Robin and I were at a new Home Dog Training client in Kennesaw working with him and Boone, his beautiful Vizsla. I love Vizslas because of their great personalities and that their name is just so cool to say. Well, Boone was very focused on our training and his issues with not paying attention and trying to dominate the family members were quickly resolved. As always, we looked for other, peripheral issues that may need to be addressed and spend another hour or so working with door manners, polite walking, and distance control. As we were finishing up, our client suddenly remembered one more thing. It seems that Boone likes to steal food from the table and counter surf. How could they take care of that?
We explained to our client that the first thing he needs to understand is his dog’s concept of food ownership. In his dog’s mind, if food is left unattended for a long period of time (he or other family members have food on a low table, but aren’t actively focused on the food) or they abandon the food (walk into the other room and leave it there), Boone no longer believes they are maintaining ownership over the food.
Don’t forget, in the wilderness, the Pack Leader would be the first to eat the killed hunt. The Pack Leader would then walk away from the food, letting the rest of the group know that he was done and that the killed hunt is now available for everyone else. This is why most dogs have no problem in going after unattended treats. This could be on a coffee table, dinner table, kitchen counter, etc.
I suggested that he implement the following:
- Do his best to assure that food is not left unattended. If needed, pick up the plate and put it somewhere away from Boone.
- Set clear boundaries. When they are cooking or have food out in the kitchen, set a rule that their dog is not allowed in the kitchen. Correct him as he approaches their boundary and praise him when he stays out. This same boundary rule can also be used for the sofa or dinner table.
- Make sure their dog has his own goodies (Kong Toys w/peanut butter, Deer Antlers, etc). If he is focused on his, he isn’t focused on their food.
- Always feed Boone the same time they are having their meal. This will help redirect him and when he is done, his stomach is full.
- They must really focus on telling their guests not to feed Boone. This might be fun for their guests, but it sending Boone mixed signals regarding feeding. Feeding must be on my client’s terms and must be consistent. Allowing guests to feed him scraps and other goodies confuses Boone’s understandings of the feeding rules.
- Take his dog outside and engage in some adrenalized play. Getting him tired will minimize his wanting to go nuts when they are all inside.
Don’t forget, it is OK for my client to “correct his guests” and remind his family about the feeding rules for Boone. Keeping the meals calm and orchestrated by my client will send clear and appropriate signals to Boone.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over fourteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.