The acquisition of food shapes behavior. Birds, lions, foxes, wolves, bees, ants, bears, deer.. learn and practice behaviors that result in the acquisition of viable food. Their ability to forage, track, chase and hunt are all behaviors that are constantly being fine tuned by daily successes and failures. Not only does the acquisition of food shape behavior, but it also regulates emotional responses, strengthens bonds for those species that live within social constructs and enhances problem solving skills. In essence it is what makes them mentally and physically fit for survival.
Taking all this into account, it's easy to see why feeding dogs in a dog bowl leaves a lot of empty space for bad habits to develop. The mental and physical energy that would normally be utilized by the dog's brain and body, fuels the most common behavioral issues: reactivity, fear, anxiety, aggression and hyper-activity. Using food for training and enrichment should be an everyday occurrence. Training with food is an enriching activity that gives your dog something to think about, problems to solve and fortifies the human-canine bond. It nourishes them mentally, physically and emotionally.
Written by Alyssa Lapinel, CPDT-KA
First things first: if your dog has a pulse then your dog is indeed food motivated. There are three possible reasons for a dog that is not excited about food.
1. The dog is overfed. Small breeds are probably most prone to being overfed. They have tiny tummies. The dehydrated food that most people feed is packed with calories and expands in a dog's stomach. Regardless of dog's size; use a lined measuring cup to ascertain the correct quantity of food. Pick up any food not eaten within 10 minutes. If your dog regularly walks away from their food, then the amount that you are offering is probably more than their daily caloric need. Reduce the quantity accordingly.
2. Your dog is stressed. Chronic stress can suppress a dog's appetite. This leads most people to leave food out throughout the day, which can exacerbate the problem. Keep your dog on a feeding schedule. If your dog walks away from their food bowl, be sure to pick it up. Talk to a professional trainer that will help teach you how to build your dog's confidence, and minimize his or her day to day stress.
3. Your dog is sick. A sudden loss of appetite or change in eating habits could be an indication that your dog should be brought to the vet. This will be easier to spot in a dog that is already on a healthy feeding schedule.
There are studies that show that small quantities of food are more effective at stimulating an animal's appetite than a larger quantity of the same food. Biologically, brains are programmed to be suspicious of foods that are offered in abundance. With this in mind, here's a tip that will get your dog excited about meal time: measure out the ideal quantity of food for the day based on your dog's weight, age and activity, and offer it in smaller portions throughout the day.
Written by Alyssa Lapinel, CPDT-KA
Alyssa is founder and head trainer of Legends Dog Training, based in San Diego, CA. She offers private sessions and group classes in San Diego, as well as, skype consultations. Go to www.legendsdogtraining.com for more information about training services.
I love stories. It's one of the reasons that I decided to call my dog training business "Legends Dog Training." It comes from Paulo Coelho's book, The Alchemist, and supports the idea that training opens doors for dogs, helping them to fulfill their legend by making them a bigger part of our day to day life. Every dog has a legend to be fulfilled and a story to be told.
My dogs (past and present) have come from very different backgrounds. Each has a very different personality. Each have brought immeasurable happiness into my life for different reasons, and each one has presented their own specific challenges. Embracing their personalities, and working through challenges has built lasting, unbreakable bonds.
Written by Alyssa Lapinel, a certified professional dog trainer that owns and operates Legends Dog Training based in San Diego, California. Alyssa specializes in behavior modification programs for dogs that exhibit anxious, fearful, impulsive or aggressive behavior. Alyssa also conducts puppy classes to make sure that puppies get off to the strongest start possible. Go to http://www.legendsdogtraining.com to learn more about private lessons, group classes, skype sessions and board and trains.
Alyssa Lapinel, CPDT
Certified by the Council for Professional Dog Trainers