Food Motivation

Sawyere is not what I think of as a ‘food brain’ dog.  He does not care overly much about food (to the point where LuAnn and I are getting slightly worried about his daily intake) nor treats, and works more for love; at least, it looks like that to me.  I wonder if trainers think of things in those terms.  I think they do, but I can’t remember, or don’t know, the exact procedure for rewarding the dog with love (that’s kind of what I was getting at when I wrote about Tellington T Touch earlier).  For now, his toys work well.

This morning was a time of risk-taking and discoveries for me.  I took Sawyere out for potty, and he walked very nicely on leash, at almost all times.  Then I sat with him while he ate his meal.  Part of why I’m concerned, and the same probably goes for LuAnn, is that he leaves a lot in his bowl, although I wonder whether I might be feeding him too much?  But it seems more like he gets distracted by all the other dogs’ barking, and that would fall into the category of environmental sensitivity.  I’ll ask Sherri what she thinks we could do about this.  I know for sure that we should keep helping him learn to relax.

I’d decided to take Sawyere on an outing, to see if he was more comfortable in a car now, but mostly to stimulate his brain and expose him to something different.  I had a gigantic (oversized king) comforter that I’d needed to wash, and I’d stopped at a laundromat right near Sawyere’s dorm before I’d gone to him.  I wanted to take him with me when I loaded it into the dryer. 

Well, it was obvious that he’s much more comfortable in the car now.  He looked around with interest as we drove the short distance.  He left the car nicely, and was a prince in the laundromat.  It’s a self-serve type thing, and it was early morning, so no one else was there.  But it was still a challenge–lots of new smells and sights.  He didn’t react at all when I took out the huge comforter right in front of his face, practically, and moved it to the dryer, and he got back into the car very nicely.  Good dog, Sawyere!

I realized I was onto a good thing with the driving around.  I forgot to tell you that, when I took him to Sherri’s school for his first training with observers (us, and other interested folks), which was the day after he came, he was very nervous in the car to start with, but an unfortunate thing happened, too.  He bumped the windshield wiper stick thingie, and the wipers went on suddenly, and he was really scared, poor guy.  So today I thought I would practice getting him used to them.  I hope I did it at least kind of right.  I warned him first, in a happy voice, babbling on to him things like, “Look, Sawyere, look at those crazy things, remember when you turned them on by accident?”, and laughing for him.  Then I turned them on for a second, and gave him a treat.  The first few times he was too nervous to eat his treat, but after about six or seven times of turning the wipers on for a second, he showed almost no reaction when they went on.  I think you’d have to do that on a couple more days to really have him be comfortable with the wipers, but I want to ask Sherri about the whole thing before I try it again.  Maybe that was too fast to go.

But maybe it was fine, because in general he was beautifully relaxed in the car, even lying down in the passenger seat in a very ‘at home’ way, different from when I’d taken him to Sherri’s.  In fact, he was so relaxed that I had an idea.

I knew that LuAnn had been unable to put on the pheromone collar she’d bought for him (because Sherri had put it on Sawyere’s ‘wish list’–a great idea, that wish list thing).  He just wasn’t comfortable enough, last night, to have his choke chain collar come off, and the pheromone one put on.  But he was so relaxed in the car…and I decided to try doing the collar switch more or less while driving. 

We stopped back at his dorm and I took him in to get the collar.  Again, he walked quite well on leash.  We got the collar, and I drove around the rural roads, petting him all the while and talking to him, and, to condense in the telling what was actually a fairly long process, I got one collar off (it had been making the fur short under where it rested, due to the friction, probably, and fur getting caught in the links), and the pheromone one on.  I was very happy.

And I’m excited to see him tomorrow, and I can go in a little later because LuAnn was there quite late tonight, and because I don’t have to produce any notes tomorrow.  I’d write more about Sawyere now, but I’m literally falling asleep as I type, so I’ll call it a day, and try to remember to ask Sherri about Sawyere’s eating, and what to do if treats don’t particularly motivate a dog, although I think I know at least one answer.

It’s the next morning, and I’m cooking a nice breakfast stew to add to my dogs’ kibble, and I made extra for Sawyere.  I’m going to try to take him jogging this morning, and I’m very excited.  Also, Annie had a little poopie accident on another king-sized comforter, so we will visit the laundromat again.  It will be so nice to have all the time we want today, since there’s no need to be at the note factory.  Our concert last night was about as good as a collaboration gets, and I’m in a cloud of happiness about everything today.  If only the house could learn to clean itself, life would be perfect.  🙂

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One Response to Food Motivation

  1. rajeena says:

    I asked Suzanne Clothier the same question-What do you do if a dog is not food motivated? She said every dog is-food motivated. She said she may not be motivated by bananas but would be with chocolate cake. (although I dont’ like to rely on food to motivate a dog) Keep up the good work!

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