Putting the nom nom nom of mealtime on your schedule (Part 3 on feeding your friendly stomach on legs)

 

Dog diets can be as complicated as human diets.  While it’s possible to go whole hog on the old fashioned tactic of feeding dogs (and children) of letting them go to bed hungry if they don’t like what’s on the menu (and ours do occasionally go to bed hungry when they’re too obsessed with the human food smells to focus on their bowls), we advocate a middle ground.

When we set down the dog food, it stays down for 10 minutes.  If the dogs take a few bites and wander off, it still goes away after 10 minutes. Our dogs have learned that the food won’t be waiting for them forever. Generally, dogs already know this. If they leave something behind, it’s fair game for any other dog.

We’ve emphasized that pack rule with our dogs since they were puppies.  Stealing is not allowed, by the powers vested in Mama, but anything left behind is communal property.

As a result, we have very little resource guarding in our little household, and the dogs eat when it’s time to eat. Resource guarding* consistently results in the desirable item going to the other dog or disappearing entirely.

Once in a while, we put down something that’s good for them that they just do not like, or that one dog likes more than the others (nobody likes kale except for Mama1, alas.) When that happens, the dogs have learned to prioritize the parts of the meal they do like before wandering off.

By keeping an eye on what they prioritize, it’s become easier to compose their meals when we cook for them. The goal is to feed our dogs nutritious whole foods which meet their dietary needs without exceeding their calorie needs. It sounds complicated, but it’s really not. We’ll get more into that with the next post in this series.

 

*Resource guarding, even if the name isn’t familiar, should be familiar to every dog owner ever.  One dog keeps walking off with the same toy even when another dog was playing with it. One dog sits next to that toy when they’re not playing with it and growls the other dogs away. A dog hoards all the toys in their bed and guards the bed. A dog hops onto the human’s lap and warns off all other dogs (and even humans!).
Basically, resource guarding is Bad. Left unchecked, a dog gets an inflated sense of their place in the hierarchy. Once that happens, you have a dog who’s calling the shots, and that’s frustrating at best, dangerous at worst. A dog isn’t capable of understanding the needs of a civilized human household, like the mailman being welcome to approach the front door, a plate of treats left out for humans (but not dogs) to graze on at will, and guests encouraged to enter the kitchen.
It all starts with letting one dog bully the others, because when you allow it, you’re giving the dog a signal that they can push you around, too. Just don’t risk it. We promise, your life with dogs will be much easier when you’re consistently in charge of the decision-making.

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