Teaching the ropes

I finished what I wanted of my morning oatmeal/quinoa and almond butter and placed the bowl with the remainder on the floor for Elsa.  This is different than the typical in bed bowl cleaning that she does so she looked up at me first.  "Can I eat this?" her eyes asked.  "What a good girl she is" I thought to myself and gave her the "okay, you can eat it."   This is how it should be.  Yes, Elsa is very polite; she has had a great deal of training and education in the manner department.  No she is not perfect, but she is very good, usually. 

"Leave it," is one way to start the manner education.  That said the manner rule must go beyond "leave it."  Dogs should learn that not everything that is dropped on the floor is fair game; even when they aren't told to "leave it."  This is done by consistent education and a solid rule that is clearly understood by your dog; that all the food belongs to you.  This of course does not mean that Elsa or any other dog will not sit and drool by your side as you eat.  They will eyeball the food and long for it; but longing and taking are two very different behaviors.  

Some dogs will steal food when you turn your back; leave the room, or are not paying attention.  This does not mean that they do not understand that the food belongs to you.  They have simply learned when it is safe to take it without consequence.  This is why you must teach your dog that even when you are not watching, you are watching and the food is still not to be touched.  Dogs are all different so what may be easy for one may seem almost impossible for another.  

There will always be a moment when food or something has been left for so long that any dog will figure that it has been left and forgotten.  Dogs can teach each other not to touch their stuff; why should we not have the same if not more power?  We should, and if you are not the ruler of the food, who is?  I love when dogs have manners and I love being able to sit on the floor with a bowl full of food without being accosted.  I expect my dogs to sit politely and wait their turn without taking any food from the main food source.   Each dog that spends time in my house must learn this.  

Manner training is something that is constant; different from behavior training that you ask for and is given by your dog.  Manners are learning what is and is not acceptable.  No it is not acceptable to jump up and snatch the food from my hand.  It is acceptable to go sit and your bed and hope that I will toss you a piece.  That decision is entirely up to me of course, the boss; the owner of the food.  It is not mean or cruel to be the ruler of the food; we surely do not want our dogs to be the ruler of the food.  Guess how that would turn out?  Not so good for us.