Over the past few months, I've been observing my own dogs' strategies to get my attention. Most often, it is focused on their desire to have dinner served, and their internal clocks are fairly accurate in alerting them to their typical dinner time. What's hilarious is how they tag team me to make their wishes known and I almost always give in to their demands, which historically hasn't been my style.
The tag-team effort goes like this: while I'm at my desk typing away at the computer, a stampede of eight paws charges up to me and pummels my leg. (They're only 8 and 12 lbs each, so pummeling may be a bit dramatic.) I wonder how they decide when to begin the stampede and how they coordinate so flawlessly! It's uncanny. It usually makes me laugh and a good deal of the time I get up and feed them, thus rewarding the stampede. On occasion, when I really do have to continue working for a while longer, I'll tell them to settle back down and they will leave me in peace.
Sometimes, though, I won't be in the best of moods and the paw-pummeling is irritating. So my new goal is to teach them that another strategy is more effective. Just a few feet from my desk is a dog bed and, if I ignore the pummeling, they often migrate over to that bed. I've begun tossing treats to them at the bed to reward this alternative. With a bit of time and training, not only will the pummeling stop, I can also build duration on the dog bed to buy me more computer time until I'm ready to serve them dinner.
If you read my recent article about demand barking, I wrote about the importance of giving our dogs the opportunity to communicate their needs or desires, but stepping in to teach preferred communication options when we don't like their initial choice, like barking at our faces. (If my dogs tried barking to get dinner served, it would NEVER work in my household because I really hate barking and strictly avoid rewarding it.) Teaching my dogs to settle on their bed near my desk will soon be their most efficient way to communicate to their personal waiter that dinner should be served.
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