Old Trainer

Should I be worried my dog won’t eat her dog food?

DEAR OLD TRAINER: I am worried about Misty, my 6-year old Maltese. She has always been a good eater, but now she sniffs at her food and then ignores it. She will eat anything I’m eating, but not her own food. I like to feed her what I’m eating, but she is my only companion so I want what’s best for her. What should I do?

Kathrine, Santa Fe, New Mexico

A: First of all, stop worrying. Misty is training you to give her your food instead of dog food. Dogs like the idea of eating the same thing the leader eats. and dogs train their human all the time. Refusing to eat is a common way to do it. All over the country there are little old ladies down on their hands and knees saying, “please eat it sweetie, see how I do it.”

If you want to feed her the same thing you eat that’s fine. It’s probably healthier than dog food anyway. If you want her to eat dog food, here’s all you have to do:

Feed her in the same place, at the same time, each day. If she doesn’t eat within two minutes pick up the food and don’t feed her until the following day. By day two she will gobble her food.

Large dogs should be fed once a day, but with a dog as small as Misty you may divide her food into two portions and feed her once in the morning, once when you have dinner. Try it both ways and see which works best.

DEAR OLD TRAINER: I love the idea of training Peek, my 6-year old Yorkie, using Reverse Training. I understand the example of saying “run” to the dog who races across the park the instant he gets off the leash, but I don’t recall seeing Peek do anything where I could use the tactic.

Lisa, Manhattan, Kansas

A: Reverse Training is the easiest way of training there is. You see something your dog already does and apply a name to it. You’ve probably used Reverse Training and not realized it. Dogs have lots of spare time and they spend it training their human to pay attention to them. Here are two examples.

Lassie raises her paw to get Ann’s attention. Ann says, “oh, you want to shake,” grabs Lassie’s paw and loves on her. Lassie thinks, “hey, all I have to do is raise my paw when she says “shake,” and I get loved on. What a deal!” Lassie trained Ann to pay attention, Ann supplied the name for the trick.

Amy and Rover are playing, Rover gets excited and barks. Amy says, “Hey, you’re trying to talk to me. Speak, Rover.” Rover barks, Amy praises him and loves on him. In a few days Rover learns to bark when he hears the sound, “speak.” He taught her to notice him. She named the command.

Peek is sure to do things to get your attention—bring you a toy, climb on your lap, follow you to the car. When she does, apply a name each time she does it and you have a new trick.

All dogs understand the concept of training other members of the pack. It’s part of their DNA, and they train their humans the same way humans their dogs.

A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to theoldtrainer@gmail.com.