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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 26-May-06

 


Friday 26-Apr-06

Canine persuasion

We have two dogs: Poppy, an intelligent and over-enthusiastic retriever, and Tika, a reserved and rather dim German Shepherd. Both, like many dogs, are driven by their stomachs and the sight or smell of any food demands their immediate attention.

The overriding question for them, in their limited dog-thinking way, is how to persuade those annoyingly well-fed humans to give just a titbit of food to them. In other words how to scrounge most effectively. Each has their own way and between them they are quite successful.

Both know that overt scrounging is not a successful strategy and is likely to get you sent out of the room, which is dire punishment indeed. And so they both try to be subtle.

Tika does it well from a distance. He lies some way off and fixes you with beady eyes. Poppy is more variable. She will come closer but lie at an angle, not looking at you other than an occasional desperate glance. As the food gets eaten she may creep closer and make little groaning hungry noises.

Their different approaches work well together, as if you don't notice one, you will likely see the other. We share titbits out, so when food is heading in a dog direction each gets a piece. Both know not to snap: Tika opens his mouth for you to put it in and Poppy takes it very slowly and gently.

They have learned by trial and error, which is often the only way to find how to persuade best. And they have never given up. Poppy in particular plays it closer to the edge and is very good at reminding you of her presence.

The bottom line: Success = Persistence + Flexibility.


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