All Thumbs (Training Part 2)
This is my second installment on human behavior and training. Last time I talked about sweat, this time I'm going to cover thumbs. Thumbs are those opposing appendages humans have on their front legs sort of where we have dew claws. It gives humans a unique ability to grasp things. (If only they could grasp ideas as easily as they can grasp objects.)
If you think about it, dogs could easily become extremely resentful of thumbs (assuming we ever became resentful about anything) since just about every tool that exists out there requires a thumb to operate. But then again, the existence of thumbs more or less explains how humans have evolved into dog's best friend. By keeping humans and their thumbs around, we've got willing help that can open cans of food, drive cars, remove ticks, and find the animal channel using the remote.
But of course, when you combine thumb-ability with that flighty and caffeinated human personality, there's going to be a down side. And that, as we know, is that they like to pick things up and throw them. Talk to any dog over the age of 40 and they'll tell you how much of their youth was wasted picking up after humans.
If you're new to humans, here's what to look out for. You'll be chilling, just hanging out, and suddenly the human will pick up your ball or toy or your favorite stick and throw it as far as they can. You run out and pick it up, bring the toy back, and as soon as you put it where it belongs, they pick it up and throw it again. Over and over. Some days it would drive me so nuts that I'd stay up all night just barking in frustration.
But you don't have to tolerate that behavior. With a little work you can train your human to behave, it just takes a bit of tough love. Here's what you do. First of all you have to assess the value of the thrown object to the human. If they just pick up a stick, then you don't move. Just let 'em keep throwing sticks until there's none left.
If it's something the human doesn't want to lose, then you run out, pick it up, and then make them chase you to get it back. When they finally catch up with you, hang on tight and make them bribe you with a dog treat before you'll let go.
If it's something REALLY valuable to the human, say one of those silly designer dog toys that looks like a bone or a plate, but costs a lot, then you run out, pick it up and keep running until you're out of sight, then you put it down where they'll never find it. I know it's hard to do that, because nothing makes a human more depressed than losing money, but with a little bit of nuzzling they'll get over it.
You won't cure them of throwing in day, but the important thing is being consistent. Start with short sessions and gradually increase your refusal to pick up after them. When they finally stop throwing things, remember to reward them. If you've got a dead squirrel hidden away or if you can regurgitate some hot lunch, just leave it out where it will surprise them. They won't forget it.