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Fortune and Dog’s Eyes

Jake loves Fritos.

He won’t turn down a Cheeto, a pita chip, or a pretzel stick either. In fact, snack foods in general are Jake’s favorite carbohydrates.

Jake honed his snacking addiction while lolling at the feet of his owner, an ESPN junkie. Jake noticed that a touchdown (or goal, or home run) would often result in shouts, giddy excitement, and spilled snacks.

Well-known trainer and behaviorist Karen Pryor calls this opportunism, or the exploiting of opportunities with little regard to principle or consequences.

Jake happens to be a Labrador mix, but he could just as easily be a English Bulldog, a Dachshund, a Whippet, or name-your-breed. Most dogs ARE opportunistic.

So when Jake’s owners drop a scrap of food on the floor, or leave a loaf of bread on a low counter, or walk away from a slice of pizza in the family room to get a soda from the kitchen, in a split-second, Jake will assess the situation, calculate the odds, and dive right in.

Dogs will not ponder whether there is a moral quandary to his actions.

We humans usually object to having our food stolen from us. Does this mean we – like some dogs – are resource guarding? For a refresher on this behavior, see Danger: Dog Eating.

Given the nature of our opportunistic dogs, a two-pronged approach is required:

1. Train your dog to Leave It.

2. Despite having trained your dog to Leave It, manage your dog’s access to coveted edible items. That means…

  1. Don’t leave food out;

  2. Don’t walk away from your plate or bowl even for a brief moment;

  3. And don’t respond to your dog’s demands for buffalo wings at half-time,

or he will be inclined to seek them out during the commercials.

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