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Monday, May 5, 2008

Food-obsessed Dachshund

Hi Jan,
We are having a problem now that needs attention. Our 7lb mini Dachshund is a little pig. She eats her food well, but she tries to eat everyone else’s food too... Myhusband left a sandwich on the table and she managed to climb on a chair in order to get to the table, and ate his sandwich. We still aren’t sure how she did this. My guess is she really could have hurt herself in the process. Thank goodness she didn’t. We put her outside or in her kennel when we eat a meal at the table because she is unbearable. She begs, barks, wines, etc.We have never given her scraps or people food. We were advised not too, so I’m not sure where this obsession is coming from. My young daughter was eating an ice cream cone and Sadie (our dog) nearly knocked her over trying to get her ice cream. She is like a different dog around people food. She seems obsessed and we aren’t sure how to break her of this bad habit. I hope that you can help.
Thank you,
Patti Baker

Hi Patty,
Assuming, of course, that nothing is physically wrong with her...
She has been successful at begging, somewhere along the line, and she probably is still sporadically successful. She succeeded when she jumped up and got the sandwich She's probably mooched a few morsels from someone, intentionally or not. So she's going to keep on doing it, until she ceases to be successful.

If she were my dog, here's what I'd do:
1. She only eats food in her dish. No treats by hand, or tossed in the air or to the floor.
2. Before she is served her food, she must exhibit "calm" behavior...sitting quietly and expectantly. You should also be exceedingly calm when you are preparing and serving her food. Absolutely no excited tones or talk! Say nothing.
3. At your own mealtime, have her on a drag leash and place her in a down-stay right next to your chair. This will be hard and inconvenient for a while, but you can make it happen. Removing her from the environment will only postpone the much-needed lesson. She should stay with you, "working" at doing a down-stay beside you. The first few meals you may not get much eaten yourself, since you'll be constantly correcting her. But be patient. Your resolve will pay off!
4. If you choose to kennel her during your meal, have the kennel close to the table. Whining and braking during your mealtime is plain old bad behavior. Tap (or bang) one time on the top of the crate when she starts vocalizing. That should startle her into quietude for a while.
5. Do NOT talk to her, make eye contact with her, or touch her while she is in begging mode. When she's doing a down-stay, of course you'll have to touch her (and speak to her) to correct her position. But say nothing more. Do NOT look down at her with pity. Don't look down at her at all. Pretend she's not even there.
4. She needs other hobbies beside eating. Make sure she is totally exercised prior to your family meals. She will be more likely to rest quietly at your side if she's tired. Get her involved in other sports like agility or rally obedience. You could use small treats in those activities, and I bet she'd love the activities!
5. Do remove temptations like food on tables and countertops when you can't supervise her. Take care not to arrange furniture that makes it easy for her to climb to high places.
6. Work on leadership with her. Bring her back to class if necessary to give her mind a workout and remind her that you are in charge. You eat people food off a table. She eats dog food in a dish. Period.

Remember this: DOGS DON'T CONTINUE TO DO WHAT DOESN'T WORK FOR THEM. If she never gets any more treats (even a crumb), she won't beg.
Good luck!!

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