For 2 1/2 days, Ronon has been avoiding eye contact with me, flipping over and showing me his belly when he doesn’t understand what I’m asking him, declining to get on the bed or couch with me, etc. It has really been bothering me, because I couldn’t figure out what had HAPPENED. A friend and I were discussing it at the dog park this evening and figured it out.
When I adopted Ronon he would gulp his food down without even chewing it. There’s probably still a part of his brain that thinks he can’t/won’t get enough to eat.
On Wednesday afternoon, Ronon and I were out for a walk when he suddenly grabbed a sidewalk snack.
My perception: Ronon snatched something off the sidewalk that could be incredibly dangerous. I started yelling at him to drop it and trying to force him to spit it out. He ate it. I was panicked and furious. I tried to keep walking after that, but I was so mad at him that I cut the walk short and we went home.
His perception: Jenna (suddenly and unpredictably) became very angry. She was jerking on my collar, and she tried to take the food away that I had just found.
Behavior explained! For the last couple days, Ronon has been appeasing me to avoid unpredictable outbursts of anger. (Meanwhile, if we walked past a sidewalk snack, he’d almost certainly grab it.)
Two Things I Need to Work On
(1) I have to change the way I’m attempting to train leave it and drop it. I am going to work on it in the apartment, the hallway, and around the complex by putting down something of his that I know he wants/likes and walk him past it over and over and over and reward him with other treats, so he learns that not picking things up is rewarded. On the occasion that he does grab it, I won’t panic because I’ll know what it is, and I can reprimand him properly. Once he understands that grabbing food off the sidewalk is “bad,” he won’t be confused and surprised when doing it results in getting yelled at. It won’t be unpredictable.
(2) I need to build trust with him. Some people might enjoy having such a deferential dog, but I know he’s doing it because he doesn’t understand why I was mad at him, and he doesn’t want it to happen again. I want him to have more faith in me. I want him to know he’s a good boy.