"Bark 'n' Scratch"

Volume II - Issue 29:  September 3, 2004
Published by:
Christopher Aust, Master Trainer

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In Today's Issue ...

=>  Just Visiting? Please Subscribe Here.  ->
=>  Christopher's Drool
=>  The Pooch that Mooches
=>  Hero Dog
=>  Mail Bag
=>  Recommended Stuff
=>  Washing the Dog

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Christopher's Drool

Hi Gang!

Well, we are back to training, finally. The last few weeks' articles absolutely drained me even if they were rather enlightening. It feels good though to be back to training issues. Before we move on, I want to thank everyone who sent their letters and comments to HSUS and Animal Planet.

I have a project I want to mention ...

Have you heard about  the "Hugs" project yet?  It's a really great group of people who are dedicated to sewing and sending evaporative cooling ties to our troops in the  "sandbox."  They have already sent out over 22,500 homemade "hugs," which sounds like a lot until you consider that we have over 145,000 people in the desert right now. Cooling ties are simple to make but the benefits are dramatic, they can lower body temperatures by 1 to 4 degrees.  They can also be microwaved this winter to use as reusable hand warmers.

They are also making the cooling ties for the Military Working Dogs serving their country in the Gulf as well. This is a fantastic project which will help the dogs deal with the heat, but also provide a tremendous boost in morale to the handlers working the dogs. If you would like to help out with this project, please shoot an email to: mailto:thehugsproject@cox.net

It was 118 degrees Fahrenheit the other day and I am sure the pooches would appreciate it.

Keep those letters and suggestions coming. They are greatly appreciated.

Okay, that's it for now. I'm outta here!



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Dear Chris,

Six months ago, we adopted a six-month old mixed breed from our local shelter. She is very sweet and obedient, follows her commands almost every single time they are given. She is great with cats, dogs and kids and very trustworthy alone in the house by herself.

Now she sounds perfect, and is except for one thing. She is a total mooch! She constantly begs for food from us and will steal food off your plate if you leave it for even a couple of seconds. We have been told she is a beagle mix, and this is the reason for the behavior. Are some breeds prone towards “food issues?”

Thanks for any guidance you can give.

Leslie M.
Concord, MA.

The Pooch that Mooches

For about a two-year period, I worked with a guy who never would bring a lunch to work with him. Inevitably, we (his coworkers) would hear the same thing from him. “You gonna eat that?” Now it wasn't as though this guy couldn't afford to eat, he was just a mooch and nothing more.

Personally, I solved this problem by spitting on whatever he was asking for and then handing it to him. Needless to say, after the third or forth time, he quit asking me.

Of course using this method with your dogs is probably just going to make them want your sandwich even more. Dogs seem to have a finer appreciation for a spitball on their pastrami that we humans seem to lack. (Personally, I prefer mustard.)

Regardless of the differences between a human and a dog's palate, begging is an extremely annoying habit. What we have to remember though, is in dogs it is not just a learned behavior, but to a mild degree, it is also an instinctual one as well. First, I think we should address the instinctual aspect of the issue.

Instinctual Behavior

From the time a puppy is born, they essentially learn to beg for food. We have all seen a litter of pups fighting for their food and making their little yips to get momma's attention when they are hungry. Essentially they are begging for their food but that's not all that's going on. They are also competing for pack position.

I am also certain we have all seen the runt of a litter who has to fight harder to get to momma to feed, while other stronger pups don't have to work as hard. This is all part of establishing status and pack position among the pups. It starts from the day the pups are born and continues until they are weaned.

In wild dog packs, this continues for the life of the dog. The stronger dogs with more status and higher pack positions eat first while the smaller/weaker dogs with less status have to wait to get their meal. While they are waiting, they will yip and bark which is done to alert others in the pack they are the next ones up to eat. In other words, food plays a significant role when it comes to pack roles and positioning.

In the domestic dog, the need to beg for food for survival ends once the dog is weaned and eating food provided by their owner. If the dog is receiving an appropriate diet, most won't become mooches unless the behavior is in some way encouraged. Often the little things we do out of “love,” or the life experience of the dog, can lead to begging behavior.

Learned Behavior

A learned behavior is any behavior a dog exhibits that isn't instinctual. Now, begging and mooching runs a fine line. I could argue since they basically mooch from birth that it is instinctual. At the same time, since a puppy leaves its mother at six to eight weeks and begins life in the family pack, it is a learned behavior in older dogs since it shouldn't be necessary for them to beg if properly fed and cared for.

Both are reasonable theories, however, I lean towards begging being a learned behavior that is exasperated by the minimal instinctual nature of the issue. I feel this way as I have developed a process to prevent the behavior, and I have trained it out of many dogs.


I mentioned above that puppies essentially beg for food from their mother. Some will say it isn't begging but signaling, calling or other such terms. Now, I'm not going to get caught up in semantics here. Call it what you want, but the puppy is making noise to get food.

Now when a puppy comes to its family pack, the Alpha (and everyone is Alpha to the puppy) of the family pack is the one the puppy looks to to be fed. It is extremely important for puppies to have a nutritious well-balanced meal twice a day. I say twice a day because puppies expend a lot of energy growing, playing and exploring. As they get older, around ten months to a year, they can be graduated onto a once a day feeding.

Now we have all seen or done this, myself included. The cute little puppy gets a treat for everything it does. She sits, she gets a treat. She pottys outside, she gets a treat. Sometimes, just because she is so cute, she gets the crust off our sandwich. We are making food a way of expressing our love and rewarding appropriate behavior.

Now, this may not sound like a big deal, but when doing this, we are encouraging begging behavior and making food a source of comfort, which is contrary to the way a dog looks at food. Remember, in wild dog packs, dogs only eat what they need to maintain their health so they can fulfill their pack role and position. They leave what they didn't need for the lesser members of the pack.

So when we give little snacks and excessive treats to our dogs, we aren't doing them or ourselves any good. Remember, super sizing is a human creation and not one developed by a dog. Dogs eat for survival and not comfort…unless we teach them to. Give your puppy his food and save the human food for the humans. If snacks and human food sharing are never taught to the puppy, they won't consider it an option. They don't need snacks; they need love.


Now what are we supposed to do if we now have an adult dog who begs and steals food? Glad you asked.

First, we have to consider the dog and its background. If the dog has been with the family from the time it left its momma, there are two considerations. First, was the dog fed treats and human food, separate from its meal? The second thing to consider is the nutritional value of the meals they are getting. Finally, if the dog was a rescue, there could be other issues.

Now if you gave the dog excessive treats and allowed them to eat off your plate you know the cause. I won't go back into that now but will offer the solution later on.


You have all heard me say when dogs have all of their physical and emotional needs met, they will behave appropriately and be content with their pack positions. An enormous part of their physical well being is making sure their nutritional needs are being satisfied. If their nutritional needs aren't being met, you can bet they are going to do whatever they need to meet them.

Until a couple of years ago, I was a die-hard kibble guy. I didn't buy into the whole B.A.R.F. diet or see a need to cook human food for my dog. I fed premium kibble, and I had fantastic dogs that were healthy, energetic and beautiful. I have changed my mind on this, but it was a personal choice.

Dogs are like people. There is no one perfect diet for any specific breed of dog. If you have an active dog that works as a hunting, tracking or agility dog, they may require a diet higher in protein and vitamins to replenish their body of the nutrients they loose while working. On the other hand, if you have the average house dog, giving them the same diet as a working dog could lead to obesity.

I don't care what the “feeding guide” on the back of the dog food bag says, we have to fine tune our dogs' diet to make sure they are getting all they need. Your best source of reference is your vet or better yet, a veterinary nutritionist. Talk to them about your concerns, take in the ingredients list and give them a detailed explanation of your dog's activities. Often, by meeting your dog's nutritional needs, you can end the begging.

Rescued Dogs

Dogs who come from rescues present a different issue. We have no idea how the dog was fed by its previous owner. They may have been given excessive treats, slop and Lord knows what. Additionally, depending on the shelter, there is no guarantee they were fed appropriately when at the shelter. Most shelters feed what they can and often there are many dogs in a kennel, and they have to compete for food. The dog you adopt may have only gotten half of what they needed to stay healthy.

The important thing to do with a rescue that begs is make sure they have a proper diet and understand strict guidelines when it comes to human food. NEVER give them treats. This is self-defeating. Provide consistent guidance, a balanced diet and training from the very first day.

The Solution

Okay, we understand the dog and the reason for the begging behavior, so what do we do about it?

Now you all know I am a firm believer in allowing our dogs to learn on their own. It's easy to go and “kick their butt” but it only brings out fear and this is no way to form a cohesive family environment. Let them learn on their own, and they will not only learn, but not associate the learning with you.

Go to the store and buy a couple of jalapeno peppers and/or Tabasco sauce. (hot sauce) Make a peanut butter sandwich and put either the seeds of the pepper or the sauce itself on the sandwich. When the dog comes to beg, give him some. Believe me, it will be discouraging to them. You can even make the sandwich and leave it on the table and walk away. Allow the dog to steal it and eat it. Believe me, they will think twice the next time.

I find the pepper seeds work best as the hot sauce has a more pungent odor they can detect in advance. If you are having dinner and they beg, put a little hot sauce on bread and give it to them. What happens, regardless, is the dog starts to think human food stinks and is unpalatable.

Now, I know this sounds a little bad but look at the options. You can beat their butts or you can allow them to think we eat crazy food which will only cause them a few moments of discomfort without the long term effects a whooping will cause. It has worked for me - and my clients - for years. It will work for you as well.

This article may be republished using the following attribution box:
Copyright ©2004 Christopher Aust, Master Dog Trainer & Creator:
The Natural Cooperative Training System (NCTS) for Dogs
The Instinctual Development System (IDS) for Puppies
Subscribe to the BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter: subscribe@Master-Dog-Training.com
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Properly trained, a man can be a dog's best friend.

~ Corey Ford ~


The five-year-old is now top dog in his Southport household, after finding his pal.

Kitten Mow-Mows went missing and the Halsall family searched high and low to no avail.

Dad, Martin Halsall, a police sergeant, took family pet, Regan, for his evening walk and they found six-month-old Mow-Mows cowering in a field.

Samantha Halsall, 12, had spent all day looking for her moggy and was heartbroken when she could not find her.

But Regan saved the day. Samantha's mother, Jane, said: "Martin let Regan off his leash and let him smell Mow's basket blanket and told him to find Mow-Mows.

"It was amazing. Regan came back with Mows in his mouth."

The animals are best of friends at the house on Sangness Drive but the family thought they might never see Mow again after she vanished.

Regan sniffed her out close to the Post Office sorting depot on Benthams Way.

Mrs Halsall, added: "Cats and dogs are not supposed to get along but our pair are very close. They sit and cuddle up together on the settee.

"Samantha is overjoyed. "She was upset all day, so when Mow-Mows turned up safe and sound, she was ecstatic."

Regan has been trained to the same standard as police dogs by Jane, who runs her own dog training business.

Mail Bag

Greetings from New Zealand,

I admire your courage to take on such people and organizations. Congratulations on your investigative work.

It reminds me of similar work by other folk to expose the fraudulent editing methods employed by Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine to convey his personal message and agenda to the gullible public of the world who are generally easily swayed and who never research a subject in depth themselves to double check the accuracy of that which is put before them.

Keep up the good work. I like your mix of helpful training information and hard-nosed journalistic investigation. About fifty-fifty suits me fine.

HSUS is not a factor in my country but it does make me pause and wonder about our own equivalents.

Yesterday, we had daffodil day. A collection day street appeal for the Cancer Society of New Zealand. This is a group, of long standing, which I personally think of as an organization which has evolved into a caring organization which makes it possible for people to die comfortably. Would they not be better employed in teaching people how to avoid cancer in the first place through diet alone?

Good luck; keep up the good work.

Richard W.

Hi Chris,

As I previously wrote to you once I had heard about the show that HSUS was promoting, they would no longer be receiving money from me. After reading your article, I am mad at myself for not doing my homework and realizing what kind of things were going on. I am so methodical about checking organizations out, however, like everyone else just assumed HSUS was on the up and up. Thanks for all the time and effort it took to get this information to us.

Kudos to another great issue!

Sue D.

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Joke of the Week

Washing the Dog

A young boy, about eight years old, was at the corner "Mom & Pop" grocery store picking out a pretty good size box of laundry detergent. The grocer walked over and, trying to be friendly, asked the boy if he had a lot of laundry to do . "Oh, no laundry," the boy said, "I'm going to wash my dog."

"But you shouldn't use this to wash your dog. It's very powerful and if you wash your dog in this, he'll get sick. In fact, it might even kill him." But the boy was not to be stopped and carried the detergent to the counter and paid for it, even as the grocer still tried to talk him out of washing his dog.

About a week later the boy was back in the store to buy some candy. The grocer asked the boy how his dog was doing. "Oh, he died," the boy said.

The grocer, trying not to be an I-told-you-so, said he was sorry the dog died but added, "I tried to tell you not to use that detergent on your dog."

"Well," the boy replied, "I don't think it was the detergent that killed him."

"Oh? What was it then?"

"I think it was the spin cycle."

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Thank You For Reading!  Have a Terrific Week!

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The Legal Mumbo-Jumbo

The BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter is published by Christopher Aust Copyright © 2004 All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted without the express written consent of the publisher or contributors.

We accept no responsibility for your use of any contributed information contained herein. All of the information presented in BARK 'n' SCRATCH is published in good faith. Any comments stated in this newsletter are strictly the opinion of the writer or publisher.

We reserve the right to edit and make suitable for publication, if necessary, any articles published in this newsletter. We reserve the right to publish all reader comments, including the name of the writer.

Christopher Aust, Master Dog Trainer & Creator:
The Natural Cooperative Training System (NCTS) for Dogs
The Instinctual Development System (IDS) for Puppies

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