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  1. #1
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    Default The magic word to eat

    OK, so I've had Toula, Irish Wolfhound adoptee now for 2 years. She's a terrific dog, but has finicky eating issues. For the most part, I have her figured out - what food agrees with her, what I need to add to make it yummier!, and not to get upset if she walks away as she usually returns to finish it. (This has been confusing after owning labs for 20 years!)

    Although she wasn't trained very well before I got her, I think her previous owners (who cannot be found) gave her a signal when it's okay to eat, after you put the bowl down. Something I've done myself in the past.

    I usually use "OK!" But she will still hesitate when I'm next to her - looking at me like she's waiting for me to say the right thing. I've tried other stuff - "go ahead", "good girl", "eat", but she'll just look at me like "You dummy, you haven't said it yet!"

    So I have to leave the room before she'll enthusiastically chow down. There are no control over food issues - I recently made soup and let her gnaw on the bone while we were outside, and could remove it from her mouth to bring back in for later. But she won't eat from her bowl while I'm still there, unless I can figure out the magic word...

    Anyone know any "usual" commands to eat?
    Any suggestions? Logical or creative or otherwise?



  2. #2
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    She's probably anxious/nervous/slightly stressed about eating. Some dogs feel very insecure when they eat, because it puts them in a very vulnerable position. Where does she eat? She may be happier eating by herself, and try different places. Some dogs prefer eating in a crate, while other's might want a big open area so nothing can 'sneak up' on them while they're distracted. She's probably not waiting for a command, just doesn't feel comfortable being watched while she eats.



  3. #3
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    "enjoy!"

    Have you tried feeding her in the living rm/family rm or wherever you spend time, and sitting on a couch nearby, and watching tv? My female GSD mix won't eat unless I am sitting in the room. If I am standing, she won't eat. If I put her food down, and leave the room she won't eat. She wants company.



  4. #4
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    I like to work on commands w/ my puppy before letting her eat, and the word I use to let her go is "Relax." Which just means that she's free to go do what she wants and does not have to keep waiting for commands. Naturally the first thing she wants to do when there's food in the bowl is eat.
    I think "relax" is a pretty common word to use for that type of thing, so if you haven't already, you may try that.

    My puppy will often stop and wait for a command before eating even if I put the food in front of her and sometimes will not eat until I give the word that she can relax and take her attention off me, even if I have not given any commands. So it's entirely plausible to me that your dog may feel the same way if she has been worked w/ this way in the past.



  5. #5
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    Default Eating and pack behaviour

    Quote Originally Posted by CVPeg View Post
    OK, so I've had Toula, Irish Wolfhound adoptee now for 2 years. She's a terrific dog, but has finicky eating issues. For the most part, I have her figured out - what food agrees with her, what I need to add to make it yummier!, and not to get upset if she walks away as she usually returns to finish it. (This has been confusing after owning labs for 20 years!)

    Although she wasn't trained very well before I got her, I think her previous owners (who cannot be found) gave her a signal when it's okay to eat, after you put the bowl down. Something I've done myself in the past.

    I usually use "OK!" But she will still hesitate when I'm next to her - looking at me like she's waiting for me to say the right thing. I've tried other stuff - "go ahead", "good girl", "eat", but she'll just look at me like "You dummy, you haven't said it yet!"

    So I have to leave the room before she'll enthusiastically chow down. There are no control over food issues - I recently made soup and let her gnaw on the bone while we were outside, and could remove it from her mouth to bring back in for later. But she won't eat from her bowl while I'm still there, unless I can figure out the magic word...

    Anyone know any "usual" commands to eat?
    Any suggestions? Logical or creative or otherwise?

    Have you tried feeding her after YOU eat your meal? (Not the same food, obviously...) Or after you PRETEND to eat something? I've had rescue dogs that felt too insecure to eat before their canine or human pack leaders. They knew they didn't rank high enough to eat first, and when I asked them to, they became very worried that they were being promoted and therefore made Responsible For Everything. Once I ate - or pretended to eat - something, they would calm down and clean their dishes.

    So with one dog, the "command" was "That's YOUR dinner, go on, eat it! (preceded and then accompanied by yum-yum-yum, lip-smacking sounds). I'm sure I must have looked idiotic, and it's not something I would want to see on YouTube, but hey, it worked. It can't hurt to try it.
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  6. #6
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    We say, "Ok. Get your dinner."

    Ok is our general release word. They are in a sit & wait while we put the bowl down. Get your dinner tells them what to do next.

    I've got one beagle who won't eat until you say the 2nd part; the other beagle has her nose in the bowl as soon as you say ok.

    He eats in their crate, with the door shut. She eats across the room by the water bowl.
    ~ Horse Box Lovers Clique ~



  7. #7
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    Have you tried feeding her after YOU eat your meal? (Not the same food, obviously...) Or after you PRETEND to eat something? I've had rescue dogs that felt too insecure to eat before their canine or human pack leaders. They knew they didn't rank high enough to eat first, and when I asked them to, they became very worried that they were being promoted
    this concept was discredited decades ago- dogs don't even form packs, nor do they wait around to eat only after the "pack leader" eats. Try throwing some chunks of meat on the floor amongst a bunch of dogs- they will all rapidly gobble up anything nearest to them, they sure don't wait around to see if one dog in particular is going to eat it all or not. Dogs believe very firmly in the concept of "I have it therefore it's mine".

    Many dogs don't like to eat while being observed by man or beast, just in case someone decides to try to fight them for the food. It's nice for a dog to have a quiet location to eat in, say a crate or a back room.



  8. #8
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    Wendy, I read your posts with interest because you have obviously read a lot of dog related material. Occasionally you state things rather categorically without back up posted. This time it's about pack order. I'm not going to go do a google search on this because I have had my own packs of Jack Russells, and I've had alpha males and females in each pack.

    I can FLAT OUT TELL YOU that if you throw down a bunch of meat to a group of dogs that includes my Alpha, NO DOG is going to eat or even snatch a piece of meat while Dare is there. They might try, but he will go after them. If you put down 3 plates, he picks HIS PLATE and if the other plates are too close, no one's touching them. Move them to opposite sides of the room, maybe somedog will attempt to lick the plate.

    This dog's dam was the supreme alpha bitch and she taught every puppy, not just her own to BACK OFF anything she was eating or considered 'hers'.

    So it's not inconceivable to me that some dogs will consider themselves below their human pack members and not want to eat in front of them.

    OP, if you haven't tried "Free!" give it a shot. That's my release word.
    ~Kryswyn~ Always look on the bright side of life, de doo, de doo de doo de doo
    Check out my Kryswyn JRTs on Facebook

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  9. #9

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    I use "OK" as a release word, but some dogs are really sensitive to tone. Like my mom's dog who won't eat her food unless it is said with the right voice, A direct and bright voice, otherwise she will just sit there.
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  10. #10
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    Some 2 years into it now it doesn't sound like an issue as simple as a missing command, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to try "eat!" (ETA: oops! Sorry, I see you've already tried that one...) so how about "Amen!" (preceded, of course, by "Bless us, O Lord, and these your gifts, which we're about to receive from your bounty. Through Christ our Lord...")

    Finicky eating behavior on a regular basis can stem from nerves/stress, or something physical, like chronic pancreatitis, which would require diet change.

    Quote Originally Posted by wendy View Post
    this concept was discredited decades ago- dogs don't even form packs, nor do they wait around to eat only after the "pack leader" eats. Try throwing some chunks of meat on the floor amongst a bunch of dogs- they will all rapidly gobble up anything nearest to them, they sure don't wait around to see if one dog in particular is going to eat it all or not.
    Most dogs are opportunistic. The real test would be throwing down ONE chunk of meat amongst dogs that already know each other.

    Dogs believe very firmly in the concept of "I have it therefore it's mine".
    When it comes to toys, this is my Irish setter's philosophy! Thankfully, my English setter does NOT believe firmly in that concept, or I would be dealing with dog fights on a regular basis.
    Last edited by Barnfairy; Nov. 5, 2011 at 07:59 PM.



  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barnfairy View Post

    Most dogs are opportunistic. The real test would be throwing down ONE chunk of meat amongst dogs that already know each other.
    THIS. If you did that at my house, Dare would get it all. Everyone else would be, well, hungry!
    ~Kryswyn~ Always look on the bright side of life, de doo, de doo de doo de doo
    Check out my Kryswyn JRTs on Facebook

    "Life is merrier with a terrier!"



  12. #12
    CVPeg is offline Grand Prix Premium Member
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    Thanks, everyone. Great suggestions.

    Toula does eat by herself, in the back room. And this doesn't always happen each time she eats. If she is hungry enough, she will just begin without waiting for me to leave.

    However, it's those other times when I put it down, and she turns to look at me, waiting for something, that befuddle me. I have tried the "look at me, I'm pretending to eat something, too..." and that's not it. And even when I leave, which is always - since she's in the back room, sometimes she hesitates...

    I could be wrong - it might be that it's just the same old one-of-two-allowed-varieties kibble with her ground turkey or cottage cheese or putrid-smelling-but-she-usually-loves-it supplement added in...and this time she was expecting filet mignon!

    But I'm going to try the suggested words. If you're right, you win a prize!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Barnfairy View Post
    Some 2 years into it now it doesn't sound like an issue as simple as a missing command, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to try "eat!" (ETA: oops! Sorry, I see you've already tried that one...) so how about "Amen!" (preceded, of course, by "Bless us, O Lord, and these your gifts, which we're about to receive from your bounty. Through Christ our Lord...")

    When it comes to toys, this is my Irish setter's philosophy! Thankfully, my English setter does NOT believe firmly in that concept, or I would be dealing with dog fights on a regular basis.
    Wow - I forgot about "grace"!! And she is an Irish Wolfhound!

    Fortunately, Toula is the most gracious and sharing gal on the planet. She is not into toys. (Former owners bred her for designer puppies - I found with my Labbies the girls who had more than one litter could care less, but that's another thread...) She does love kitties (much to our Maine Coon cat's dismay - although these days they do touch noses when one goes in or out, and he will lie near her, as long as he's higher! Not easy with an IW!)

    She is dedicated, not submissive nor dominant - just attentive. She wasn't trained well, and if allowed around the kitchen, will occasionally try to beg at the table, which is NEVER allowed in our home.

    This "secret word" is the only issue I can think of where we're not communicating well, so I'm looking forward to figuring it out! (Except for her, when I won't let her on the couch, I know she thinks we're not communicating! )



  13. #13
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    Our Border Collie pup is often picky (she only likes people quality meat and very expensive dog food ) and is hesitant to eat even when it's stuff she loves. She is a rescue and was loose in a yard with way too many adult dogs before they were all pulled by Animal Control. She came to us in less than great shape, underweight and parasit ridden. She probably wasn't allowed to eat, as low dog on the totem pole in that yard.

    We have an elderly, and rather dominant, Australian Cattle Dog as well as the Border Collie. BC LOVES the ACD and the ACD's presence makes her feel secure when faced with strange people and dogs, but it makes her insecure about eating. I feed them in separate rooms, with the door closed and the BC is still reluctant to eat without explicit permission from the ACD (which will NEVER be forthcoming). I have to stay in the room with the BC when she eats and sometimes have to hand feed her the first few bites before she starts eating.

    I'm hoping this will resolve when she feels more secure, she gets less timid and more confident every day.
    Last edited by Canaqua; Nov. 8, 2011 at 11:05 AM. Reason: typo



  14. #14
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    Maybe the dog just doesn't much like the food yet, or you're feeding too much?

    It took us a while with our new rescue dog to persuade him it was OK to eat; eventually we put his food bowl in his crate (which is covered with a blanket) and he nibbles away at it. If there's still food left, he'll eat it if one of the cats shows an interest.

    Maybe also try adding appealing people food, or water, to the bowl to see if that makes a difference.



  15. #15
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    Have you tried teaching her a new word? Start with a food she loves, say the word, then give the treat. Over and over. Then set the treat on the floor. Say the word and release her to eat. She should pick up soon enough that you have your special word.

    StG



  16. #16
    CVPeg is offline Grand Prix Premium Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by StGermain View Post
    Have you tried teaching her a new word? Start with a food she loves, say the word, then give the treat. Over and over. Then set the treat on the floor. Say the word and release her to eat. She should pick up soon enough that you have your special word.

    StG
    Super idea! Yes - cheese is her thing! Some people buy mozzarella cheese sticks for their kids - I get them for Toula... I also keep them on me when out in our woods for a reward when she returns, if she starts to go too far.

    Will work on that tonight!

    (But will also still try others' suggested words to see if there's a winner!)



  17. #17
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    "That'll do" is a common release...I use it with mine sometimes. I also will say "eat up" or "there you go"...



  18. #18
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    My roommate says, 'Take!'

    But I think body language and tone is more important that the actual word, personally.



  19. #19
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    I tell my Cocker Spaniel "eat please!", but sometimes I still have to turn away from her.

    She definitely won't eat if someone is standing over her.

    The other two don't even look up after the food is put down. It just disappears.

    The funny thing is the JRT has to watch me put food in each bowl, but from day one he will only eat the food in his bowl, even though I fill his last. He will go check to see if the Cocker has left anything after he finishes his.



  20. #20
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    My Saluki is also a finicky eater and I've had her all her life. Like you, I've about figured out what she WILL eat, but WHEN she eats, and how much is totally up to her.

    I think it may be just a sight hound thing. Many of them are not 'chow hounds'. This is my 4th Saluki over the years, and none of them have been eager eaters, but Mira is, by far, the most finicky. She was dominant over both her dam and my old Dobie but didn't bother to keep either of them out of the food bowl (her dam was somewhat picky too, though she got better as she aged, but not the Dobe who ate with the relish of a 'regular' dog, lol). After I lost the older dogs, Mira mourned for over 18 months ... getting her to eat was a nightmare. Now she's doing much better, but still doesn't eat as much as I'd like for her to ... and definitely only when SHE'S ready.
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