Is your pup a picky eater?

In the decades we’ve been dog owners, we’ve never had a picky eater. We thought we did, once, but we were wrong. When Fran got Booker, her 7-year-old Boston Terrier, he wouldn’t eat the first couple of days. Turned out he didn’t like the food the breeder used. As soon as he got home and got a whiff of the stuff our other dogs ate, his no-eating days were over.

We have a couple of friends whose dogs are finicky. Interestingly – all of their dogs, as long as we’ve known them, have been picky eaters. We found that fascinating.

Rewards have many forms

One of the prime directives of dealing with dogs is that they always do what’s most rewarding. Dogs are pretty simple souls – they don’t have long-term agendas. If they get attention and better-tasting food by turning up their noses at their food bowls, they learn very quickly to turn up their noses. If the attention and tasty treats are rewards for joining the “clean plate club,” chances are that’s what they’ll do.

So we thought about our friends and their picky-eater dogs. And came to the conclusion that, on some level, they were encouraging their dogs’ behavior. Either by hovering over them for each bite, constantly offering alternatives, even yelling at them when they don’t eat.

You may wonder why a dog would like getting yelled at. Dogs don’t really understand the difference between “good” attention and “bad” attention. They just know the person they adore is paying attention. They have their person’s undivided attention for as long as they’re being a pain in the butt. 

Picky eater routine

If you have a finicky dog, try to think of the routine that surrounds daily feeding. Do you obsess over every bite your dog takes? Are you catering to your dog by offering choices? Have you ever lost patience with his behavior?

picky eater dogs leave their food untouched in the bowl

Change, if you want it, takes some determination, patience, and an ability to resist those puppy-dog eyes. If you know you can’t, it’s probably smarter to admit things aren’t going to change and adjust your thinking instead. 

The first step is to decide when, what, and where your dog will eat. You get to choose, not your dog. Pick a schedule and stick to it. The dog gets a limited time to eat. 10 minutes is plenty. After that, the bowl comes up, goes in the fridge, and is presented at the next meal. And every meal until eaten or goes bad. 

This is a test of your will, but not your dog’s. No dog will voluntarily starve. If food is presented, and he’s hungry, he’ll eat. Unless he thinks “something better” is coming. 

Figuring it out

After about three days, he may figure out that nothing else is on offer. It may be the hardest three days of your life, but it could be worth it. Won’t it be great when you don’t have the stress of worrying about whether or not your dog will eat? When you have a way of knowing when your dog doesn’t feel well because he doesn’t eat? Rather than a “mood” he’s in?

If you do want to convert your dog into an eager eater, use a brand and flavor of food that he liked for a period of time. We know some people choose to mix a couple of different brands so that if one company changes formulas, there will be some consistency in their dog’s diet.

Think it through

Of course you do need to take into account any medical condition your dog has and any regular medication he takes. If there is a medical reason your dog is “off his food,” that’s a different story entirely. 

Our dogs do have preferences – Torque doesn’t care for fish. Booker can’t eat anything with pork. So we’ve found a food that has no fish or pork. Ours get special “treats” in their bowls on occasion. If we’re making scrambled eggs, we’ll put an extra one in for the dogs. Sprinkled on top of their regular food, at the regular time. If we’re making tuna salad, they get an extra celery stalk. Diced onto their regular food, at the regular time. 

We know it’s weird that our dogs love celery. But they do, so we treat them to it. When we choose. 

Our friends with the pick-eater dogs know all this stuff. They’ve chosen not to “fix” it, because, on some level, the current situation works for them. And that’s perfectly okay. As long as we don’t have to listen to them complain.

It’s Itchy Paws Season!

We don’t know about you, but we can always tell when Spring has truly arrived – it’s Itchy Paws season at our house. This year it’s been particularly wet, with record-breaking rainfall, and it’s worse than usual. 

French Bulldogs are known for allergies, and Torque’s itchy paws are no surprise. The new development this year has been Booker, Fran’s older Boston Terrier, showing the tell-tale sign of redness in his paws. 

We understand that the redness is caused by porphyrin, which is a relatively benign chemical dogs excrete in their tears and saliva. It’s the cause of staining on fur both under the eyes and on the paws. By itself, porphyrin is harmless. It does permanently stain the fur, but if you can stop the excessive tearing, or paw-licking, when new fur grows in it will be the dog’s normal fur color.

The itching is probably caused by allergies and/or yeast. The wet Spring this year creates perfect conditions for both.

We try and we try

We’ve been dealing with itchy paws for a long time. Dax, Hope’s first Frenchie, was actually allergic to grass. And she absolutely refused to “do her business” on cement, so we had to do something with her paws every single time she came in from outdoors. We tried rinsing with water, but she wound up with dry/cracked paws. Baby wipes came next, but something in them made the itchiness worse. We finally wound up using witch hazel, straight up, to give her some relief.

Aside from the fact that we don’t want our dogs to be uncomfortable, or have red paws, the constant licking is really annoying. Especially in the dark in the middle of the night. The constant, repetitive licking is enough to drive us crazy. We love our dogs and we want them near us at night – so we keep at the quest!

Showing between a dogs toes at his red and itchy paws.

When Hope mentioned Torque’s red paws and between-toe goo to the vet, she didn’t really like our coping mechanism of washing his paws with doggy shampoo every day. While the shampoo itself is fine, the frequency could rob his paws of natural oils and change the ph of his skin. She said to reserve the shampoo for once-a-week face washing and the occasional bath. 

She did suggest we use Bactine. Regular, old, over-the-counter “wash your childhood boo-boos” Bactine. So we did. It reduced the goo factor, but didn’t seem to help the itchy paws or the redness. 

Not alone by any means

Of course our dogs aren’t the only ones who are itchy-paw sufferers this time of year. We’ve seen quite a few posts on social media about it in the last couple of weeks. 

One that we took special note of came from a dog nutrition specialist we know. She happened on an answer for her dogs – Gold Bond Foot Powder. She particularly liked that it has baking powder in it. 

So – we’re trying it. If you have any tried-and-true solutions, we’d love to hear about them. We’ll report back on the foot powder. At this point, we’re willing to try just about anything that won’t harm our dogs.

Storing dog stuff

Dog stuff, like kid stuff, can take over the house. It’s almost like it grows when you’re not paying attention. There are the toys and chewies that take over the couch. “What did I just sit on?” is heard at least daily. There are things stepped on, tripped over, and blocking doorways.

To be perfectly honest, it’s usually the dogs themselves blocking the doorways. We think our doggos have a pact – one of them always has to have us in their field of view. And the best way to accomplish that is to stop us from going anywhere. That way they always know where to find us.

Great idea!

dog stuff - leashes and collars

With four dogs in the house, we thought it would be a great idea to put hooks near the door. One hook for every dog’s leash and collar. It worked for a while. Then there were more collars. And harnesses. The retractable leash for training recalls. And the other collar(s) that we couldn’t resist. So it grew and it grew. 

Exponential

dog stuff - coats

And we thought it would be another great idea, since we don’t have a mud room, or even an entrance way, to hang an over-the-door set of hooks for the dogs’ sweaters, and coats, and a towel to dry them on rainy days. 

Everything just seems to multiply, exponentially. 

And then there are toys

dog stuff - toys

Another great idea, so we thought, would be to use one of those trunk organizers to keep the not-in-use dog toys. We rotate the dog toys at our house. When the dogs get tired of a toy, it gets washed and then goes on hiatus. A toy from the bin takes its place, and the dogs think they have a new toy. Which they usually do, since we can’t resist bringing work home with us.

Solutions, anyone?

We’re interested in finding out if anyone has a better, more sustainable method than we do. From some of the pictures we see on social media, there are lots of lucky dogs out there with lots of stuff. How do you keep your dog stuff organized? We’d love to know!

Dog grooming in the time of corona

Tango is looking a little scruffy these days. Grooming in the time of Corona Virus is problematic, to say the least. We don’t know why dog groomers haven’t been considered “essential” – most of what groomers do is absolutely vital to dogs’ health and well-being! The AKC is keeping a chart to update us on the status of dog businesses and services in each state.

Picture of a Brussels Griffon dog who needs grooming

Our own situation is a bit different at the moment. The groomer who’s been taking care of Tango (a rough Brussels Griffon and our only long-haired dog), closed her shop at the end of 2019 in a planned retirement. We knew we’d be facing this year without our Tango-support staff. We just didn’t know every groomer in the area would be closed when it was time for Tango to get a touch-up!

So, Fran’s Brussels Griffon boy didn’t get a haircut for his 11th birthday. He did get his face washed, teeth brushed, nails buzzed, beard/mustache tidied, and a sanitary trim. But he’s still a scruffy dude.

Shut down grooming

We understand that Google searches for “dog nail trimmers” are up tremendously. We’ve also seen some incredibly creative people posting their solutions on social media. Our favorite was the incredibly clever woman who wrapped her head with plastic wrap, slathered peanut butter on her forehead, and got to work trimming her dog’s nails. Fortunately, the video showed she was doing it outside. We can’t even imagine the mess attempting this anywhere else for the first time. 

It seemed to work for her – but she had a big retriever on a grooming table. Our usual position for nails is Fran holding the current victim upside down on her lap while she sits in a chair, and Hope doubled over grinding away with the Dremel tool sanding drum. It works for us, but does require two people.

Oddly enough, our best dog for nails is Simon, who takes a nap and lets us do whatever we want. Tango is next best for behavior accolades, but he flexes his toes constantly. He has adorable, tiny round paws. You wouldn’t think that the flexion would be a big deal, but Hope’s hands get sore trying to keep him in place and uninjured.

Tricks of the trade

We wish we had some magic formula for grooming, but there isn’t one. There are highly-skilled professionals who are excellent at what they do and we hope they can safely return to work in the near future. All of the people with long-haired dogs, we’re sure, agree.

Whenever Fran brought Tango home from the groomer, you could always tell he felt altogether spiffy. He’d stick his little butt up in the air, give a little yell, and go tearing around the house like he was all that and then some. Does your dog seem to know when he or she looks particularly terrific? Isn’t it funny that they know and they’re pretty pleased with themselves?

The dark side

For the moment, Tango doesn’t have a lot to be proud of, appearance-wise. We’re keeping him clean and making sure he can see, but our scissor skills are minimal. It seems that our complete lack of skill in cutting any kind of straight line is magnified with fur. Or you can totally see every single, too-straight line where the scissors weren’t quite where they should have been. 

The nice thing is that, while Tango knows when he looks particularly great, he doesn’t seem to be at all vain now that he’s a scruffy beastie. He doesn’t care that his ears look crooked, or his beard is uneven. Much like age, if he doesn’t mind, it doesn’t matter. But we do hope that it’s safe for grooming to start up again around here. There’s only so many bad haircuts a boy should have to endure.