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I train; then my dog manipulates


Denali is a good dog even in light of his antics. He’s obedient (for the most part), kind and loving.

But he’s not perfect.

You see, Denali is a notorious begger. He will stare you down for a morsel of food. Heck, he’ll even take your Popsicle stick if you leave it on a TV tray.

It’s a behavior my husband I have tried to change. We tell him to leave it. We spray him in the face with water. We push him away. And while he might turn his face, a second later he’s back to his chin resting on the tray, waiting to lick any morsel available.

I thought maybe we’d have to resign ourselves to “Denali being Denali” or purchasing a bar table but the other day I saw something that might help. Rachael Ray had celebrity dog coach Tamar Geller on her daytime show, talking about her book “30 Days to the Well-Mannered Dog.” According to Geller, who has worked with everyone from Oprah to Natalie Portman, there’s a two-part key to ingraining a good behavior. Rewarding the good behavior – verbally and with a treat.

Duh, right?

But there’s something different to her technique, at least to me. Example: You tell a dog to sit in a firm voice. When he sits, you give him a treat while repeatedly saying, in an exuberant voice, “Good sit. Good sit.” You have to tell the dog what he did “good” and not call him a “good boy,” which will only confuse him.

It seemed like it could have potential.

So at dinner, I hid some treats in my cardigan pocket and was ready for Denali to beg. When he put his head on the tray, I told him to “leave it” and directed Denali’s head from the TV tray. Once he was away, I’d give him a treat, praising his “good leave it.” After a few times, Denali seemed to get it. Leave it during dinner equals no head on tray.

And then I think he really got it.

I swear that he began putting his head on the tray and begging because he knew that he would be told to leave it and get a treat a few seconds later. It sounds crazy, I know, but I know my dog and he’s a dog who will figure out how to get food any which way.

Despite his manipulation, I think we’re going to continue the training with the eventual goal for him to be laying down when we eat.