Posts Tagged ‘trainer’

May 28, 2012

Raise the woof

9:15 am - Posted by Gregg

“If your dog is fat, you aren’t getting enough exercise” — Unknown

As some of you know, I am the proud puppy parent to an adorable little ball or fur named Latte. Since he’s a mix of two smaller breed dogs (Maltese and Yorkshire Terrier) and because he was the so-called runt of his litter, Latte’s weight has peaked at just over 6 pounds. Add this to his lighter fur color and I’ve been armed with the aside that ‘Latte is as close to a Size 0, natural blonde as I’ll ever get to being.’

And yet, all kidding aside, I have been very careful to never feed Latte more than he needs – not to mention to always make sure he eats very healthfully and gets enough exercise. People joke with me about being obsessive about Latte’s health and weight. And I must admit that I am. But this is because I’m often appalled at the number of overweight dogs I see when taking Latte to the nearby small dog off-leash park. Out of the corner of my eye I’ll spot what I think is an animatronic footrest waddling across the park – only to later realize it’s an extremely overweight dog.

Any vet will tell you that it’s just as unhealthy for a dog to be overweight as it is for a human to be. And putting a dog on a diet is quite difficult (something I’ve vowed to never have to do with Latte). One look down the dog food aisle at your local grocer (seeing all of the bags of ‘diet dog food’) will show you that the canine population is facing as similar of an ordeal regarding obesity as we humans are.

One of the biggest culprits of this fat dog epidemic is owners – and even trainers – who use food as a reward.

Latte, a trained service dog, had a wonderful teacher who was determined that dogs learn commands and behaviors through praise and love – rather than treats and food. In fact, part of Latte’s ‘final exam’ for becoming a certified service dog required him to travel 30 feet to someone calling him while moving past a number of dog cookies and treats scattered in his path. If he stopped to sniff or eat one of the treats, he wouldn’t have passed (or graduated, as it were). This might sound like a mind game of sorts, but as a service dog (and even for his own safety), it’s important that Latte come when called – no matter what temptations lie in his path.

To be honest, I’m not sure that even if I was on fire and running toward a bucket of water I wouldn’t be tempted to stop if someone laid out chips or ice cream in my path. But Latte? He’s the man. He can do it. And I love that although I have food issues, my dog does not.

What can we humans learn from this? Mainly to keep our kids (be they human or furry) and ourselves from becoming too motivated by food. Love and praise is a much better – and healthier – reward (mentally and physically). Sure, food can often be a treat that can be savored and enjoyed to its fullest. But when held out as a reason to accomplish something, we’re sending others (or ourselves) the wrong message.

Even as you build rewards into your own life when working toward a goal (whether weight loss, career or otherwise related), create rewards that won’t harm your psyche or (heaven forbid) turn you into an animatronic footrest.

And just for the record, a lick from an adoring puppy is one of the very best rewards there is.

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