Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Confessions of a Dog Trainer #4: My Dog Gets Fed First

Here's another one piece of advice that come from folks who are advising others that they need to be "the top dog in your home," the "leader of the pack," or the "alpha dog."

YOU NEED TO EAT BEFORE YOUR DOG...or even more awkward, SPIT in your dog's food before you feed them...to show 'em who's boss. If you don't, OH NO, they are going to become dominant and think they rule the house.  That's a lot of pressure on the person (OMG - that means that every time I want to give my dog a food treat, I need to eat before them?! Ack!)!

WHAT?! Really?

Don't believe the hype. You DO NOT need to eat before your dog because of the potential fallout it might cause.
Oscar waiting patiently for his release word.
He looks worried, but he's not (the camera was
being held by my belt), my eyes were up higher,
which is where he's looking :)

As some of you know, my amazing husband, Aaron, is a very good cook. OK, that's an understatement. He's an artist in the kitchen and routinely turns out delicious meals with lots of thought and love and, oh lucky me, I'm there to eat it.  And for those of you who know Aaron, you know that he is very thorough in whatever he does. He enjoys the process of making things...and while some of us take shortcuts, he doesn't even consider it. What this also means is that, more often than not, Aaron and I are not eating supper before 8:30pm on any given day. And what that means is that Oscar gets fed before us almost every night. That said, in the morning, Oscar typically does get fed before the humans. Just because our schedule makes it so (and the fact that he gets digestive enzymes so his food percolates while I eat).

Has this made him a conniving, dominance-seeking dog? Heck no. I would argue the exact opposite happens because our feeding is on a schedule. And, boy-oh-boy, Oscar thrives when our schedule is predictable.

Our feeding routine is consistent and they work for everyone; the humans and Oscar. And in all honesty, Oscar could care less if he eats before, during or after us, he just wants to get fed!  The only caveat to feeding time is that we do use it as an opportunity to reinforce him for good manners (hello life reward - cha-ching). Oscar has developed a beautiful behavior chain; dinner bowl comes out, run to crate, offer an auto sit, food bowl gets placed down, offer auto eye contact, wait for release word, and viola! FOOD TIME!

The main thing I want readers to consider is that you should do whatever works for your family. To me, it's more important to focus on teaching your dog dinnertime manners (a sit until released is a great place to start) than to waste your energy thinking about trying to find a cracker to eat before you feed your dog. Feed your dog when it's convenient for you, ask your pup for a sit and then let them eat in peace while you go on worrying about more important things, like what's going to happen in the next season of The Walking Dead.

Stay tuned for my last post in this series...
Confessions of a Dog Trainer #5: My Dog is Not Perfect and I'm Fine With That

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