In my life with animals, food is the foundation of love, connection and communication. It is the first step, the opening of the dialogue. Most animal’s lives revolve around food and procreation and while life with humans often disrupts those instincts, they remain important, especially food. Food is the way animals focus on me, and the way I can control and train them. Food brings donkeys into a barn, helps them learn their names, calms them when the vet comes or there are storms. Understanding food brings order and peace to a farm. Animals depend on us for their sustenance, and that is the cornerstone of a powerful relationship. Many of us wish to think it is more complex and emotional than that, but for me, food has always been the key to understanding and training my dogs and other animals.
There are other elements for sure – connection, attention, work and exercise that dogs also love and respond to – but when I get up in the morning and see three donkeys and five sheep, four chickens, three dogs and a barn cat focused intensely on me, they food is the language between us at that moment, and I will always be central to them. When animals are paying attention, they are calm, and they can learn and communicate.