Category Archives: Dogs

Get your finicky dog to eat

Dogs seem to fall into one of two camps: the gobblers who hardly let their bowls hit the floor before it’s empty, and the picky eaters, those most finicky dogs who need to be persuaded every time.

The gobblers are relatively easy. The only concern is if they eat too fast. There are lots of ways to slow them down. Put an obstacle in the bowl, either a (cleaned) rock or a ball they have to get around. More fun is probably having them “work” for at least part of the meal by playing little training games with them. This has the added benefit of having fun with your dog and cementing your bond.

Finicky dogs are more of a challenge, especially with little dogs. It’s important for the little guys to eat regularly. They don’t have the system reserves to tide them over. 

Work works for them, too

It may seem strange, but the same food your dog rejects in a bowl may be a good training treat. Dogs like to be rewarded, and using their regular food as a treat works as a motivator. 

In psychology, the concept is “contra-freeloading.” It means that even when the identical food is offered for free, any animal prefers to “work” for the reward. Animals, including people, like to earn their rewards. 

You don’t have to make the game anything complicated. Playing a simple game of “Touch” or “Give Paw” will move quickly, and have lots of opportunities to reward your dog. 

The only downside is the time it takes to get through that bowl of food. Some days you just don’t have the time. What do you do to get your finicky dog to eat?

Toughen up

If your dog will happily eat the same food as a reward, it’s probably not the food itself that’s the issue. If they won’t, it may be they just don’t like it. Fortunately, there are lots of choices these days. 

Picture of a finicky dog ignoring the full bowl next to them.

Assuming your finicky dog likes their food when they’re hungry, the next step is to control access. Free-feeding is not a good idea. When dogs have specific meal times, you’ll have a better idea of what they’re eating, when they need to eliminate, and, if you have multiple dogs, who’s having issues when they arise. 

Put the food bowl down for 10 minutes. If the dog doesn’t eat, the bowl comes up and doesn’t reappear until the next meal time. Creating a sense of urgency may help your dog get over his/her finicky ways. There’s no question that this is tough. Denying your dog anything isn’t how you’re made. But it’s necessary to shift their behavior away from the pickiness.

Provide temptation

It’s completely understandable if you can’t bring yourself to take away the food. If that’s the situation, you do have other means of getting your dog to empty his/her bowl. 

Mixing some delectable treat into the dog’s regular food can work. One dog we know turns up her nose unless she gets Chicken Heart Treats crumbled into the bowl. Just be sure that the mix-in represents a very minor portion of the meal, and that it’s thoroughly mixed in. Dogs are smart. They’re more than capable of picking out the “good” bits and leaving the kibble. And, if you decide to add something, do it before you put the bowl down. Once it’s down, don’t add anything. 

Other possible choices include baby food, or yogurt (plain, or vanilla). Just be sure it’s something that’s okay for dogs to eat – nothing with onions, chocolate, raisins, or grapes.

Stop worrying

Hard as it seems, try to stop worrying about your finicky dog’s eating habits. No healthy dog will choose to starve. When they get hungry enough, they will eat. If you always offer “something else” to get them to eat, you’re actually teaching your dog to hold out for something “better.” Have a plan, stick to it, and turn your finicky dog around.

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Play with your dog

Did you take a few minutes today to play with your dog? How about yesterday? The day before? 

When life is hectic, or complicated, playing with your dog is like a very mini-vacation. Nothing else to think about. Just sit on the floor and spend some time with someone who loves you unconditionally, never criticizes, and is always ready to play.

Tops on the “To-Do” list

Every morning, before we start work or chores, we play games with our dogs. Each one gets about five minutes. That’s it. That’s all it takes to start the day with a smile. Some days we play training games. Other days it’s fetch, or tug, or even just a little petting and/or massage.

It’s a little recess for everybody. The playing, and the attention, will set you up for a better day. After all, companionship is why you have a dog in the first place, isn’t it? Having a dog is a responsibility; you have to walk the dog, feed the dog, clean up after the dog. Non-dog people look at all that and wonder why dog people bother. 

Those people won’t understand the value. But you do. For both your sakes, play with your dog.

Make up your own games

In our training classes, all the basics are covered; walk nice on leash, sit, down, leave it, etc. We address all the manners stuff; housebreaking, jumping, nipping. The “must-haves” discussion (collar vs. harness, bowls, brushes, leashes) happens. And one lesson that’s always weird for the participants: how to play with your dog.

There are all kinds of ways to play with your dog. Since dogs think everything they do with you is fun, training games are right up there. Dogs are always watching and learning from their people – you may as well teach them something useful. It can be something as simple as teaching your dog to touch your palm for a treat. That’s a great game for getting your dog to “come” when called. It’s also fast and fun, one palm then the other in rapid succession, maybe even moving as you play. 

Pictures of a boxer puppy bounding to illustrate play with your dog

One game that always surprises our students is “throw your dog away.” You just push a little on the dog’s chest, moving them back a step or so. It’s almost always a prelude to the dog bounding back to you for more. It’s another way to get your dog to come. And it makes everybody laugh. Add a dialogue and see if your dog doesn’t start smiling with you: “What are you doing here?” (push away). “Are you looking at me?” (push away). “Again? You want some more of that?” (push away).

Just a few minutes

Take a few minutes to play with your dog. It doesn’t have to be in the morning, if that’s your crunch time. But see if you can’t find five minutes, sometime during the day, to give your entire attention to your dog. Some days it’ll be the cherry on top. Other days it will be the highlight.

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Take Great Pictures of Your Dog – 3 Top Tips

Lots of pictures get taken this time of year. Everybody wants a record of celebrations with all your people and dogs. Taking pictures of people is easier – all you have to do is get their attention and say “Smile!” Dogs are a little tougher. If you call their name, chances are they’ll run up to you and you’ll get a blurry picture featuring your dog’s nose in your face! So how do you take great pictures of your dog?

Tip #1: Get on their level

Looking down at your dog is probably how you see them most of the time. But aren’t your favorite pictures the ones where your dog’s up on the couch, snuggling next to you, and his/her eyes are centered and level? Try it when your dog’s on the floor, too. Get down at your dog’s eye level and see the difference it makes. One of the big differences you’ll notice is being able to see your dog’s entire self in proper perspective. Wrong angle/perspective is one reason many dog pictures aren’t as cute as the dogs themselves. You can change that!

Picture of a male French Bulldog sitting to illustrate take great pictures of your dog

One caution – especially for owners of boy dogs. Especially if your boy is short-furred and sitting, the most prominent feature may not be his face. To avoid calling attention to his assets, move slightly to the side and position your picture so a front leg is blocking. Most of our dogs have been boys, and it’s become a habit for us. Glancing through the product pages in our shop, you’ll get the idea. We really like this example of Teddy in the Wrap-N-Go

Tip #2: Keep on shooting

Lots of times the most interesting pictures are the ones that happen after you’ve gotten the post you want. If you have a setting for shooting multiple pictures at once, called “burst shooting.” It’s often used for taking pictures at sporting events, but capturing a great picture of your dog can be a sport by itself. And if you have more than one dog, it’s absolutely essential – and fun! You can always delete the pictures that aren’t great, but you’ll find some that will make you smile, even if they weren’t intended. If your dog is trained to “Stay!” – keep shooting when you release them from the command. Often the first step or two includes a priceless smile.

Tip #3: Look at everything in the frame

How many times have you regretted an almost-great picture, if only there weren’t a lamp coming out of someone’s head? Just take a glance, through your lens, around the perimeter of your subject. Sometimes moving just a few inches to one side or the other can make all the difference. It doesn’t have to be a boring white wall. It just shouldn’t have random objects emerging from your dog’s head, or ears, or tail!

The best tip of all is to take lots of pictures throughout your dog’s life. We never seem to have enough puppy pictures. Or mature pictures, for that matter. Looking at your dogs will always make you happy!

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Dog Tummy Upsets Change Over Time

We learned something new this week. Raw celery doesn’t agree with Tango. He still loves eating it, but it’s not a good idea. We paid for it with three days of dog tummy upsets.

Picture of a Brussels Griffon dog to illustrate Dog Tummy Upsets

He used to be able to eat celery without issues. In fact, all of our dogs have loved celery. Hope’s first Frenchie even thought limp celery stalks were the best tug toys. Especially when they fell apart and she got to eat them!

It turns out that dogs’ food sensitivities can change over time. Just like people. Something your dog could eat regularly as a youngster may not sit well with him/her as an adult or older dog. Like Tango and celery.

Just a treat

The hardest part is actually figuring out what caused the tummy upset in the first place. In this instance, it was easy. The celery was the only thing that was different in his diet the day the stomach trouble started. Other times, with other dogs, it’s been a detective story. We tend to use a variety of options for training treats (although we get their undivided attention with Chicken Heart Treats) so the process of elimination can take some time.

The oddest food intolerance situation happened with Teddy. After months of trying to figure out his episodic urpiness, we discovered he couldn’t tolerate orange food. Most dogs, Teddy included, love carrots. Since we do make our dogs’ food and control the ingredients, we found out he also couldn’t tolerate sweet potatoes or butternut squash. It was weird, but once we eliminated anything orange from his diet, he was much more comfortable. 

Different dogs exhibit food intolerance in different ways. With Teddy, he salivated non-stop. Tango tends to get diarrhea. Booker vomits. You know your dog’s system better than anyone. If they seem off to you, think about what they’ve been eating and whether there’s a pattern.

Yes or no on veggies

Not everyone thinks that fruits and vegetables are necessary in a dog’s diet. We don’t know whether they’re needed, but we do know our dogs like them. And vegetables are good for increasing the amount of food dogs get without major calorie additions. Some dogs are “easy keepers” and put on weight quickly. Replacing higher-calorie foods with some green beans have always been a good solution.

If you’re thinking of adding different foods to your dog’s diet, the best advice is to go slow. Introduce one thing at a time, at intervals of a few days. That way you’ll know if your dog tolerates the addition or it causes tummy upset. 

Sensitivities vs. allergies

Most dogs aren’t allergic to foods. Many people use “allergy” and “sensitivity” interchangeably. Most stomach issues are caused by sensitivities, or intolerances, rather than allergies. Allergic reactions in dogs tend to be itchiness and breathing issues rather than gastrointestinal symptoms.

If your dog has tummy troubles, one of the most useful things you can do is to give them some pureed pumpkin. This time of year it’s easy to get. Just be sure it’s pure pumpkin and not pumpkin-pie filling. Since a can is lots more than you probably need to ease your dog’s stomach, fill an ice-cube tray with the remaining puree and freeze it. We have a bag of pumpkin cubes waiting in the freezer – just in case. 

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