The importance of last bites
I’ve had a lot of kinds of animals in my life. I’ve even had exotics, which I don’t really recommend. When your tree shrew gets sick, nobody in the world knows what to do. Not just your local vet, pretty much nobody. Hey, if you want to get an animal where they can almost always fix what is sick, get a rat. They’ve tested everything on rats, so they have a pretty good idea. But pet armadillos? Not so much.
I’ve also generally had cats and dogs together. We do now. They’ve always tended to get along pretty well.
I’m not going to say I’m the world’s best animal trainer…I’m not. I tend to indulge them too much, in terms of behavior. I’m less concerned with them being perfect little animals than I am with having all of us (four-foots and humans alike) be happy.
One thing I will suggest, though: last bites.
This is something that works well with dogs. You give them the last little bite of whatever you are eating (assuming it’s safe for dogs…no chocolate, for example). If you set this up as the norm, they’ll usually sit quietly and wait for you to finish. We have one terrier mix where it is pretty funny. He’ll be sitting there calmly, and actually start to fall asleep…while he is still sitting up. He wakes up again, though.
Why does this work?
It’s natural…dogs would normally need to wait for the Alpha to finish. That’s a key way that dogs determine hierarchy: who eats first. You should also eat before the dogs, and you should definitely always feed the cats before the dogs. The dogs need to know that you rank the cats higher than them.
I’m only talking about a very small amount, though…the size of a fingernail is often enough.
Oh, and cats? They totally don’t care about this. I know lions do, but domestic cats? They don’t seem to get the whole “last bites” thing.
This is a good way for a new person in a relationship to establish ranking over the dog. The dog’s owner should give the food to the new person (just putting the plate there is enough…the dog doesn’t need to see it put into the person’s mouth) before the dog gets to eat. The new person giving last bites to the dog (once it seems safe) will help, too.
Just a suggestion for you…you know your dogs better than I do. 🙂
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in The Measured Circle blog.