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2 March 2010
Polly and Spencer go off to training classes each week. A wonderfully giving woman named Cayce Wallace conducts these classes and young SPCA volunteers pick up the dogs (and up to a dozen other dogs who are being fostered around town) and take them in for class. The idea, of course, is that a dog who has some basic training is easier to adopt out than one who does not.
After each week's class, Ashley gets a report from the young trainers, with a copy to the foster parent.
A couple of weeks ago Spencer's "report card" included the following:
Food motivated, indeed! It would be funny if it weren't escalating.
I'm not sure what it takes for Lizzie to decide that it's time to Train the Puppy, but Spencer has made the grade and Lizzie has taken him under her wing. This means training him to discover that dishes loaded in the dishwasher sometimes come with things that taste good on them.
Spencer has taken this knowledge one step further. He now claims the dishwasher as his and his alone. He's so intent on getting as much out of the dishwasher as he can--all by himself--that he will stand by the dishwasher, waiting for me to open it, growling loudly, even if there are no other dogs around.
(This actually was funny one day last week when I had some leftovers on my dinner plate and was sneaking them to the dogs gathered around my chair [yeah, yeah, I know I'm not supposed to do it]. I had three dogs watching me intently waiting for a handout, while Spencer was in the kitchen growling frantically and waiting for me to open the dishwasher!)
When I have toast for breakfast, I usually save bits of the crust and give each dog a piece of crust [yeah, yeah, I know I'm not supposed to do it]. Polly and Spencer are right in there and have learned the food hierarchy--Sheila first, then Lizzie, then Spencer, then Polly. They are pretty good about waiting their turn. Today, I ate my toast at my desk, not at the table, and Sheila didn't realize it. When it was time to hand out the crust, I looked for her and she wasn't there, so I divided the crusts among the three dogs, not the four. Suddenly, there was Sheila, and me with no crust to give her. ("What? You forgot ME???") But the plate it had been on had some crumbs, so I held Spencer back and let Sheila lick the plate. When she finished, Spencer attacked her. Teeth bared and everything. How DARE she take a crumb away from him!
A few nights ago we had lamb chops. It's the only kind of dog bone we give the dogs, and we don't give it to foster dogs. Lizzie and Sheila eat the greasy bones outside. Since the little dogs were there, we gave them teeny pieces of lamb meat so they wouldn't feel left out. But when Walt went to give the bones to Lizzie and Sheila, you'd have thought he was the devil incarnate, the way Spencer snarled and snapped and leaped at the back door. Those other dogs were getting something he wasn't.
I think I wrote recently about how I had finally solved the problem of dinnertime and that by getting the dogs trained to eat in one spot, they were actually doing it. This was done with the help of a tiny bit of canned dog food added to their food for several weeks, but now I don't even have to use the canned food. I just use the dry and they all eat just fine.
To keep the other dogs from scaring her and stealing her food, I feed Polly in the cage. She does this cute little whirling dervish dance all the way from the kitchen to the cage, hopping inside and then poking her head out to see if I'm coming with her dish. Militantly adorable. I used to sit and wait for her to finish and then let her out, but she discovered one day that I hadn't actually locked the cage and she could push it open by herself. This has worked just fine for a long time, but suddenly Spencer discovered that he can nose the door to the cage open and get in to take Polly's food from her.
Yesterday I started locking the cage so he couldn't get in and Polly could eat in peace. At first Spencer was frustrated.
But then he discovered that he could put his paw in Polly's bowl and either flip or scoop some of her food out onto the floor.
At least Polly was able to eat all she wanted. But as she was finished and waiting for me to let her out again, the other dogs wandered by and Spencer attacked both of them because nobody was going to get in that cage and check for leftovers but Spencer!
I'm glad that being "food motivated" makes him easier to
work with, but it sure is starting to make him difficult to live with!