Downeast Dog News

Ask Bammy, an Advice Column for Dogs by a Dog

Jun 02, 2020

I am a Carolina Dog, a breed that long ago owned Native American people. We were designed by natural selection to be so intelligent and physically superior that we survived without human help. My great-grandfather was caught from the wild. I can offer advice based on the natural instincts and attributes of wild dogs. In addition, my adoptive person and I have had lots of training classes and other experiences. Some humans call themselves Mom or Dad of their dog, but I refer to my human, tongue in cheek, as Boss. Much as I love her, I admit she has many of the same odd notions as most humans, so I can relate to other dogs with problem humans. If I can’t help, at least I can offer sympathy, and we can have some fun talking about our amazing humans. Please send your questions! N. Holmes, 280 Pond Rd., Newcastle, ME 04553, or email: askbammy@tidewater.


Hey, doggies! I have a new training method for all of you who have a passion for people-food. Isn’t that all of us? Most of the time this only works in one-dog-one-human packs, but there must be a lot of us out there just drooling for a steak or salmon filet when our pack-mate leaves food on the table.

I’ve gotten really good at snatching a treat while Boss is just a few steps away, but there’s an awful row when she comes back to an empty plate and I’m running away with the prize clenched in my jaws. In a previous column I told you about the canine Food Law which states that any food that can be grabbed is the rightful property of the grabber. I’m sure you have all discovered that humans think the law does not apply to them. They seem to believe that food left on a table or kitchen counter automatically belongs to them. What a silly idea. It would be a disaster in a wild pack. How would young dogs survive if they couldn’t snatch pieces of the kill and clean up the left-overs?

Luckily, humans, like dogs, can be trained with praise and treats. Start with something easy. Like spinach soup or lettuce. I discovered that when Boss went to the kitchen for crackers or something, she was pleased when she came back and found me gazing hopefully at the bowl on the table. “Good leave-it!” she said. “What a good dog!”

The next step is harder. For example, your pack-mate jumps up quickly to tend to a fizzy noise on the stove. You could eat that half cheese sandwich in one gulp. But don’t. This is your chance to get her thinking. When she comes back, you should be standing with your nose so close to the sandwich that you could get it in a snap. She will probably yell, “NO!” first and then feel guilty that she left the food to tempt you, and you are just standing there drooling at it. “What a good dog!” she says, and you think at her, “What a good human!” and wag your tail a lot.

Now your training project is up and running. Just keep encouraging her to praise you a lot. Wag and smile at her with your mouth a little bit open. Ham it up. You might even offer her a cute trick. You want her to think of giving you a food reward for leaving her food alone.

Boss has gotten really good at rewarding me with food when I point at food she has absent-mindedly left in my reach. And she is SO absent-minded that we have lots of training opportunities. Now I whine to get her attention if she doesn’t notice me begging.

Be patient and almost always reward her by begging for the food instead of scarfing it. Last night after supper, she left a lovely pot of chicken soup cooling in the kitchen while she talked on that thing that makes a ringing noise, and then she holds it against her face, and talks to it as if she was talking to another human. What is that about, anyway? She couldn’t hear me whine for the soup, so I had to bark. She came running with heaps of praise and a big handful of treats. What a good human she is! So trainable!

I say “almost always” reward her by begging instead of grabbing. Because if she takes it for granted that you won’t steal food, she will gradually back-slide and stop giving you treats. You don’t have to do it often, but when something smells so good it almost drives you crazy, go ahead and eat it. It will keep her alert and generous.

Happy human-training, my friends,