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Dog Behaviour Problems: Settling into a new home

Diet, Food, Treats & Behaviour:

Question: Are behavioural problems (specifically separation anxiety) caused by changes in the diet of my dog?

Answer: There is no adequate research which proves a relationship between diet and behaviour (assuming, of course, that the dog is fully nourished by the diet given).

Anecdotally, however, there are plenty of claims about certain diets affecting behaviour, but a lot of the differences depend on the dog in question and what he or she can tolerate. All commercial food is quite heavily processed and many brands have plenty of preservatives and artificial colouring which can affect some dogs.

Some people prefer to feed a more natural diet. Given how different a good wholesome diet makes us feel compared with how we feel after lots of junk food, I would say that feeding processed food to our dogs could make them feel and behave differently than if they were fed more naturally.

If you are changing your dog’s diet, remember do so gradually by slowly adding more of the new food and less of the old food over a period of days.

Otherwise, diarrhoea or adjustments to the new food could make your dog want to go to the toilet at different times (this could cause anxieties when left as there is no one to let them outside).

Question: I have a male rottweiler puppy that is 3 months old, and I have him now for 6 weeks, I have recently acquired another puppy, a female rottweiler that is 7 weeks old. I have her now for a week. Socially, the get along very well, but my male pyppy has stoped eating his food for 2 days now. He eats his treats, and any other food, but not his dog food, he also insist on eating her food, or eating out of her bowl. What do I have to do with him, is he jealous or could something be wrong with him?

Answer: It’s difficult to tell from your question how much food he is consuming each day. If he is eating substantially less than he used to, get him checked over by your veterariny surgeon in case something is wrong. If he is not eating his dinner because he is eating too much of hers, it is important to take more control of the situation at feeding times so that you give them the right amount of appropriate food.

Either feed them in separate rooms, not letting either out until both have finished, or tie the them so they cannot get to each other until all the food has been eaten. If you are feeding them different foods, it may be that he prefers hers to his, or he may just be more interested in her bowl because she shows an interest that attracts him over.

It is also possible that he was used to eating from one bowl with his littermates and so is trying to return to what he is familiar with. At his age, it is unlikely that it is jealousy or a dominance problem.

You may like to read The Perfect Puppy which has more information on understanding & helping this behaviour.

Also see Gwen Bailey's article on Ingredients for the Perfect Puppy

Question: my dog is a female and she is going on for 11yrs she is overweight but we are trying to get her weight down but the question I want to asked is we have another dog as well and sometime Tara will eat his faeces (poo) as well as other dogs sometimes. We have pass this off as attention-seeking, but is it?

Answer: When overweight dogs (or people for that matter!) are on a diet, their appetite exceeds the amount it is good for them to eat. My advice would be to get the weight loss over as quickly as possible with an increase in exercise and a good diet plan from your vet.

Once she is slimmer, she it will be easier take her mind off foraging for food by giving her something else to think about such as games with toys. Until then, keep a close eye on her when she is out in the park and interrupt any eating with a loud noise such as a can full of pebbles thrown down beside her.Then call her to you and give her a titbit for coming back.

It may also help to feed your other dog a diet that does not include canned food. Such foods contain flavour enhancers that are not degraded as they pass through the body, so they smell the same when they come out as when they went in. Feeding pineapple chunks in the food is also said to make the faeces smell unpleasant so that it is not as palatable.

Question: My 10-month-old Dalmatian bitch has a half hour session every night after her feed when she is naughty. This includes jumping on furniture, attacking her bed and generally pacing around looking for trouble. I've read that you shouldn't exercise a dog immediately after its feed, so how can I avoid this behaviour? Her food is dry and either Winalot or Pedigree Chum Complete. Are there any different brands that may calm this behaviour?

Answer: Since her behaviour changes so dramatically an exact amount of time after she has eaten, I would suspect a food sensitivity or allergy. Perhaps you could investigate this with your vet, ruling out wheat or gluten allergies and other products that can cause problems.

A basic lamb and rice diet is a good place to start, but talk to your vet about it so that you can ensure she is getting the correct nutrition for a young dog.

It is also important to check she is getting enough play and exercise. As I’m sure you will know, Dalmatian need plenty of free-running exercise, but also plenty of play to use up their mental energy. Teach her to play and do tricks and respond to obedience commands, and you can then use these to help diffuse her ‘naughty’ behaviour and give her something constructive to do instead.

Question: Please can you tell me how to stop Cassie grabing her biscuits from my hand, and bolting her meals and biscuits. She is 22 weeks old, we have had her for 6 weeks and she was in Newport Dog's Home for at least 8 weeks before that.

Answer: She may have gone short of food at some point in her short life and has therefore learned to eat quickly whenever food is present or to prevent others from taking it, even though there may be no need to do so now.

To teach her to take food gently from your hand, hold the food concealed in your hand so that she cannot get to it. Resist all her efforts to get it and keep your hand still (you may need to wear a glove at first!). Eventually, when she begins to give up and takes her nose away, offer a small corner of the titbit.

Let her draw it out of your fingers gradually. This teaches her that frantic efforts result in nothing, but gentle approaches get the food. Don’t worry about her bolting her meal and biscuits. This will diminish gradually as she matures if you ensure she is well nourished and is getting an appropriate diet.

You may like to read Good Dog Behaviour has more information on understanding & reading more on dog behaviour.

Question: My Weimaraner keeps jumping up at the kitchen units and stealing food. How can I put a stop to this?

Answer: Dogs are natural scavengers and once they have learned where to find food, they will return to the scene of the crime time and again. Stopping them is difficult, especially if the habit is long standing. Begin by making sure that food is not left out on the surfaces. This is not always easy, but can be achieved if everyone is diligent.

Choose your moment, just after he has been fed so his motivation to steal is less, and leave something tasty on the side that he has to jump up for. Watch carefully and just as he goes to take it, throw something that makes a loud noise – such as a bunch of keys or pebbles in a tin can - just next to the plate so that he is startled into getting down and leaving the food.

Try not to be observed when you do this so that it seems to come out of the blue. If you do this successfully several times, you will begin to find that he looses confidence in jumping up and, eventually, will cease to do it.

Question: We recently got our Yorkshire terrier (approximately 12 years old) from Battersea and are having great problems with her feeding. She has obviously been hand fed in the past because she refuses to eat anything we put in her dog bowl and will only eat if we hand feed her our leftovers.

She is constantly barking and gets agitated when she is hungry but simply won't eat anything unless it is off our dinner plates. We try not to give her anything in the hope that she will get so hungry she'll eat her dog food, but her barking drives us mad and we give in. Can you please advise how we can get her to eat dog food?

Answer: First have her checked by a veterinary surgeon to check that there is nothing physically wrong with her and to discuss a suitable diet for her age. Mix small amounts of your leftovers with her normal diet and offer her this food at three set times of the day only.

Do not respond to her barking at other times, even if your meal times do not coincide with the times you have set aside for her.

Ignore her completely or shut her into another room if you can’t. She may bark more at first, but she will quickly realise that this behaviour is not going to be rewarded and she will stop.

Some dogs are afraid of eating from bowls due to some scary experience, so continue to hand-feed her for a while until you get her into a routine and have stopped the barking.

Then begin to offer her food on plates or saucers and encourage her to eat from there by hand-feeding her from the plate. You could even put the food onto the floor to see if she will take it from there. Once you have got her into a routine and she has stopped barking, it may just be a matter of shutting her in a room with her food at set times and leaving her to it.

You may like to read The Rescue Dog which has more information on understanding your dog's behaviour.

Question: My dog seems to be using food as a weapon. She is getting more and more fussy. She just refuses to eat the food her breeder gave us - so I have bought other brands. She eats the meal the first day, then the next she turns her nose up. I now have almost more bags of food that our local pet shop! I worry that as she's still a growing puppy - it's important that she eats. Could she be anorexic?

Answer: It is important to distinguish between dogs that genuinely don’t care how much they eat and those that are manipulating their owners into giving them more inviting food. This is not always easy and it is wise to make a visit to your veterinary surgeon first to check that all is well physically.

There do seem to be some dogs that are not easy to feed and keep weight on. Such dogs seem to not care too much whether they eat or not and can become very thin unless a real effort is made to tempt them to eat enough. Disinterest in food is usually an inherited condition and so it will not be anything that the owner does that makes them like this. Owners can try various methods of tempting these dogs by warming the food, sprinkling it with anchovies or other tasty bits and pieces, and feeding little and often. Ensuring that the food is good quality, correctly balanced for puppies and concentrated ensures that what little does get inside does lots of good.

Some dogs are extremely good at getting their owners to make an effort to feed them. Some puppies will be reluctant to eat well for the first few days in a new home and this can panic the owners into thinking that they must buy different food. In addition, owners of new puppies are often anxious about feeding them correctly and may try to keep feeding them long after they are full up.

Instead of waiting until the puppy is hungry, and trying the same food again, they try something more tempting. The puppy soon learns that if he waits, more exciting food will be produced. The answer to this problem is to offer one type of food only at regular times until that food is eaten. Keep to that food unless there is a good reason to change it and make changes slowly so that your puppy’s digestive system has time to adjust.

Back to Dog Behaviour Problems


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Click on a picture to learn more ->
Training for Life - Puppy/Dog Training Classes in a box!
The Rescue Dog/ Adopt the Perfect Dog by Gwen Bailey
The Perfect Puppy by Gwen Bailey
What is my dog thinking? by Gwen Bailey
What is my cat thinking? by Gwen Bailey
Good Dog Behaviour/The Well Behaved Dog by Gwen Bailey
The Puppy Handbook/ The Ideal Puppy by Gwen Bailey