Obviously any friends with (people) cookies are GOOD! Linda's snickerdoodles. Meg's sugar cookies! Michele's Rice Krispie treats in all their varied forms. Paula's cranberry and white chocolate chip. Vern cookies (not sure exactly what they are, they're just Vern cookies).
But that's not quite what today's post is about.
Yesterday Graydogz asked, “Do you let your friends treat your dog?”
This brings up a whole bunch of interesting ideas and theories.
In a nutshell, yes.
But there are rules.
Sigh. So many rules. So sad. Poor deprived dogs.
Rule #1: Dog cannot self-release and rush to greet Cookie Dispensing Friend when she appears. Dog must remain engaged and on-task until (if/when) I choose to release him specifically to “go say hi.” Simply releasing from an exercise is not permission to take off. If dog is a little too interested in going to say hi vs staying and working with me, I don't let him. Yep, I'm mean that way. But I'll make it worth his while.
Rule #2: If dog is demanding or pushy, Cookie Dispensing Friend has complete authorization to tell him to knock it off or ignore him. Some of my friends are mean that way, too.
Rule #3: Cookie Dispensing Friend is under absolutely no obligation to dispense cookies just because dog presents himself, drooling, in her vicinity. Petting and sweet words are perfectly acceptable substitutes.
Rule #4: Cookie Dispensing Friend is encouraged to ask dog to do something before handing over the cookie. Anything. Front. Touch. Git yer tail. Give air snaps. (This is ridiculously popular with some of my friends for some bizarre reason.) Since friends’ performance criteria may or may not match my own this isn’t exactly making the dog work for his treat but at least it’s not a total freebie just because he wanted it.
Rule #5: Dog is not allowed to start a deep and involved relationship with Cookie Dispensing Friend just because she has treats in her pocket. In other words — this is a casual “hi,” not a long term commitment.
The bottom line — for me — is that a few cookies from friends now and then aren’t going to spoil anything. This is kind of a personal thing, though, because different trainers have different goals for their dogs and while having a social butterfly might be acceptable for one person, it might not be for another. It's one of those "It depends . . ." answers.
I want Phoenix to understand that staying connected with me is his number one priority when we are working, no matter who else is around. I believe he understands this. For example: he adores the Farmer and they do all sorts of wild wrestling and silly play but on the rare occasions the Farmer helps me train, he is essentially invisible as far as Phoenix is concerned. This drives the Farmer crazy. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard, “Your dog won’t listen to me!”
I also think Phoenix understands environmental context: this is how I behave at the training building, at the agility trial, at the school demonstration, at the nursing home, when we visit Grandma, at a holiday party at home, etc. I also believe he looks to me for cues about what is expected if we’re in a “new” environment. If I ever felt his interactions with other people were having a negative effect on our training and performance, then I’d make some changes.
Denise Fenzi shares her thoughts on a very similar topic today at her blog, www.denisefenzi.com.