About a year into living with Hershey I started losing sleep. Not due to worry, or stress, but to the application of a large, wet nose to the soles of my feet.
Hershey had, using her powers of observation, noticed two things:
1) As the only human in the house, I was responsible for feeding her.
2) I usually fed her shortly after waking up.
Using perfectly sound dog logic she came to the following conclusion:
If I was awake earlier, she would eat earlier.
Thus began Operation Enduring Moistness.
The problem with dog logic is, as others have noted, that once a conclusion is reached, it will not be dislodged by inconvenient things like liberal applications of the word “NO,” being desperately ignored, or reality in general. So the negative correlation of “waking him up and getting yelled at isn’t the same as eating earlier,” didn’t seem to be sinking in. It seemed the only way I was going to get any peace (and dry feet) was to take myself out of the Deciding When To Eat process.
I don’t remember if it was immediately after formulating this notion, or if it took a few weeks of mental percolation, but at some point my neurons fired in a helpful manner and came up with an idea, and I’ll share it with the world now in three easy steps:
- Set an alarm on your phone for when you would like to feed your pet. In my case it was 6 A.M. and 6 P.M.
- Select a tone for that alarm that you will never use for anything else. If you have the option of using songs, I would suggest “Dinner Bell,” by They Might Be Giants, which is quite possibly sung from the point of view of Pavlov’s Dogs.
- Wait until the alarm goes off to feed your pet.
It took Hershey about two weeks to realize that I was no longer in control of when she was fed, the bell was. I was as much its pawn as she was, so it was pointless to pester me. When the Little Dogs wandered into my life they lived with this reality from the start and have never known anything different.
The nice thing about this is that if I’m not there at a designated feeding time The Mighty Bell (as it came to be called) can decide to go off at another time when the feeder is there to serve the feedee. At least that’s what it seems from the dog’s point of view. In reality I set the timer for a few minutes with the proper tone selected, walk away from the phone, and feed as usual when it goes off. It has been such a success that several times I’ve been home late, ready to go to bed, and suddenly realized I hadn’t fed the dogs, and they didn’t bug me once. They were patiently waiting for our master to make its wishes known.
I would love to know about any training or tricks that have worked for anyone else!