The Mighty Bell first appeared on January 6th, 2016. It was the second entry on my newly minted blog! It is reproduced here with some updates and additions by kind permission of the author, who, being me, was very gracious of myself.
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. (7 A.M. during weekends and vacation.)
- 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.* You could also use an actual alarm clock as long as it has a distinctive sound and is never used for anything else.
- 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 (if I come home late, or have to leave early) 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.
Since I’ve shared my experience with this technique I’ve gotten positive feedback from a lot of people. One reader shared with me how she uses it, along with super special treats, to make medication times with her dogs a breeze and impress her friends in the process! A word of caution comes from a colleague who tried it. If you always set the alarm manually, the dog will catch on and you’ll be back to square one! So set the alarm as a daily occurrence and use the sound manually if you were away when it was supposed to go off.
To show that I’m not totally making this up here is a short video of The Mighty Bell in action.
*When I first started doing this the option to used songs as alarm tones was not available so I used the sound Apple calls “ascending” which became a bit of a problem when a video I was watching one early afternoon used it as a sound effect!