Dear Old Trainer: I have a problem with my two dachshunds, Maxx, 8, and Sophie, 7. When I put their dinner down they wait until I offer them bites and then they may eat or they may ignore the food. They are not thin and they are seen by their vet regularly. Do you have any suggestions?
-- Carol, Atwater
A: The key phrase is, "I offer them bites." Maxx and Sophie are doing what dogs love to do, Carol -- training you to feed them by hand. Once you learn that, they will work on training you to get down on the floor with them.
All over the country, sweet little old ladies are on their hands and knees, acting like they are eating out of a bowl in a vain attempt to coax little Fluffy to eat her dinner.
You point out they "are not thin," so they are getting enough to eat. Here is how you solve the problem:
1. Feed them once a day, same time, same place every day. I prefer evening.
2. Don't stand and watch them eat. Put the food down and check back in a while.
3. If they are not eating when you return, pick up the food. Don't feed them again until the next day.
4. Use a mix of high quality kibble and canned dog food.
5. Start with a volume of one cup of food per 15 pounds of body weight. Adjust over time depending on whether the dog gains weight.
6. It is OK to give a small treat once a day, same time, same place every day.
7. Do not feed them from your plate.
Dear Old Trainer: Do you use the clicker method of training a dog, and does it work?
-- Stan and Lisa, Gulfport, Miss.
A: It works for some professionals, but I don't use it. It merely substitutes a mechanical device for the trainer's voice, and I see no reason to carry a mechanical device around when a simple "Good boy" or "Good girl" does a better job.
It originated in the dog show business and -- like everything else associated with that world -- is an artificial way of doing something that is less efficient than doing it the natural way.
Those who promote it -- meaning those who sell clickers -- claim that the sound of the clicker is of shorter duration than a trainer saying, "Good boy," and is therefore more precisely timed to the act.
If you talk as slowly as Jack Nicholson, there may be a fraction of a second difference, but I have yet to come across a dog wearing a stop watch.
And keep in mind that using a clicker does not make training easier -- in fact, it makes it harder. The trainer's voice, especially variance of tone, is a critical element of training. A clicker cannot replicate the sound of a trainer.
Training requires hard work, patience and love between trainer and dog. The trainer's voice helps build that love.
Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained, and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.