Arguably, and in my opinion, the two most important interactions that you have with your dog are walking and feeding times.
The one who is in charge of these two interactions is boss. These are the most crucial times in which you and your dog create respect between each other.
How to feed your dog:
- Your dog should understand that everything he receives comes from YOU.
Therefore whenever you give your dog something (treats, food, toys, etc) he/she should first do something for you i.e. sit, paw, wait, LOOK AT ME etc. Essentially you want to make your dog works for everything that he receives – this is not mean (remember dogs like having a job), and what this does is create the realisation that you are in charge. Dogs absolutely love pleasing you, they love to learn, they love routine/rules, and they LOVE the feeling of being rewarded for good behaviour.
Therefore allow them these opportunities to feel proud of themselves. Ps. Teach your dog the LOOK AT ME command during feeding times – it was the first thing I taught Zeus and it made everything so much easier after. It also double enforces your dog understanding that everything truly comes from YOU; Zeus always has to look me in the eye before he gets anything or before I give another command – it ensures that their full attention is on you.
- Food should never be left out all day long – when you do this you are putting your dog in control of his meal time – he will make no association between you and the food. As he doesn’t need ‘to work’ for his food – he may soon start demanding it from you and not in a pleasant way. If your dog does not finish his meal within 20minutes the food should be removed. This is a great strategy for also for preventing your dog from becoming a fussy eater!
- Your dog should always wait for you to give the command to go eat. There should be no jumping, no barking, and no whining. Feeding time is the most powerful training opportunity – food is the ultimate incentive for most dogs. If you have not taught your dog ‘to wait’ it is high time to do so and feeding time is the PAWFECT moment to do so. If your dog is jumping on you while you are making his food and you then give the dog the food while he is jumping – you are rewarding that behaviour and your dog is in charge of food time. Your dog should never be allowed to demand anything – you give when you want to give, not when your dog wants it.
If your dog barks; you stop making him food and walk away & try again.
If your dog jumps on you; you stop what you’re doing and walk away & try again.
If your dog doesn’t wait before you give the command to go eat you; take the bowl away & try again.
You repeat this until he learns.
This is going to take some time, but please please just do it. It will make you and your dog so much happier. As with everything, it all starts with baby steps;
First have him wait for 2 seconds, then 5 seconds, then 10 seconds, etc.etc. PS. I also do this with Zeus when I give him water (this rule literally applies to EVERYTHING that you give your pooch Cuddles included!) – he has to wait and look me in the eye before I put the bowl down. Obviously the water stays out all day long.
- Although I compare dogs and hooman babies all the time for their love of routine and rules; I don’t apply this to feeding time. I do not have set meal times for Zeus and he is much more relaxed because of it. If you feed your dog every day at the same time – it creates a habit – a habit that when broken can cause huge amounts of stress and uncertainty to your dog. If you do this, you will need to ensure that every day for the rest of your dogs life you will be feeding him/her at the same time. This is obviously not possible.
- How to avoid food aggression: Pet your dog while he is eating – do this every time he eats for the fist year of his/her life. Also, for the first month and a half of Z’s life, I would hand feed him dry kibble – straight out of my palm! Being in control of feeding time and making your dog understand that food comes from YOU is the first step in avoiding or treating food aggression. Feeding from your hand allows your dog to associate a human hand with food – i.e. a good connection.
Below is what it will look like when you hand feed him as a puppy and when you have very clear feeding rules:
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Love, Z & A 💜
All images © 2017 ZeusandAnna