Hungry dogs starting fires isn’t some cartoon, or even a Buzzfeed post. In 2010, it was reported that over a 1,000 fires are started by pets. This is why it’s so important to train your pets to stay down off the counters and not to counter surf. The food that they’re trying to sneak is only the tip of the iceberg.
Like Brookfield, the black Labrador below, my Sadie Sue Shagbottom doesn’t always take no for an answer. Most animals have an enormous food drive. Think about it. Dogs, for instance, were bred down from wild animals that hunted/scavenged for food. Their prey drives and foraging drives are not muted or overwritten by centuries of living among humanity. For many of those centuries, they were at the mercy of their masters to get scraps, or still hunting on their own. Even to this day, many cats are left outside and they still hunt to feed themselves. A lot of pets would be able to regress to a natural state and survive. That is because they’ve never really evolved past it.
What reinforces these behaviors is the reward system, as with anything else in training. If you leave things on the counter tops, even just a dusting of flour, a nip of gravy or smear of butter, they’re getting what they’re after: the taste of human food. Human food is just food. Dogs don’t see it as yours or theirs. They may see it as the ambrosia of the gods because it is yours as opposed to their own food, which you never touch. Dogs base their assumptions on our clues—we don’t like their food, so why should they?
That said, one fine day, I was busy at work in my office when I smelled something like rotting eggs. I dismissed it at first. After all, I do have a dog and they do pass gas. Then, I realized that my boo wasn’t in the office at my feet. So I went looking for her, and the smell grew worse. I was concerned that she had an accident in the house, but then I heard the hiss of the gas on the stove.
In her effort to find a tidbit on the counter to make her afternoon, she had surfed over the stove and depressed the knob, which then slid around, turning on the gas. The house was full of it. Any fireman can tell you how dangerous that is. I was lucky to smell it in time and not be gassed. Also, I was lucky that it wasn’t so thick in the air that a spark didn’t ignite the house in a fireball.
So, from that point forward, I kept tabs behind the knobs to keep them from turning on unintentionally. But, then a friend who was baby-proofing her home mentioned covers. I had not even thought about it. A great many tools that we use for making the house safe for children can be used for ensuring the safety of pets. You can also check to see if there is a pet version (which there usually is for a premium more). A great example is that a friend of mine needed to keep a dog out of the cat food. She found a metal baby gate with a pet door in it (cat sized). It works amazingly, and the tiny door is so Alice in Wonderland.
So, the lesson is, doggy proof your home and train them well—just like babies.
Also, while we’re talking fire and pets, here are some tips on Pet Fire Safety.