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Grocery Bribery

Grocery day is a big deal at our house, because of bribery and manipulation.

For a while our labs, Sammy and Emma, couldn’t get it through their head to not run out the gate when we needed to open it to leave. It was always a rite of passage for them to trot down the driveway and survey the cul-de-sac.

Occasionally they would dig under the fence and get out, but we solved that issue: an electric line that ran at the bottom of most of the fenced property. But still it seemed every time there was a chance they had to test their boundaries, and we loved them too much to see them get run over.

Enter the bribery and manipulation (aka positive reinforcement).

Our grocery store has a delightful selection of diverse chews for dogs. Some start with chicken flavor, then beef flavor, then finishing with ham flavor. There are also the classics with peanut butter.

Perfect bait.

What I started to do is if the dogs waited inside the gate when I drove off, or when I drove in, they would get a surprise. It took a few tries for them to get it, but now they lick their chops when I pull up.

This training bled over into having them stay inside the gate when we went to work. So now when my husband leaves early in the morning, we don’t have to worry about the dogs shooting down the driveway.

Sometimes though, I stockpile the treats and give them one after I put away the groceries, just to keep up the rewards system. I’m their favorite person now.

The cats, Socks and Elsa, are in on the deal too. Their pleasure is an assorted play pack I pick up every once in a while. Elsa looks up at me with those big Disney eyes of hers and waits for me to throw a glittery fuzz ball. She goes nuts over those and likes to carry them around the house.

Socks is more into the catnip and jingly balls. He loves rubbing the catnip toy all over his face or chases a new noisy toy. Now when I bring the groceries inside they peer into the sacks for their surprise. I used to leave the toy play pack on the kitchen counter, until Socks discovered it and ripped it open one night, spilling toys onto the ground where Elsa was waiting. Now toys and treats get put up in a cabinet.

You catch more flies with honey rather than vinegar. Using positive reinforcement builds trust, which also works on people as well.

Not to say negative reinforcement is bad—we still keep up our electric fence, and it has done wonders for the digging problem.

When you want to get ahead in a situation, think about what you can offer the other party. Chances are they might take it, build trust with you, and give you what you were looking for.

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