All the dogs I have ever shared space and my life with have all been trained not to steal from one another. Most have learned to catch treats on the fly and most realize when a dog misses a throw, or just plain fumbles the treat, whoever was supposed to get the treat still does. Dropped treats belong to the dog who dropped it and that way there’s no fuss. Whether you believe it or not, dogs know what belongs to who. They know who owns a certain space on the bed or a certain chair. They can be taught everything they need to know about keeping peace in a pack and there really has been few exceptions to this rule.
To begin with, just to let you know, Pibble is actually two words said so quickly they became one; Pit Bull. Walk into a crowd and say, “Pibble” and the owners of Pit Bulls will know you are speaking to them. Okay, next is the word “striped” which is usually pronounced just as you would stay the road was striped with traffic paint, but in this case, it is pronounced “stri-ped”. All of my dogs have had nicknames and titles of some sort. Tyger Linn, because of who and what she is, has earned more than her share.
Every day when I get home from work each of the four dogs is given a carrot. First is Lilith Anne, Muttess of the Magnolias and Queen of all the Hickory Head Pack. Lilith sits and waits and she won’t jostle around like the others because that is undignified. Then Tyger Linn gets a carrot. The two other dogs belong to my sister but are in residence at Hickory Head. There is Marco Ladakh, the largest at 110 pounds, and his sister, Greyson Charlotte, who pushes over ninety pounds. They have to perform sit and wait before they get their treat, and this gives everyone the opportunity to finish eating at one time, to keep drama down to a minimum.
Now both Marco and Greyson chomp their treats. And because they both chomp and run, sometimes various pieces of carrot go flying. Tyger Linn learned that if she arrived on the scene early enough there might be a chance to steal one of the chomped parts that flew out of the sovereign territory of another dog. Eventually, a plot formed; Tyger would go into the bedroom, drop her carrot, and then return in the hopes of getting another piece.
I began to notice this behavior.
However, before I formed a plan to dissuade Tyger from thieving, I noticed that if I waited long enough before giving the Large Dogs their carrot, Lilith would sneak over and steal Tyger’s carrot while Tyger was waiting to steal a piece from one of the large dogs.
I decided to experiment with Tyger’s greed.
To Tyger, there were four possible outcomes in this business. First and best, she got her carrot and stole a piece of a carrot. Second, she would get her carrot and not get a piece of a carrot that she tried to steal. Third, she would lose her carrot and get a stolen piece. And fourth, she would not be able to steal and get her carrot stolen.
All of this depended entirely on timing and how well I threw carrots. If I tossed the carrots to the Cousin Canines, as they are known, too quickly, Tyger didn’t have time to go put her carrot down and steal pieces. If I waited just long enough, Tyger had the time and the opportunity. But if I waited until I saw Lilith move in for the steal, I could play with Tyger’s sense of reward versus risk in carrot stealing.
First, I tried letting her get away with it for two days in a row, then getting just her own carrot for a day, then getting robbed for the next two days. She still would take the risk the next time carrots were handed out.
Then I tried letting her get away with it on Monday, and then robbed on Tuesday, breaking even on Wednesday, and then getting robbed twice. She came back for more.
The third week I let her get robbed the first day, and then alternated between getting robbed and getting her carrot and a piece. At the end of the week she was in the red, but not dissuaded. I kept this up for three weeks. Tyger was losing three out of five days but she still believed she could, if she kept trying, beat the system, even when it was clear I was rigging it.
Finally, I let her get robbed every day for a week and now she refuses to play at all.
Human lottery players should be so savvy.