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Throw a dog a bone?

Ben Byth

While I’m no Dr. Chris Brown, my dog is usually well behaved; that is until we are at home. While we are out he ‘comes’ and ‘sits’ on command and thankfully does everything required to give the illusion that I’m in total control. Of course why wouldn’t he while we are out walking or playing in the park? It is at home that that he makes me look bad.

When called at home he casually raises his head and looks at me, and if I’m not holding a treat he goes back to what ever he was doing previously (usually sleeping on the couch or sunning himself on the lawn). The ultimate insult! He is now quite comfortable ignoring me until I bring treats to the table. It has gotten to the point that if we are leaving the house and I need him inside I will either have to produce a treat or carry him inside.

Last time, while cuddling him goodbye as he ate his treat it dawned on me - the dog is negotiating and getting good deals. He is valuing his concessions in my terms and trading with me. He has given me an ‘either or proposal’: Either produce a treat or carry me inside, which would you prefer?’

Even more interesting is how the power balance is equalised. He knows that ultimately I hold enough power to I impose my will (and I sometimes do carry him in), however he still pushes for the treat and more often than not he gets it. 

So next time you are faced with the prospect of conceding in the face of a power imbalance, I encourage you to ask yourself, ‘Can I give it to them and if so what can I get in return?’

Ben Byth

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