Q: What if my dog won’t take food?
A: There are a few reasons your dog won’t take food:
- They’re stuffed – even though blueberry pie is delicious, if I’ve had a huge meal and three slices, that fourth slice isn’t going to be motivating for me. Let your dog digest and then you can try a few hours later.
- The environment is too stressful or the exercise is too difficult and the food isn’t worth the risk to the dog. Make it easier!
- The food is too low-value. It has to be your dog’s currency – not yours! Try a few different kinds and see which is most exciting for your dog. Maybe a party mix of their favourites to keep things interesting?
- The dog is stressed and suspicious. Don’t go too far too fast – take your time and read your dog’s signals.
Q: What are signs that my dog is “tapping out”?
A: There are a few subtle signs:
- Pulling away
- Turning their head away
- Licking their lips
- Avoidance of any kind
- Taking a break (water, sniffing, stretching, goofing off)
These are subtle and we should sit back and let them get some space when we see this. Reassess the plan to make sure they’re being paid well and are comfortable, not moving too far too fast.
If we don’t listen to these subtle signs, the dog may escalate to communicate more clearly:
- mouthing / nibbling on your hand
- stiffening up / freezing
- growling / showing teeth
- air-snapping (biting the air near you)
The only option left is to bite, so we really don’t want our dog to have to escalate. Watch for subtle signals and heed the warning. Your dog will learn that they can communicate with you AND they have the choice to walk away whenever they want. That will make them come back for more!