Leave it and beyond.

                                                                           Say what?

I tossed the bag of frozen food to the floor.  When I make food for Luke and Elsa out ahead I freeze it in my deep freezer.  It is placed into a plastic bag and I spread the contents out flat and even; that way I can stack and easily break the food up, usually.  This bag was fuller than most so when I threw it to the floor the seam burst.  A large portion of the contents spilled out onto the kitchen floor; where Elsa stood waiting to gobble it down.  I told her very calmly to leave it and she did; this is something I have instilled in all of my dogs very early on.  Elsa fully understands what leave it means; but she takes it even further like many of the behaviors that she displays.

She sat quietly as I cleaned up the mess, not so quietly.  I grumbled and complained, her ears went up and down as I bitched.   The food was spread from one side of the kitchen to the other and after I'd finished cleaning a half of the food off the floor I glanced up to see Elsa still sitting, waiting.  I looked around at the mess and told her that she could dig in "okay," I told her.  She checked in with me again before beginning the licking process.  I assumed that she would follow me along as I finished up; after all I'd told her "okay" but I'd also elaborated on what was okay.  I told her and pointed to the area that I had first cleaned up and told her "okay, you can clean that part."  As I finished up the mess, I looked up at her again.  She was sitting waiting for the okay on the second half of the mess.  I shook my head realizing that she not only got the whole "leave it" and "okay" but she could break it down to lines that were not to be crossed.  I then gave her the "okay" to finish the job before I got to washing the floor. 

Fascinating, isn't it?   She not only left what she was told to leave but when given the okay; broke it down even further, waiting for each section to be released to her.  Elsa is an amazing dog; she is one of the most intelligent dogs that I have ever met.  She learns rules and regulations at lightning speed and often asks twice before proceeding.  When I feed Luke and Elsa, Elsa must sit and wait until she is given the "okay."  We have done this from the day she arrived and I never have to ask her to do so.  I can be across the other side of the yard and she will not touch her food bowl until given the "okay."  Even if Luke is eating she will still wait, very patiently.  She also knows that once she is done; she is to stay away from Luke, of course because he is still eating.  She is not allowed to eat what he leaves in his bowl; I do not allow it because I think that it opens up the idea of stealing food and moving in on him while he is eating.  She is allowed to eat what he tosses out of the bowl and leaves on the floor but not until I remove the bowl.  I can leave his half full bowl sitting there for an hour and she will not touch it; even if I am far away from the bowl.  She waits for the sign that she can move in on the fallen food; and that is me picking up the bowl.  Waiting patiently she will only move in once I grab the bowl; no words are spoken, it is a predetermined movement process.  This is important.

Why is it important that she not touch what she is not to touch when I am not close enough to stop her?  Control, because if she only leaves things when I can physically stop her, I really only have a fraction level of control.  I implemented distance control very early on and have kept it up.  The other day we were in the family room watching tv.  Luke was on his new bed on the floor; Elsa was on the couch beside me.  I had a plate full of chicken and salad that Elsa was watching with great interest.  I had to run upstairs so I told her to "leave it," and proceeded up the stairs without a second thought or glance.  Was I surprised when my chicken sat there on the table with Elsa in the exact spot where I had left her?  Nope.  If the chicken was gone and Elsa was licking her lips; I would have been aghast and displayed my utter astonishment.  Feedback, it's all about feedback, training, proofing and instilling what you do and do not allow.