Saturday, May 31, 2014

Adding to the Pack - Feeding

Dogs love food. So much that some of them will fight for it. And that is why when you have a multiple dog house, you have to manage feeding time.

Obviously this is not a challenge for everyone who has a dog or dogs. Puppies that are raised properly don’t usually develop food aggression towards humans or other dogs. These dogs have been brought up never knowing what’s it’s like to have to scrounge and do whatever it takes to survive. However when you adopt stray dogs which I have, their backgrounds can be quite different. They may have literally had to fight to eat. And while many dogs instinctively eat quickly, in my experience strays tend to inhale food, maybe to ensure no other dog or animal gets it before them. But that doesn't mean they cannot learn to slow down and relax around food. It means you have to manage things until they do.

When you bring a new dog into your pack, you should supervise feeding time carefully. This is a great opportunity to practice your leadership skills. You are the one providing the food on your terms. Have your dogs sit and wait patiently for their food (start with short times and build up). This helps them develop patience skills and to learn that they have to work for their food.  It’s also a good idea to stay with them while they are eating to make sure they stay at their own bowls, and to pick them up when they are finished. Even an empty bowl can cause a fight while relationships are new.

When I prepare my dogs food, I like to touch it with my hands to have my scent on it; I want my dogs to know the food is coming from me. I also use a technique I learned to help avoid your dog guarding her food. You hold a treat in your hand while your dog is eating and bring it near the bowl so you’re dog can smell it, and drop it in the bowl or let her take it from your hand. As time passes, you can put your hand right into the bowl with the treat and eventually without. Practicing this often will teach your dog that your hand near her bowl is no big deal.

Judique, Effie and Bear in the Kitchen

The first few days after we adopted Effie, we fed all three dogs together. It was pretty crazy. We don’t have a huge kitchen so it felt a little cramped. And the speed the dogs ate added more stress. Bear my sweet senior eats very slowly and it takes time to get him started. Our new adopted Effie couldn't sit still for one second before she wolfed her food down, like it was her last meal. And Judique who has been with us for a couple of years apparently felt as though Effie was a threat and ate about twice as fast as normal. Eventually we settled on feeding Bear by himself. It makes sense since realistically he won’t be around for years and we want him to enjoy his food at his own pace. And to this day it still works fine for us. The two girls get extra playing time outside and Bear eats in peace. And I’m happy to report that Judique is back to eating at her regular speed. And that Effie can now sit and wait for her food, although the longer I make her wait, the more drool I have to clean up. I’m hoping she will slow down a little one day too!

Stay tuned for "Adding to the Pack - Toys/Bones"

1 comment:

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