Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Who Owns the Dog Food at Your House?

by Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved
(c) Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved
Waiting Permission...
At my house the dog food, treats and all edibles are clearly owned by me. Not Tanner. Not Xena. And certainly not Oliver. They know it and we know it.

When friends and family visit, they are always amazed at the dogs' manners during feeding time. Everyone knows where to sit, stay still, be quiet, and wait their turn to be fed.

Just as some families say 'grace' before dinner, our dogs have to give thanks by being patient. When everyone is quiet and calm, the permission to eat is given one by one. Whichever dog is the calmest gets the first go ahead. Usually that is Tanner, but Xena and Oliver get their chance quite often.

Once the dish is set on the floor, this is NOT a signal to eat. And their neighbor's dish is not theirs to sniff, or steal from. Likewise, they understand that what the pack leader giveth, the pack leader can taketh away. I test this every now and then, to assure they remember. I can take a dish, hold it for a count of 10 as the dog looks on, wondering if he gets to finish his dinner. When he proves that he understands this dish is mine, I return it to him and praise him as he continues to eat. I can pet him, kiss him, touch his dish and there is never a hiccup.

The whole gang is well versed in the rules. Sit. Quiet. Wait. When I give permission to chow down, they watch carefully, to be sure I'm speaking to them.

"Tanner. All done. Take it"
'All done' tells Tanner that he does not have to hold his "stay" any longer. Funny thing is that he is not likely to leave his dish and disappear when it is full. No way! So, he waits for the rest of the command. He anticipates it: "Take it" is pretty straight forward to you and me. But Tanner sometimes watches my hands to be sure I'm motioning to him. 

I make a habit of using hand and verbal signals, as Xena's hearing is getting a bit weak. I also speak up when giving commands to Xena, and I tap a spoon on her dish to help her know it is feeding time. 

With her vision and hearing showing signs of age, using all of her senses in my communications helps her to acknowledge my commands to her. Even at 13 1/2 she still knows the rules and does not complain.

Oliver is another story altogether. He is my most observant pupil. No wavering concerns about who I am speaking to with Oliver. The minute I give him the go ahead, he dives in. And that's all good, as he is the slowest eater, with those tiny little teeth of his.
(c) Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved
"Take It" Time is Earned
After everyone has eaten, I soften a bit and allow dishwashers to take over. Tanner and Oliver love this job. The two of them will often wash Xena's dish out together, while Xena has wandered off in search of the door--ready to go out and do her business.

Dishes done, we all head out to the yard. Oops! Don't forget the biodegradable poop bag. Okay. We're ready to go now.

All is well when the dogs remember who owns the food. If you have more than one dog in your home, teaching wait or stay, leave it and take it are great skills that will help you set yourself up as the boss, while assuring your dogs are properly behaved during dinner time.
Got questions? Drop our trainer a note and ask. We'll be happy to help, as will I.

Happy tails!

Related Reading:
Disciplining Your Dog Through Feeding (more detail)
Preventing Food Aggression
Sharing Human Food with Your Dog: What is Safe and Nutritious?

Also, Check out my latest guest post at:
Dog Care Journey
Socializing Your Puppy or Dog: It's Never too Late

More Reading:
Feeling Outnumbered? How to Manage a Multi-dog Household:

Help protect our precious dog parks
© Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved

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home euthanasia said...

You have a very cute and funny blog. Also the pictures are so adorable. I think it would feel really great having that three creature around.

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