Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

She sits in her Good Dog Spot

If our first rule for good dogs was to remember that dogs are dogs then our second rule is, "We sit in our good dog spot."  Kai is learning this and its just so cute so see her happy little puppy face when she sits in her Good Dog Spot.
Kai goes to her Good Dog Spot after she 'works' - in her case, that includes just going outside. Good Dog!

One of the things I love about that Cesar Milan guy (the Dog Whisperer) is that he spreads the good news of the owners being their dog's pack leader. I really like his book, Be the Pack Leader: Use Cesar's Way to Transform Your Dog . . . and Your Life, but I have to say...I can't stand to watch the show. We don't have cable but you can find it on hulu.com if you dare. Its not Cesar, but the bad owners that make me twitch. One of the last shows we saw was a about a tall, attractive family who were terrified of their dog. Their dog. Not some strange dog - their OWN dog. Can you imagine?

The problem came when the family fed the otherwise, kinda well behaved dog. As soon as they brought out the food the dog turned into a tazmanian devil, barking and snarling and what not. The family stood frozen in fear as The Big Man and I turned, looked at each other and burst out laughing. As we were hanging off each other with tears rolling down our faces trying to believe it was real, we managed to sputter out, "What is the MATTER with those people... that would last about 2 seconds here!"

If you are considering a dog, or have one, I urge you to get the book to read the how's and the why's of how this works but basically, the responsibility is on you the owner to, in fact, "own" everything. As my pal SD says, "to own all the resources" which includes food. Cesar illustrates his feeding ritual which not only teaches the dog that you "own" everything, but creates a bond between you and your dog, and strengthens the dogs understanding of your role in its life. If you get the feed bowl out and your dog charges in, knocks you down, jumps up on you, barks, spins, or pees its pants, please get and read that book.

That dog who terrified it's family would never get fed acting like that around here. Our dogs sit in their Good Dog Spot, calmly, quietly, and patiently. Cesar would say in a "calm submissive" state, with ears down and back, and demurely (for lack of a better word).  Even little Kai with her squirmly little bottom has to sit down before she gets her food. She figured this out in about 2 minutes, it goes like this - dogs like food, dogs who sit get food, voila! She got it. Not only does she sit down - but she sits in her Good Dog Spot (one trainer I know calls it the dog's "Place"). The Good Dog Spot is a designated place where she always gets fed. This way there is no confusion about who gets to eat out of what bowl, or if they can just help themselves to the cat food in the other room.

Sometimes Kai's bottom doesn't leave her Good Dog Spot even when she is eating. Good Dog.

Our feeding ritual (or routine) goes like this: After we work outside, after I've had First Breakfast, and after the cats eat (you read that right, cats first), THEN the dogs get to eat. The dogs sit or lay quietly on their bed in the Dog Area as they see me prepare their food. The food sits it on the counter while I lollygag around and I'm ready to feed them. No one begs, barks, paws around, or stands there staring at me or they know it will take longer, and longer....and longer. They figured this out pretty quickly too. Quiet dogs get fed more quickly than naughty dogs.

Lucky sitting in his Good Dog Spot, ears back, not demanding. Good Dog. 

Once the bowls of food are ready we go outside to eat (unless its pouring down rain). Dogs get up from their beds, sit at the door, then I go out, then they quietly follow me out. I point to each dog's Good Dog Spot and tell them go to there, and then this is the most important step:

While sitting calmly each dog has to look me in the eye, I tell them "Good Dog", and THEN I put the food down for them to eat.

This is a great ritual. The dog knows that you are the one that brings the food kinda like the alpha wolves organize the hunt, eat first, then let the rest of the pack eat. It makes sense to them. And its one of the times your dog can really look you in the eye - its not confrontational at all as long as the dog is still in his "quiet submissive" state.

It might take a while for you to get your dog to look at you and not the food bowl... but this is easily taught by pointing to your eye and say "look at me." The motion of an exaggerated point to your eye will cause your dog to follow your hand. Always say "Good Dog" or "Good work" or "Thats my pupsy-wupsy I love you." Ok maybe that last one is for Kai but she's so darn cute.


You should also not tolerate any food aggression. At all. Ever. If the dogs are eating inside and one of the cats sauces in (Nicholas!) and causes any growling or if one of the dogs tries to get into another's bowl, either me or The Big Man marches in there and takes up the food. This causes some very sad faces.

Lucky came to us extremely food aggressive. Its didn't last long tho - but there were a lot of sad faces. Now he has the food ritual down pat and is usually the first one to his Good Dog Spot. And, not only can I take food out of his bowl, I can take food out of his mouth - without a fight or even a hint of a snarl.

He also had to learn not to snatch food or snacks out of my hand. Dogs should gently take food from you not act like a hungry alligator. And all food comes from my hand or magically appears in his bowl.

I'm pretty hard nosed that no one feeds the dogs but me for a couple of reasons. First, no one will be able to lure the dogs into a car or off the property with food. Second, it creates a strong bond between us and a reliable routine which is comforting to them. And, it makes it less likely they will eat something out of the yard. And there is plenty of weird stuff for dogs to eat on a farm. Ick. It also helps them to understand that food comes from me and not off the counter or worse - from the hen house with feathers still attached to it. All of these things make for a happy dog, a happy owner, and a well run dog-household.

We had someone who used to visit us and they would routinely try and throw whatever fast food scraps they had in their car to my dogs. When I told them firmly that not only don't my dogs eat people food, but that no one fed them but me - the visitor accused me of being controlling.

Um.. well.. yeah! Hello! Its ME!?! Person control issues aside...ahem.. the fact is if you are an expected visitor you'll appreciate that my dogs will stay behind me until you get out of your car and not run you off the property. And that 100 lbs of mouth and teeth aren't trying to get that burger out of your - or your child's - hand. But don't worry - I'm not that controlling... I probably won't make you sit in your Good Dog Spot.


Unknown said...

Right on OFG! Now lets try to apply these feeding time rules to the goats. Hahahahahaha! Oh boy, I think I pulled a muscle when I fell down laughing.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

HA! easy java - dont hurt yourself with goat humor! Yeah for the goats its "hey! you! get over here and eat or dont! and get that off your head!"

goats = crazy

Chai Chai said...

This is great, in fact our goats have their eating spots as well. When its time for them to get grain I say; "Chip where is your spot?" He wags his tail and runs right to his spot where I put him on his leash. I do this for all the goats, makes for a stress free feeding time.

Chai Chai said...

Ha, I typed that before I read Java's comments - I swear its true, every word.

It only works for grain.....

Grandpa said...

I find dogs are more trainable than people...
Chuckle,chuckle...thanks OFG

Grandpa said...

OFG, pop over to my site, I have a quiz for you!

Mr. H. said...

Your story of the pet owners that are afraid of their own dog is pretty amazing. It reminds me of that nanny show where the parents are afraid of their own children. I wonder if future generations of people will be like those fainting goats and fall over everytime they get scared or nervous...now that would be funny.:)

Here is a video you may or may not find interesting about dogs and people. http://video.pbs.org/video/1634377233/

Anonymous said...

If it means Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie, I'll sit in the Good Dog Spot .... ;-)

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Hi Grandpa! Actually.. this kind of training works for people too. hee hee hee I'll pop over in a second.

Mr H. - Dont even get me started on the folks who are afraid of their 3 year old child...

thanks for the link!

Come on' over for pie, B...Good Work! hee hee hee

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