So I’m doing this play class with Polona Bonac, and at the moment we’re working on food play. One of the things I’m having to do with Lu is for her to become really pushy and rude about food. So she’s being rewarded for poking, biting, clawing my hand with food in it, for climbing on me to get the food, for standing on me for the food. Sometimes I think she’s doing well until I see Loki when he knows I have food and he’s practically performing backflips against my leg to try and get to it. Now THAT’S pushy.
And I’ve had some time to think about this, and what it all means, and I remember reading Silvia’s updates on when Bi was a puppy, and she said:
And when she can’t do anything, when she is in a crate and other dogs get to play, she sure gets MAD! I was really hoping to get stronger, more confident dog as Bu is and well, Bi sure has tons of it! In her “it’s all about me” attitude she really reminds me a lot of La. I just love dogs who care more about how much *they* enjoy what they’re doing over my opinion. As I stated before: I don’t want my dogs to work for me. I want them to work for themselves.
And boy that first line reminds me of Loki. If I’m doing anything with Lu and he’s crated- even if I’m OUTSIDE with Lu and he can’t even see what’s happening, he SCREAMS. You can hear him from outside, screaming the house down. I don’t think he necessarily has an ‘all about me attitude’ entirely, because he does seem to care what I think, a bit, but you can tell that he WANTS the food, he WANTS the toy- for him! Not because it’ll make me happy, or because it’s what he should be doing, but because he wants it.
And that’s the difference with Lu at the moment I think. I think she does her tricks and gets her food because she wants the food, kind of, but also because it’s what we’re doing and it’s her job and it’s what she should do – same with agility. And toys – well, sometimes she plays because it’s fun, like when she brings me toys, but try and get her excited about toys in agility and it’s then what I want to do – what I want her to do, not what she wants.
So making her pushy for food is all about making her WANT that food. To put energy into getting the food without prompting from me. I need to be better about not telling her to “get it!” but let her just mug me. It’s such a weird change- if you follow Susan Garrett she does the ‘its yer choice’ game and all that impulse control stuff (and I did it with Lu, too), and now I have a dog who is very polite, and who would rather just relax about it than try really hard to get it. Maybe Polona says it better than me:
“The desire to do something has to come out of a dog. That might be the single most important thing when we are talking about motivation… I want my dog to be pushy, not the other way around. Pushy behaviors can be annoying sometimes (barking for food, jumping up and down when expecting to go for a walk,…), but remember – once your dog is willing to put energy to get something he wants, we can very easily channel this energy in to productive behaviors.”
So it’s sort of a change of mindset, though a very obvious one, I suppose. Just not something I’d thought about in great detail before. It’s funny, doing these exercises and games, I’m already noticing that she’s getting ruder when it comes to having food around. Which is GOOD! It means that when I come to wanting her to DO something for the food, she’ll actually WANT the food and work for it! Just in the meantime I have to laugh while she noses her way in as I’m eating something while driving.