Saturday, March 18, 2017

PUPPY TALES: If You Bribe Them, They Will Come

Photo Credit: Chuck Bennorth

As a new puppy mom, I have two dreams. I'm living for the day I no longer have to clean up puppy accidents in the house. When our little canines understand that the ONLY place they should relieve themselves is outside, that dream will come true. My other dream is that they will come, without fail, every time we call them. 

During our most recent Puppy Start Right class, our trainer Maggie told us we need to reward dogs with an extra special treat when they are learning to come when called. Getting dogs to respond to our recall command, NO MATTER WHAT is critical. I had learned just how important that skill is two days earlier.

My worst fear was realized when Bristol and Sam found the only gap in our fence wide enough for them to escape. My heart raced, and my eyes went wide as I watched in horror as our two precious puppies slipped through the gap between our neighbor's fence and ours. I threw my hands in the air, kibble raining down on the deck, as I ran to see how I could get them back in our yard. 

My mind raced as Bristol and Sam were running back and forth outside the chain link enclosure. What if they take off out of the city park? Keep calm, I told myself. Don't let them know how upset you are.

"Here! Here! Here!" I yelled, as cheerfully as I could. Oh, please, don't run away. Please don't run away. I ducked under the limbs of our big pine tree, and when they saw me, they ran to the opening, and slipped back through the fence, and ran to my outstretched hands. 

Oh, that was so close. I didn't even have a treat to give them; I'd thrown their kibble in the air when I panicked, so I just loved on them, and praised them, holding them tightly. 

When Maggie told us we should up the ante with a high value treat, we upped the ante. We chose a secret weapon that wouldn't break the bank. Enter BRAUNSCHWEIGER.

Braunschweiger is a spreadable lunch meat made of pork liver sausage. It is a vague memory from my childhood. Occasionally, there was a tube of the stuff in our fridge, and on Saturdays, Mom let us make sandwiches with it. I slathered it on mom's homemade bread with a thin layer of mayo. I remember tubes of liverwurst, too. They were interchangeable, in my mind. 

Chuck has fond memories of braunschweiger, too. What? CHUCK??? I know; I was shocked. Apparently, he is a more adventurous eater when it comes to processed foods. I asked him how he preferred to eat it. "With ketchup, on rye bread." Oh, my. To each his own. 

Our puppy trainer emphasizes rewarding positive behavior with treats. Besides their regular kibble, we have used cheese, turkey hotdogs, and Easy Cheese. The Easy Cheese is sold in a pressurized can, but it's $4 for 8 ounces. I was hoping to find something a little more budget-friendly, since so much of our budget goes to the dogs these days anyway. 

When I went grocery shopping after The Great Escape, the Braunschweiger caught my eye in the meat department. It was only two dollars for a whole pound of it. What a bargain! 

I'm happy to say my first training session with the liver paste went very well. I wasn't the only one happy that day. The puppies like just about any treat for a reward, but they LOVE their Braunschweiger. I think this puppy mom will be having tubes of it in HER refrigerator, too.


  1. Oh, man--scary!!!

    I read a good article that gave the following sequence for teaching the recall command:
    First, just sit with your pup and say the word, then treat them. Do this daily, several times a day, for a week or so.

    Then put them on a 20' lead and do the "sit-come" sequence with the treat.

    When they are completely responsive to that, start working off lead. Then start rewarding only every other time and slowly taper off.

    I liked it because I know from experience that dogs who associate a word VERY STRONGLY with something good will respond to that word long after you change the pattern. I have a dog now, and I've had one before, who both learned to bring their own leashes to me whenever they thought they might get to go out. Buddy associates the word "leash" with getting to go to the dog park; Maggie had a similar association. But the funny thing is, the word is SO exciting to them that even if we are AT the dog park and I'm ready to go home, I can say "leash!" and they will come even if other words fail. Yesterday, it brought Buddy away from three German Shepherd puppies he was playing with after he was not responsive to COME, BALL, or a very sharp use of his name.

    1. That sounds like a good method of teaching recall. Thank you for taking the time to share that.


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