other change provided a good reason.
I think it's awesome that they do that.
All one needs to do is to make sure their attempts are not fruitful. That's all it takes. No discipline, no scolding is necessary. If their attempts don't bear fruit, they will go on thinking up a different plan.
Somebody is always training somebody. Might as well be you.
And remember, most of the time the proper response is no response at all.
That's really what it's all about. Not trying to control the actions by all means but controlling the outcome. If you want a particular behavior, you make sure it results in something the dog wants. If you don't want a particular behavior, you make sure it doesn't result it what the dog wants.
It's all about feedback.
With proper feedback, dogs figure things out quickly.
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