Denny, like most pugs, is very food-motivated. Very food motivated. Extremely food motivated! He will risk injury to try and get a good snack. Especially if it’s people food.
A great example is his visits to his regular vet’s office. He does not like going to the vet anyway, but if they have to touch his paws to draw blood he gets very panic-stricken. Any amount of reassuring or trying to hold him seems to exacerbate the situation. But at his vet’s office they have discovered a magical item that distracts him from what they are doing: cream cheese. They keep a tub of it behind their counter and whenever they need to distract a doggy, they simply dip a biscuit into the cream cheese and hold it at a height so the dog can lick the cream cheese but not quite get a bite. It’s like crack. Whenever the deed is done, the dog can have the biscuit. Denny usually licks off all the cream cheese and then looks at them to give him a top-up. It never fails to do the trick.
When we first started taking Denny for his underwater treadmill sessions, we were a bit unsure about how he would react. He hates being in our pool (though he is a very good swimmer) and cannot stand to even walk around on wet grass. You can see the look of disgust on his face as if to say “but Mum, my paws will get wet!” whenever I try and take him out after a rainstorm. And sure enough, the first time he was put in the treadmill and it started to fill with water, he seemed a bit panicky. A treat helped calm him down. He walked well but his ears were down and we knew he wasn’t thrilled with it. He was rewarded at the end of the walk with more treats.
He obviously remembered that.
The next time we took him he started fussing when the little life jacket was put on him. A couple of treats later and he let us proceed. Then the treadmill started. More treats were needed to keep him focused. This has continued and by last week’s session he was eating during the entire walk. He actually only walked about half the time. The tech would hold out a treat and he would walk to get it. Once he had it he would “ride” the treadmill to the back of the tank. She would hold out another treat and he would go get it, and then “ride” the treadmill again. If she held the treat but didn’t give it to him, he would show his defiance by standing still and riding the treadmill back again. No words of encouragement from us made any difference. Our wild gestures and clapping meant nothing. When his time was up I was exhausted, but he had barely started to pant. He had won the battle.
This week, we tried a different approach. We came armed with a jar of peanut butter and a long-handled wooden spoon. Once Denny had his harness on and was in the treadmill, Richard opened the peanut butter jar and coated the spoon.
We had Denny’s undivided attention.
He didn’t even seem to notice the water filling the tank, as his tail was wagging and his gaze never left the spoon. Richard lowered the spoon at the front of the tank and the tech started the treadmill. Denny licked and walked, licked and walked. I am proud to announce that Denny broke his previous time record and walked for a total of 6 minutes today!
We’re definitely bringing the spoon and peanut butter next week.
Okay…random pug pics!
Charlie says “Hi!”
Stewie says “Honest, Grandpa said I could have his slipper!”
Um, I don’t think Grandpa wants it back now Stewpot.