Are you worried about over-feeding your puppy or dog?
Do you struggle with training because your dog disengages, refuses the treats, and can’t be encouraged with bits of tasty food?
Does the idea of using treats for training make you uncomfortable?
I've got you covered.
Listen. Your dog has to eat to sustain life. In fact, there isn't such a thing as a dog who isn't "food-motivated". Dogs can have low food-motivation but that's a human problem. Animals who are "not food-motivated" are dead because they didn't eat to sustain life. Living wasn't motivating enough for them to eat? Nah.
Let's get real.
You want to be the centre of your dog's universe.
You want your dog to gaze up at you now and again while walking down the street.
You want your dog to come flying, top speed, when you call. The first time.
You want your dog to learn basic cues and concepts quickly and to perform those behaviours in new environments, with ease.
We all want the same thing.
I can help you get there, and it's not going to involve overfeeding your dog until they're 700 lbs and diabetic. It also won't involve a dog who is dependant on food in order to perform on cue.
Become the Teacher your dog needs you to be.
You're going to start with getting rid of your dog's food bowl.
Well, first of all, you need to build up some interest and a hint of scarcity around mealtime. Tap into that inner hunter/scavenger that you know is in that adorable canine body.
Do you feed your dog out of a bowl? Do they hoover it up or graze throughout the day, or save it all until just before bedtime?
Let's start to build that food-motivation now! If your dog isn't already on a feeding schedule, that's our first step on a schedule. This might take some willpower on your end and definitely some consistency.
For the next five days, you will set aside some time at mealtime to monitor your dog.
- Place your dog's regular meal in the bowl and place the bowl on the floor as usual
- Check the time and make a note to return in ten minutes
- When ten minutes is up, return and if the dog is not actively eating out of the bowl, remove it, place the meal in an airtight, food-grade container and put it away.
- At the next mealtime (usually 8-12 hours later) you will repeat this sequence. If the dog chooses to eat in that time, fantastic! If they don't, the meal is saved until the next mealtime, even if that means overnight.
Note: If you choose to set a timer, however, be aware that your dog may figure out this pattern and become anxious or stressed when the timer goes off and you take away the food bowl.
Repeat this sequence for five days and track your progress on a piece of paper. By the fourth or fifth day, your dog should be eating the meals when the food is presented, within ten minutes.
If your dog is still not eating after the first two days, we might suggest considering the following:
- Is your dog getting food from another source?
- Too many treats on walks
- Stuffed Kongs
- Other members of the household
If so, you will need to create consistency across the board in order for this to be effective.
If the answer to the above question is "no", then after 2 days of not eating, I would suggest speaking with your veterinarian as dogs will not starve themselves unless they are unwell or in pain. Your vet may recommend a thorough checkup including a dental exam and perhaps even blood work.
Once your dog is on a schedule of eating meals out of bowls for a few days, we're going to switch things up.
You'll need to do some grocery shopping or freezer-diving. You're going to make a "Kibble Bag":
- a little less than 3 days’ worth of your dog's regular kibble
- a large, resealable freezer bag or airtight/food-grade container
- some fresh, whole, low-fat foods.
- chicken breast (boiled, chopped)
- extra lean ground beef/turkey (boiled, broken up)
- canned tuna (strained, flaked)
- low-fat cheese (shredded)
- Rollover food tubes (sliced n'diced)
- parmesan cheese (grated)
- garlic powder (a tiny, tiny bit)
You want the ratio to be 4:1 kibble to snacks.
Mix it up and seal it. Leave it in the fridge overnight.
Pack your dog's food bowl away or use it as a secondary water bowl
For the next three days, use your dog's daily rations for creating positive associations, rewarding good choices, training behaviours throughout the day.
Do 3 days at a time because it stays fresh for 3-4 days and we don’t want that going off! Alternatively you can prepare a larger batch, store it in a freezer-safe container and only scoop out what you need each day!
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Boom. Problem(s) Solved!