From left: The first time I met Jetta, and later after she learned to trust people.
So here's the difference between my companion dogs and FBI working dogs. My dogs must sit politely and make eye contact with me before I put down their food bowls. FBI dogs must detect one of 19,000 possible explosives combinations and before their handler feeds them their meal by hand. This simple act reinforces their will to work and strengthens the bond with their handler. In fact, these working dogs never eat out of a bowl until their retirement! To see these brave, brilliant dogs in action, check out this fascinating video. As a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, I'm thrilled that the FBI uses food to teach, motivate and reward its working canine partners. The APDT also emphasizes reward-based training, which I personally find to be the most fun way to teach dogs of all ages, sizes and personalities. The use of food helps FBI dogs save people's lives. Four years ago, I used food to save a dog's life. I was a volunteer with a German shepherd rescue and received a call from the Louisiana SPCA that a very scared German shepherd had been found as a stray and needed help. No one was going to want to adopt a large, fearful adult dog. I went to the shelter on my lunch hour and found a frightened, dark sable girl named Jetta. She huddled in the corner of her concrete kennel. Every day for a week, I visited Jetta and offered her food. At first, I gently tossed the treats to her. She responded as if I were throwing stones -- more cowering and shaking. On day three, she took a step or two toward them and then she began to eat them in front of me. The most magical day was when Jetta ate the food out of my hand. Two weeks later, I still hadn't found a foster home for her. My husband agreed that we could take her in temporarily. She soon blossomed into the beautiful, confident girl I knew she could be and was soon adopted by a wonderful person who continues to cherish Jetta as a close companion. What is your dogs' relationship to their food?
Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’sNew Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.