Puppy mealtime manners

Poli _ dog walker in lakewayPoli is a typical teenager. She is always on the go with very important things to do, chasing after her latest dreams (i.e. a blowing leaf on the street or a person bringing in the mail) or seeing how far she can push things.

And, like most teenagers, Poli loves her food.

If you so much as bend down to put a food dish in front of her older sister, you must brace yourself for puppy impact. This clumsy, floppy adolescent is a rockstar food thief, moving at lightning speed.

Fortunately, her owner is quite aware. She instructed that both dogs must sit and stay before they eat, indicating that their humans know all about creating boundaries and making sure their puppies grow into polite young ladies.

Somehow Poli decided, though, that I didn’t get that memo.

Asking her to sit and stay just didn’t seem to do the trick for me.

“Sit!” I’d say in my most “I’m the boss” voice.

To be fair, she would sit. But then she would wiggle. And then bounce like a kangaroo, twirl in circles and barrel into the closest object (me).

While I commended her endearing antics, I had to stay strong!

I’d manage to get her back into a sit and then I would begin my slow descent with the food bowl. At the first sign of wiggle-butt, I jerked the bowl back out of reach.

“Only polite puppies get their meals,” I explained in my human jibberish to her wide, pleading eyes.

Descend, retract. Descend, retract.

Descend … uh …. uh oh! Progress!

With a snap of the fingers and a hopeful “stay,” I watched in awe as Poli’s mind worked to control her impulses. Her head was ducked down, though, giving her food bowl a death stare.

The next step was to get her to look at me before she could eat.

I threw in a few kissy sounds, cooed her name and up went her eyes with only the slightest bit of hesitation.

A breakthrough! Miss Wiggle-butt was sitting quietly, making eye contact with me while food taunted her below!

Poli_dog walker _enrichment_Lakeway, Texas

“Oh good girl!” I sang. “Go ahead!”

I’ll admit, this whole process took a couple of sessions but she was a pretty fast learner overall.

These little steps can go a long way in developing a solid relationship between dog and owner (or dog and owner and dog and dog walker!). Taking just a couple of minutes every day to practice an exercise like this makes a tremendous difference in her attentiveness to you. It comes in handy, too, when you drop something on the floor that could be harmful to her like chocolate, grapes or half a glass of red wine.

Poli knows the routine now and sits and waits for permission like a pro before she ransacks her breakfast. Each time it reminds me how smart they really are … and how much better behaved they are than real teenagers!

The final step, I suppose, will be convincing her that the food tastes better when you chew.

About Kristen West

Kristen started Gusto Dogs in Austin after running a pet sitting and walking business for two years in Sydney, Australia. After discovering that the dogs benefited much more from incorporating enrichment into their daily walks, Kristen decided to make it a part of every Gusto dog walk with the aim to provide a more fulfilling experience for Austin's dogs and their owners.