I was in Dawsonville the beginning of this week at a new Home Dog Training client and his Bichon named Mary. Mary was a pretty good dog, but had some obedience issues and liked to bark at other dogs while on a walk. The main issue that we worked on during our first session was respectful focus and the establishment of a strong bond and relationship between my client and Mary. Both Mary and my client responded very well and we even started to resolve the barking problem with dogs outside on a walk. As always, I gave my client some homework to practice before our next lesson and he was excited to get started. As I was packing up, my client remembered one more thing with Mary and wanted my opinion. It seems that the only way he can get his little Bichon to eat is to hand feed her while on his lap. He said that this normally wasn’t a big deal, but it was very bothersome when he was in a hurry. Did I have any ideas on what was going on?
I told my client that Mary was showing her dominance over him by “telling him what to do”. The exercises that we set up to repoint focus to him and to build a bond of trust and respect will go a long way in removing her constant demand for focus and action.
Mary’s little “food game” could also be easily overcome in conjunction with the actions I had already provided. The one thing I told my client is that, when push comes to shove, dogs do not starve themselves. They will eat out of a survival instinct. They will not only eat, but, if necessary, search out food in order to survive.
We are not going to hide all of Mary’s food and make her look for it, but we can set up new rules regarding her eating habits. Like anything, solving the problem through small, baby steps is the easiest and usually the fastest. Here is what I suggested:
- Have Mary on his lap with the plate and food. Continue the process of taking the food from the plate and feeding Mary.
- Now, after a few bites, stop feeding her. Still keep her on his lap with the food right in front of her. Just don’t hand feed her. If she starts to eat the food herself from the plate, that is great. If, after a few minutes, she still hasn’t gone for the food on the plate, get up and end the meal.
- Repeat the above process until Mary “figures it out” and understands that she has to get the food from the plate when he stops hand feeding her.
- After a few times of “hand feed then plate”, he should put her on his lap with the plate and don’t hand feed her. Wait for her to eat from the plate.
- If she doesn’t eat directly from the plate, pick everything up and end the meal. It may take a missed meal or two, but Mary will figure out she has to eat from the plate.
Now that he has Mary eating from the plate on his lap, it is time to change the venue of the plate.
- Have Mary start to eat from the plate on his lap. Now, pick the plate up and put it on the ground. If Mary goes for it, great. If she doesn’t, end the meal.
- Repeat this until she is jumping down to the plate to continue her meal.
- Now, put the plate directly on the ground at his feet and have Mary eat there.
- Repeat that a time or two. Now, during the meal, get up and walk away.
- Mary is now eating on the ground without any assistance. Problem solved.
Having your dog demand that you feed him by hand is disrespectful and something you really shouldn’t do.
We hope you will phone (or text) Robin or myself at (770) 718-7704 if you are in need of any dog training help. We have a lot of good dog training Q & A’s at Best Dog Trainers Dawsonville Georgia. Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Alpharetta Georgia.