Setting 'traps' consistently one way to modify pet's behavior
Amy Samida | Contributor
Puppies. Those wonderful, devious creatures. Every week they learn something new, and half the time, I swear, it's something you really, really wish they hadn't figured out. Take Rocket, for example. When you have a very large or (on the other end of the spectrum) very small puppy, things are a little different. This week Rocket discovered the delicious smelling (to him at least) stuff on the bathroom counter was attainable, if he reached for it. My poor cat's life hasn't been the same since, although Rocket has been fairly polite about waiting for NoJack to finish before he hops his front feet up and snarfs down what has been left in the bowl.
In addition to the bathroom counter Rocket discovered the kitchen sink might hold some tasty morsels, too. Which I realized when he came trotting into the office, carrying the beef I was thawing for his (as well as Tug's and Whimsy's) dinner. Sigh.
I'll pick my battles here. The cat food I can easily manage. A baby gate lets the cat in but keeps the dog out. Problem solved. Kitchen theft is another matter. I'm lucky enough to have a door so I can close the kitchen off until I'm sure I've gotten the problem solved, but solve it I will. If you are sans door, a baby gate here will limit canine access to times when you can monitor activity, since every theft just helps cement a bad habit.
So I set up a little trap last night. I broiled a couple of hot dogs, just to increase their tasty aroma. Then I tied a string to the hot dogs, the other end to a stainless-steel bowl filled with pop cans and left the hot dogs in the sink. I gave Rocket a pat on the head and left him to his own devious plans while I went back to the fire and my book in the living room. I hadn't even finished the page when, from the kitchen, there arose such a clatter (okay, that sounds a little seasonal, but it was just too good to pass up).
The clatter was followed by a Leonberger, eyes wide, flying to hide behind my chair. Since I, ostensibly, had nothing to do with this, I could give him a little sympathy. The best training of this sort comes from the dog thinking it had nothing to do with you, it was just the evil, tasty goods. I set up another trap this morning which was totally ignored, but this weekend, round 3 will occur. I'll keep setting up traps for several weeks, since memories of this little trauma are sure to fade.
While I'm working on the training, I'll make sure to close the kitchen off when I'm not there. It's important, especially right now, that every time Rocket tries to steal food there are negative repercussions. If sometimes the theft goes along just fine and other times there are consequences, what I've done is put him on a variable schedule of reward that will just make the problem tougher to solve. Just like pulling the handle of the slot machine, he'll keep trying, wondering if this time he'll score the jackpot.
There are so many simple solutions to troublesome problems if you just set your mind to it. Dog drinking out of the toilet? Close the lid. If your dog, like my dog Tug, just lifts the lid, add some white vinegar to the bowl after every flush for a while. Dog getting up on the furniture when you leave the room? An upside-down mat, like the kind you use for office chairs with the little nubs on the back, left upside-down on the couch will usually deter the problem. That, or wide double-sided tape. Just test it on your furniture first, and change it frequently.
If you've come up with creative, painless solutions to your dog's creative endeavors, I'd love to hear about them. Who knows, maybe you'll help someone else solve their dog's behavior problem!