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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuesday's Training TIP: FOOD!

 Labs I know think everything is edible. Sticks, scraps of paper (or paper torn into scraps--see my post "My Dog Ate It"), fuzz, bits of material, just about anything below their noses or in your hand. They lick the promise of your hand and look up at you with sad brown eyes that say, "I'm STARVING here, don't you have anything for me to eat?"

Labs I know fall over themselves and anyone else in the way to their food dishes with the mere mention of "Do you want to eat?" Drool, stretching at a snail's pace to the floor answers, "Are you kidding me? You're kidding me, right? No, I don't want to eat, I'd rather just sit here and think about how deeeeliciiiooous my kibble is going to be. Is it bacon? Bacon! Bacon! Bacon, bacon, bacon!!!!" 

Labs I know need self-control at meal times, otherwise, I'd be flat on my *ss on the floor with Purina Pro Plan skittering about, a victim of Lab-over-exuberance. At our house, our Labs sit and wait for the "OKAY" before eating. (Then you'd better not be in their way!)


From day one at our house, puppy does NOT get her food dish on the floor until she is sitting. Granted, initially I'm lucky to get 1/2 second of "sit" but you need to start somewhere. (TIP: hold her collar as you set the dish down, coax her back into a "sit," THEN say "okay" and release her.) In fact, host families for Leader Dog moms and litters work on this before us raisers ever get the pups at seven weeks of age. Puppies must "sit" before being picked up, and before being fed. If you are consistent, it doesn't take long for this smart puppy to figure out what to do to get FOOD.

Gradually lengthen the "wait" and the distance to the food dish. (TIP: feed young puppies in an "x-pen" away from other dogs in the household.) If the puppy leads off before being released, lift the bowl from the floor. You'll be amazed how the action of lifting the bowl drops the rear end!

Eventually the puppy will hold her sit, even with the distraction of the other dogs in the household.  (TIP: Have someone else hold the puppy's collar, or put the puppy on a leash when first introducing feeding with others. Fill one bowl at a time.) Of course, it helps if you have an old grouch like Gypsy, who lets the new puppy know that HER food is OFF-LIMITS! I always like to feed the "home" dogs first, before the short-timer Leader Dogs for the Blind puppy. It just helps develop self-control.

Here is a short video of a morning feeding not long after cc'd (career-changed) Gus came back to stay with us. I had Gypsy and the two Labs sit. Gus and Scout sit together on the "mat." I fill Gypy's bowl and release her to eat with an "okay." The others wait until I release each of them in turn, Gus first. Gus and Scout get two helpings, in an attempt to slow their eating down. Between helpings they are expected to return to the mat for another "sit."

You can see that it will take a while for everything to settle out, because Gus is so new to being home. If I had filmed them this morning, almost two months later, you would see how Gus and Scout know just what to do.



  1. LMAO! If Leader Dogs for the Blind ever figured out how to breed the "eat everything" gene out of the Labs, they would be the perfect dog! Both of my Labs have been eating monsters-Glacier worse than Jetta. That said, they both knew that if they wanted food, their butts better be planted firmly on the floor. I don't think Jetta was taught this before I got her-maybe she was and forgot it because of all of the other training she received-but thank you for teaching your future Leader dogs this very important skill. :)

  2. (smile) Jess--you are welcome! This is something we teach the puppies, not only for controlling them at feeding time, but to start teaching them self-control--very important, indeed!