As pet owners, we all know what “The Look” is, right? The, “I know I just ate my dinner and had a snack but I could help you out with your dinner too” look. Or, “You gonna eat that?”
We’ve all seen it and honestly, we’ve all fallen for it more times than we’re willing to admit. We all dearly love our pets and want them to be happy – happy with us, right? That’s where the problems start – in my opinion. We think that by feeding them extra treats or dinner, we’re making them happy. Truth is – we are for that short moment in time. But doing this for an extended period of time will have negative effects on our pet’s overall health.
So, how can we break the habit? We’ve most likely already done some “mutual” training with our dogs on what the look means. Your dog bats his eyes and the treat dispenser (you) reciprocates with a treat. I’m guessing it’s a very silent, natural dance at this point, right? I’m part of this dance in our household every day so I understand. I need to make a conscious effort to “break the gaze” and not give into the temptation of mindless treating. Here are some of the things I do that might be able to help you:
Fill a small bowl or container in your kitchen with the number of treats you have deemed are allowed to give in one day. When the gaze hits you, hand out a treat. When the container is empty, the gaze needs to wait until tomorrow to be fed. You need to stay firm.
Only “feed the gaze” every other time it’s flashed at you. The goal is to retrain the gaze from an expectations game to a wow, I got a treat game. I’m sure it took several years to perfect the dance in your household so it will take time to learn a new dance. Be patient.
I often will take out a comb or brush and give one of my dogs some easy, long combing strokes down their back. It’s a great way to connect with your pet.
When Chase’s parents talked about their concern with his constant look, we talked about ways to help them get passed it. Part of solving the issue with Chase was feeding him a bit more at dinner time. This did keep him fuller longer, and helped his parents feel like they were giving him enough food. They also portion out the number of treats and don’t go beyond that number. I suggested to them to just chat with Chase when he flashes the look. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I have complete conversations with my dogs. Talk to them when they flash the look. It’s still reinforces the look, but without calories.
Part 4 of this series is up tomorrow – Monitoring Progress. Thanks for reading this blog!