Since immersing myself in the humbling, yet exciting world of dog agility training, I have learned one important thing (besides the fact that my dog is smarter than I am).
Dogs will do almost anything for you if you make it worth their while.
Even things that don’t come naturally.
At least one obstacle used on agility courses definitely does not mimic behaviors of canines in the wild.
Think about it. Where in nature does a dog run full blast, weaving in and out of a line of 12 poles spaced 24 inches apart? It’s about as instinctive for a dog as saying, in English, “Would you like me to vacuum up all that hair I left on the couch, and pour you a glass of wine while I’m at it?”
So how do you get a dog to weave through those poles? And love it? Obviously, you train him, but you must make it worth his while. How do you make it worth his while? Food, babycakes. Good food.
We’re talking the highest value treats you can get your hands on.
Now I know that there are those perfect dogs out there that are happy to work for a mere tug session with their handler – no food involved. (They remind me of other people’s perfect kids who applied to Duke, NYU, and MIT as safety schools, but decided to attend Harvard since they got a full ride there. But I digress.)
I have never had that tugging dog. Mine are always highly motivated by food. Tugging? Give me meat! I think it runs in the family.
So I set out to find a tasty, high value dog treat that Ziggy would love.
I was thrilled to discover Happy Howie’s (on the recommendation of my trainer). They make a variety of natural dog treats, including “gourmet meat rolls” (think salami). I purchased three different “flavors” of the gourmet meat rolls – lamb, beef and turkey.
Bingo! I hit the motherlode.
I sliced them up, cut them into little cubes, and became the Pied Piper. Ziggy was working his little tail off, and thrilled about it.
One day at class, a group of us were standing around, discussing the merits of various dog treats, and I was raving about Happy Howie’s.
Casey, my son, who had just stopped by to watch the class, was barely within earshot. But he caught this part: “…oh, is that the stuff that comes in the roll, like a salami?” When I said, “yes”, he joined in and said, “Yeah, the lamb is great!”
With surprise, I asked him, “How do you know?”
He said, “I made a sandwich with it.”
Now with shock, just to verify, I asked, “You mean the lamb roll in the refrigerator?”
Casey: “Yeah! It was really good!”
After I could breathe again from the laughter spasms in my gut, I explained to him that Happy Howie’s is for dogs, not people.
Casey must now wear a fake nose and glasses when he goes anywhere within a 5 mile radius.
When I got home, I took a closer look at the ingredients, and to my relief, they are all things a human would eat. So kudos to Happy Howie’s for making something I can feel good about feeding to Ziggy. And my kids.
We are having lamb sandwiches for lunch today.
Ziggy and my husband, Herb, at agility class
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