Elizabeth Warren’s dog Bailey earned that burrito
Tips for dog owners to keep their kangaroo-hopping dogs from stealing food
By now, Twitter users have probably seen former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s dog latch onto a burrito. I was tickled while watching the video of people trying to get as much of the burrito away from the senator’s dog. I already know what that life is like. It only took my family one time to understand that we had a leaper too. Our Labrador Retriever mix saw a pork chop sitting on the kitchen counter. Before my father could get it all set for our BBQ family dinner, Shep made an executive decision that we didn’t need to eat it; he did.
One leap, a quick run and that pork chop was a goner. Shep was out the door and chomping on it in the yard. You better believe my father learned exactly how to position food on the BBQ grill and kitchen counter after that. And it never happened again for 12 of his 13 years. I’m not even mildly surprised that Bailey is yet another rambunctious Retriever — Golden Retriever a little more than 2 years old. As long as Bailey isn’t lactose intolerant from the (potential) cheese or sensitive to persin from (potential) guacamole/avocado, he should be all right chomping away on the burrito. The meat is a clear perk for him.
But the bigger question remains for dog owners who also have a Bailey in their lives: How do you keep your leaping dog away from your food (and other fragile objects)?
For first-time dog owners, this may become a bit frustrating. Even for past dog owners who got a new dog, you’re still trying to figure this dog out. In more than two decades of being a dog owner, I’d never had a dog try to drink my green tea before. Then this past Thanksgiving I realized I couldn’t leave my mugs on coffee tables around one particular Lab. (I’m sensing a breed theme here.)
In all fairness though, small dogs can be food thieves too and big dogs can be as agile as cats. I’ve dog boarded a Shih Tzu who made a running leap over my bent back to pick him up. Solid leap over me, and he landed on my bed — feet first. I’ve also admired a Brittany Spaniel balance her 50-pound-body on my window sill, even though it was too thin for my Chihuahua to figure out how to get up there. Every dog is different, and some are just more lithe and active than others. So here are some tips if you know you have a vigorous dog who is a food bandit.
Never leave anything on the edge of the counter or table: Now this should be a given. If the dog is tall enough to just swipe it down with his paw or head, you’re pretty much asking for him to do it.
Avoid leaving food in the middle of the counter: This is when things get trickier. If you move the counter food backward but it’s still within jumping distance for your dog, it can become more of a game for your him — especially if it smells good. Consider finding something on your counter to block it so it’s not such an easier target. Shift your flour and sugar canisters in front so it’s not as viewable. Do you risk your dog knocking those down? Surprisingly, I have never seen that happen, mainly for fear of the sound of the crash. If that canister is made of ceramics or glass, it could be a safety hazard. (What I’m not supposed to tell you is it could also teach your dog a valuable lesson about jumping on counters and maybe result in him chilling out.)
Consider installing a dog gate: OK, there are some dogs who treat pet gates like Olympics training. But for the most part, if you purchase a durable gate that keeps your dog in a big enough area that he can run and walk freely, he may not feel as inclined to escape. Food will entice him though. You’re almost always going to run into an obstacle with cooking (or even takeout). So make sure the dog gate is tall enough to prevent easy leaping.
Additionally, if this is a dog gate that is meant to be used when you’re not around, know whether your dog is a chewer or not. A wood gate won’t do you a bit of good if you’ve already seen your dog take a dent out of your kitchen bar stools. Same deal with flimsy plastic. Generally speaking, metal should be OK. I walked two Whippets once who could easily jump their dog gates. However, one time it crashed down when the two tried to leap over it, and that was the end of them trying to jump. They found calmer ways to entertain themselves. According to the American Kennel Club, a “slight inward angle” was harder to climb.
Keep your dog on a consistent feeding schedule: Some dog owners I meet feed their dogs like clockwork. And at some point, their own dogs know when it’s time to eat. I specifically know of a Louisiana Catahoula Leopard dog who would climb onto my couch (or her owners’ couch, when I’m dogsitting) and put her nose on my nose or cheek as soon as it was feeding time. No couth, and I think it’s hilarious. She knew when it was breakfast time and dinner time, and I stopped bothering to look at my watch or phone. She was always right. For dogs who seem to always be hungry, you don’t want to go nuts with just giving them treats. Chances are pretty high your veterinarian will let you know your dog is getting pudgy.
Consider a more purposeful time to give out dog treats: One very handy trick that I’ve observed from the Louisiana dog is she always sits stock-still after a walk. When I turn around to look at her, she lifts a paw. She’s fully aware of a routine — lift each paw to be wiped (she’s a furniture dog), unclip the leash or harness, and then she gets a treat. This trick treat not only kept my furniture clean the entire time I dog boarded her, but I was fascinated that even if I walked away and forgot about it, she would still sit firmly on the kitchen floor. I once sat on my couch, curious to see if she’d give up. Nope, she just started whining loudly and still sat by the kitchen door waiting on that treat. The exercise came first, and the treat came later. And as do most dogs I’ve boarded or sit, if I give them a treat while I eat my own food, they tend to leave me alone.