(note: with Nationals coming up and all the associated craziness, i’m not getting to sheep as often. Hopefully this will tide thee over.)
I am blessed with a dog that will eat almost anything. Not in the dog-eating-rocks sort of way, but if i put a food product in front of Simon and cue him that he will not die, the chances are pretty good he’ll eat it. I don’t abuse that privilege, and other people take advantage of it (or he uses it to his advantage, not sure which). For instance i was having a great conversation with some guys at the Seattle International BeerFest a few years back and remember thinking “wow Simon is doing great with all these other dogs, and the people and the loud music. what a good” ::tugtug on the leash:: I turn around to find Simon, sitting pretty and waiving to a woman at the table about five feet away. He’s been a very good boy, offering up all sorts of tricks and she has been rewarding him by throwing garlic fries. Thank god she had good aim too. He’d dislocate my shoulder for cheesy garlic fries.
When one is training a dog, it is important to know their food hierarchy for a lot of reasons. The most important reason is that you need to know what is high value for new skills or skills in really hard places (think: the vets or reactive dogs in a place where there will be other dogs etc) and what is low value for fading out food and being cheap.
For instance, Simon’s abbreviated hierarchy looks something like this:
Raw Meat – Canned meat (dog food or tuna) – Cheetos – Peanut Butter
Jerky – Cooked Meat – Anything from Macrina Bakery (we like the savory scones) – Cheese in any format
McDonald’s – Blackberries, Raspberries – Banana – Things kept in plastic bags – dog treats
Kale – Anything with Mayo on it – whipped cream from a can
Other random fruits and veggies, take out food, candy, chips… he’s a thief.
Dry Dog Food – Blue Berries – Tomatoes
Despised items to never be served: Broccoli – Lettuce – Cooked Brown Rice
How do i know that he likes Macrina’s savory scones more than the breakfast sandwiches from McDonald’s? By how quickly he shuffles further back in the back seat of the car so i can throw him a piece (or the whole thing in the case of McDonald’s) and by how large the puddle of drool has become in the time it took me to open the wrapper/bag and throw said item. Yup – I live with a 65lb version of Pavlov’s dog and he has no concept of personal space.
Sounds annoying right? WRONG-O. It’s awesome. Fill a food tube with cream cheese and canned dog food and the vet can do almost anything to him. Including needle biopsies, dental inspections with her fingers in his mouth, whatever. There is a food tube and he knows it.
For contrast, this is Molly’s list:
Canned dog food – Cheese (not spray cheese) – Simon and Huey’s style treats
Raw or cooked meat – Jerky – yogurt – black or raspberries
McDonald’s – Macrina Bakery – some fruits, but only with some flesh exposed – Cold Sandwiches
Fish Oil Caps – Some dog treats, but only if she’s seen Simon eat them AND some other variable i’ve yet to figure out. I think it has to do with shadows. Or the moon.
Unacceptable items: things in spray cans – fruits with no flesh exposed – almost all veggies – just about anything not in listed above.
Molly is not really a food motivated dog. So we have to find other more subtle techniques. Which makes her easier and harder as not every technique is good for every situation. And unlearning to then learn the right behavior is challenging.
What’s the diff? No idea. Both of them are on the same diet – we rotate proteins every month. They are both offered the same treat items. Simon swallows most whole and Molly may take an item for inspection, but about half the time i find it later on her dogbed, whole. I got them when they were the same age and started them on foods the same way. So who knows. Every dog is different.
Knowing that Simon will so almost anything for packing foam with some peanut butter on it, or cheetos has saved me more times than i can count, though. If you’ve not taken the time to figure out your dogs hierarchy, i can’t recommend it enough.