Cafes, Gelatos and Ray.

Oakville is a small town on the edge of Lake Ontario and, although it is within the “The Golden Horseshoe” (being an area of dense population and industries stretching from Toronto to Hamilton), it has endeavored to maintain a small “olde towne” image which it has done with moderate success.

The result of the lakeside, and the image, has provided consistent tourism business over the warmer months. For the tourists, and for Ray, it means outdoor patios serving ice cream, gelato, baked goods etc.

Ray has always been highly food motivated and, when passing a café or restaurant, he has no reservations whatsoever about stopping and staring at the people behind the glass window who are trying to have an undisturbed meal*. Sometimes the customers are clearly amused so we let Ray do his eye contact thing but, at other times, it is just more appropriate to coax him past the window.

As much progress as Ray has made over the past two years, and we are certainly thrilled with what he has achieved, he has developed a disconcerting habit regarding treats. He was trained to be comfortable with other dogs by simply making the association that dogs mean treats. The same concept was used for meeting people.

With dogs, he knows the routine. See dog ….. look up at “peeps” ….. get treat! With people it can get complicated because often the people, unlike the dogs, have treats to give him. When we give him a treat, he knows from our body language whether any more are likely to come. He knows from experience that barking gets him nothing from us, except to be ignored. Unfortunately, he has not applied the same rationale to other people and we have had a few incidents where he has “woofed” at somebody because no more treats seemed to be forthcoming! It seemed to be a very definitive “I want another treat!”

Now imagine the sleepy town of Oakville, on a warm Sunday afternoon. People are milling around, looking in windows of souvenir stores. Cafes and restaurants have their sidewalk patios open, and the gelato and ice cream stores are doing a wonderful business. Now let us introduce a 75lb Shepherd/Rotti, who would do pretty much anything for food, into the picture!

For Ray, this is not a problem because anything that is being served, or otherwise being eaten outside, is fair game to be shared with him. He makes that perspective very clear as he eyeballs (e.g.) some innocent person’s gelato.  As long as that person ignores him, there are no expected problems however, if they give him any attention, then the process of intimidation starts and becomes an issue because when Ray “woofs” in these circumstances, it is a very commanding “WOOF”! People tend to recoil. We really don’t want Ray to capitalize on that reaction, nor do we want him to get nervous around people again because of such reaction.

The solution is to watch his body language very carefully. If somebody offers him a treat and then wants to talk about him, which is often the case (during which time Ray is being ignored), our first clue is his unblinking and fixed eye contact. This is a good time to distract him.

He will generally take a relaxed sit position when expecting a treat but, in this scenario, his sitting pose will become rigid. If we missed the first clue, then this may well be our last chance to intervene. So far this approach seems to be working so as at today, and until Ray changes the rules once again, we believe that we are still in control!

*Related Post “Please Feed Me” – Dec 12, 2014

15 thoughts on “Cafes, Gelatos and Ray.

  1. It being the summer months and a lot more foot traffic and outdoor eateries and events, would putting him back in his muzzle help with this at all for a while? I’m thinking all the smells would likely get him really excited and hyper. I’m a cat person so I say this with no dog experience other than your previous blogs.

    P.S: I am really enjoying your diary blog.

    “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less”

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  2. There are so many parallels between Ray and Kali. As closely as we read them the seem to read us even better which keeps us on “top of our game”. I’ve realized over the past several months that Kali’s development and assimilation is not a process that has a beginning and end. It’s a journey. Tomorrow marks one year that Kali arrived from Taiwan and joined our pack. One lap of the journey down and many more to go; I’m ok with that for sure.

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    • I remember reading that the dog is the only animal that, if you point at something, will look at where you are pointing. All other animals will look at your finger. They are very smart when it comes to figuring things out, and they read body language much better than us! They really are a force to be reckoned with, and I am so glad to have one accompanying me on my journey through life. 🙂

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  3. I only have one cat (out of 4) that begs for food but only from us. He can be quite insistent so I usually keep a little of his supper for when we eat so we can do it in peace. However, if we have rotisserie chicken all bets are off. That cat loves his rotisserie chicken.

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    • Prior to Ray, all my 4-legged friends were either cats or rabbits. There was only 1 cat that begged for food (and she was really, really, really good at it). Ray, however, has taken the art of begging to a whole new level. 🙂

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  4. I would give in and (with your permission) give Ray a treat because I’m a sucker for doleful eyes.
    I always ask the owners if it’s OK as you never know if the dog has dietary problems or allergies. I once gave a friend’s GSD some chicken and gravy when they came to Sunday lunch, and the poor dog was violently ill (both ends) after they got home. I felt dreadful.
    Maggie has mastered the feed me look too. If ignored, I get a progressively heavy head on my knee.

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