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As an only child, I was quite spoiled and grew up believing I deserved anything and everything I wanted.  My husband was an only child also. But his childhood was much different. He was raised rather strictly and, contrary to being given everything he asked for, he was taught that everything must be earned.

One childhood Christmas he exuberantly announced to his parents that he wanted a train set. On Christmas morning, he bounded down the stairs and dove under the Christmas tree where he found a small box. He enthusiastically opened it, only to find a toy train engine! His father then explained to him that with a combination of his allowance and earnings from doing extra chores around the house, he would soon be the proud engineer of his own train set!

Now most of us would find this rather extreme. However, I must say that my husband has a deep respect and appreciation for acquisitions, and more importantly he has a deep respect and appreciation for his father.

Halloween brings to mind the notion of "treats". This occasion makes us think of children in costumes, making their way from house to house, knocking on doors, and asking for treats.  For their labors, they have the gratification of a bagful of candy. However, there is a little more to this ritual than meets the eye. First the child must creatively assemble a costume, gather fellow trick or treaters, and find a chaperone. The final frontier is mustering up the courage to knock on a door and say "PLEASE" which translates into "TRICK OR TREAT". These are all actions consciously taken to receive a reward.

Our canine friends might benefit from these traditions.  Unfortunately. many an adorable pup can be kissed, rubbed, hugged and. given a juicy yummy treat for merely looking at his person and wagging his tail. While most of us might respond with of course, we must look at what we are telling our most adorable canines. We are telling them that all they have to do is be cute or in some cases not so cute, look at us and they will get everything that they want and now. Not a big respect builder.

When Dixie and I broke down and hired our personal trainer I was amazed at some of the criteria that he established for her rewards. For instance, when releasing Dixie from her crate (I personally can't wait to give her that morning smooch and belly rub) she is directed to sit, wait for the crate door to open, and then to lie down. At that point she gets her TREATS -- kisses from mom and a belly rub. Next comes the TREAT of a walk. Then there are the training sessions. Every correct response gets praise, but not necessarily a treat. At first that made me nuts. But the trainer's expression "Don't be a treat bank" started to make sense to me.  Make her earn the PAYCHECK.  

Back home for breakfast. Rather than assaulting me with the exuberance of a hungry puppy, Dixie does a down-stay while I prepare her meal.  She does not get fed until the bowl is placed in front of her and she "looks" to see from me if it is okay to proceed to her meal -- aka the TREAT.

The point is appreciation. If all any of us had to do was ask, we might never truly appreciate the reward. We all had to go through eight or more grades to graduate grammar school. We all had final exams to get our high school diploma. Let us not forget those term papers that we pined over to get our respective degrees. Result being various life muscles got developed leading us to the appreciation of the goal.

All our dogs really want is to be safe and loved. That is their goal. It is not inhumane to nurture their growth. Growth is their benefit. A mature dog who knows the expectations of his world and the respect he must give becomes a happy and secure dog. Treats are merely the trick we use to help them overcome their resistance to change. We too got treats as we grew up in the form of toy train engines, Halloween candy, high school diplomas, and good paying jobs. After all, we each had that time where we did not want to grow up. So bring on the treats in various forms and let the growth spurts begin!  The result will be maturity, respect, and, most of all, mutual appreciation.


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