Notice something that normally wouldn’t be there in the above photo? Look closely, at the dog food bowl. Yep, that’s right, Kafka is sitting there, drool starting to form around his jowls, with a full bowl of kibble sitting in front of him, and he’s NOT CHOWING DOWN ON IT immediately.
This is huge, guys. Kafka the bulldog will eat absolutely anything and everything, and that includes rocks and sticks. One of his favorite "commands" is “oops,” because he thinks it means that we’ve dropped food on the ground specifically for him. Since he’s been a wee pup, he’s scarfed down any bowl of food set in front of him in well under a minute.
But he’s getting better, and I’d like to think our dog training has a part to play in this. Once I learned I was pregnant this past summer, one of the first things I started to do was test Kafka’s protectiveness over his food after hearing more than one horror story about how aggressive dogs can get when touching or taking away their food. Of all the things I thought would be the hardest things for Kafka to master, this was it. Except it wasn’t. I could take away his food bowl while he was in the middle of eating, and it’d be no problem. He’d just sit back down and wait for me to give him back his food. No growling. No whining. No snapping.
So what would happen if I started telling him when he could and could not eat, especially considering how he's so good at begging? I started slowly. I told Kafka “sit” then “stay” as I delivered his food. If he went for the food before I gave him permission, I started over again, and occasionally said, “ah-ah-ah” (that’s my best written interpretation of that noise at least). We practiced this again and again, and he’d wait for my cue, “Okay, go eat,” before he stuck his snout into his dog food bowl.
We made progress on this faster than I think he’s ever made progress on anything. But it wasn’t until the other morning that I realized how much this has become ingrained into his normally thick head. Kafka had been at the front of the house, while I was in the back kitchen. “Kafka, food!” I yelled to him. He came barreling down the hall, and I figured, I had already given him permission to eat, so he’d probably just start scarfing the food down.
But I hadn’t given him the key phrase. He actually stopped, his head above the bowl and stared at me… waiting. “Okay, go eat,” I finally said after snapping my dropped jaw shut. I was in shock, as was my husband. My next thought was, how can we apply this training to other issues we’re still working on? Food wise, we’ll start with how he still sometimes paws at our arms when we eat things he likes, especially chicken, while we're on the couch (and on that front, we're making progress already too; he's learning to go to his bed). But there’s got to be other lessons here too. Maybe this training could, somehow, some way, be applied to how he seems to hump either me or my husband at least once every night (a total attention thing, we’ve learned). I feel like the possibilities are endless. Because if Kafka can master his drive for food, I feel like he could master anything.
Then again, we’ve yet to try this “trick” at my in-laws’ homes, where Kafka loves to gobble up the other dog’s foods if we’re not careful. Hopefully I’ll have a positive update on this after Christmas week…
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