|We’re ready for ya!
Alrighty, I sing-song. Who’s ready for their breakfast? Are my dogs Hungry?
A powerful word, Hungry. It’s in the same attention getting genre as Getcher Food Bowl, Cookie, and that sound kibble makes when it hits the metal pan.
I come up the basement steps with three food bowls in delicate balance.
Dogs, I say. Assume your usual positions and we’ll …
COW ‘N BOOGER! yells Holly. NINJA STRIKE!
Wha? I say. The bowls tilt, spilling a few kibble, as Holly bangs her head into the stack in my hands.
Holly! I say. Then add her middle name because she’s in trouble. Don’t!
Didn’t see me coming, didya? says Holly.
Well, I say. That’s a given. What the heck are you thinking, you little stinker?
Not a stinker, says Holly. I’m a ninja. I am the Night. The cat said you wouldn’t know what a ninja was and it’d be so easy to get ya. He was right, huh? He told if I jumped you with all the food bowls, I could score Jager’s, too.
Grrr, says Jager.
Hey, here’s an idea, I say, scooping the escapee nuggets back into a bowl. You want to play some games today? Yeah? Ok, here, I’ll give you half your breakfast …
Wait, says Holly. I just remembered I don’t like games. Just put the bowl down, Food Lady. I won’t ninja strike you again. Promise.
No, let me finish, Holly, I say. Let’s give you half now and the other half you’ll win back when we play.
I’m in!, says Micron.
Not talking to you, big guy, I say. This is just for the puppy. I’m gonna take her outside to play some “games.” I wink at him so he gets the secret code.
Set down the coffee mug before you go out, says Micron. Caffeine and all. Your face is doing that weird tic thing again.
|Bag o’goodness nuggets
So what’s a girl to do with a half bag of puppy kibble?
Oh, just what I should have done before the little missy jumped on me in her valiant, yet unsuccessful, attempt to improve the dull breakfast routine.
I appreciate a food motivated puppy. I really do. Because I truly don’t have the skill set to train a dog otherwise. I need the help of these power nuggets.
And now that our Miss Holly has been around for the last twelve weeks discovering the wonders of dog’s green earth, she’s certainly mature enough in mind and body to understand the basics. Plus some.
Gimme something hard, challenges Holly. Enuf with the Sits already.
|Can I get up now? How about now?
Now? No? Ok, how about now?
Sure, ok, I say. You’re absolutely right. Here’s a tough one. Holly, Down!
Whatever, she yawns. There. Happy? She sits back up.
No, Holly, I say. Down! Then don’t move until you’re Released.
I have no idea what that even means, says Holly.
Actually, I say. Yeah, you do. Self-control, my beauty. You can do this. Because here’s the best part. Just stay there and think happy thoughts for a sec. I’m just going to step over here while you imagine the next yummy kibble.
And Holly, I say. Here!
Heck yeah! I know this one too! Crunchy kibble, tiny kibble, yummy kibble, she sings. I’m coming for ya!
|There’s a crunchy with my name on it!
Well, I gotta say this is going smoothly so far. We’ve used positive reinforcement to work on those basic commands – Sit, Down, Here, Shake, Side, Heel – and now ready to introduce a real challenge for a food motivated puppy.
|A kibble is going all temptation style
on that stick.
In the spirit of Nothing for Free, we want Holly to understand that she cannot just grab whatever food her tingling puppy senses tell her is available.
This is beyond the pleasantry of good manners, of course. All puppies learning the ways of a career as an assistance dog must learn to focus. Rewarding with kibble is a great start.
But there’s more to it than that. And we’re about to bump it up a notch.
Um, Food Lady, says Holly. Can I do that Down thing again?
You can do this, too, I say. It’s not as hard as you think it is. You can look at the treat if you want. But then I want you to look at me.
After I eat it? she asks.
You know the answer to that, I say. I’m putting the treat here and all you have to do is just pretend it’s not there. This one isn’t yours. But I have another one that is. Ooh, check it out. Blink! It’s now invisible to you, right?
As one would expect, we make it through a few No’s and Don’ts just to enforce that not only do I really mean it, but I’m also paying attention. Our girl is nearly clever enough to try to oldest trick in the book of looketh over there just to distract me.
But hey, I’m onto her tricks.
Well, mostly. Except for the ninja thing, I guess. Those guys are pretty stealthy.
But could be worse, I guess.
Could be pirates instead.
|I wanna be a helper dog when I grow up.
Or the Dread Pirate Roberts.