View Full Version : If pup doesn't finish a meal, can I still do training with treats?

11th June 2008, 05:21 PM
Hi Everyone,

I know there are a lot of threads out there on picky eaters. But what I am trying to figure out is - if Meenah has not finished a meal, is it still ok to give her treats with training practice? I know that giving her a lot of treats will fill her up and lessen the chance of her wanting to eat her next meal. But what about a few small treats, like pieces of kibble, given during training practice? She is food motivated and we practice training in like two or three short sessions a day. I am not sure if I should skip the training session until she has eaten a full meal, or if I should still do it as usual.

Just to give you background on her eating style... Meenah will go some days eating all of her food in a short amount of times. Other days, she will pick at her food and wander about sniffing the floors as if looking for something better. Then she may or may not come back to her food and nibble a little more, only to go off sniffing again or just laying in her bed. Occassionally, she'll end up finishing her food but will have wandered all over first and have me keep reminding her to eat. When I put her food down, I want her to be focussed and eat all of her food without contantly wandering off. From reading the threads, I know that I should put her food down, not make any fuss or communications with her, and take it away after 15 minutes. In a few days, she should be more focussed when her food is put down. So I am giving this a try. Once, I even tried throwing her food away as soon as she wandered off. But she was sniffing at the garbage can and I felt so bad that I ended up giving her some more food, and she ate it. But I hate to play those sort of games! I try to encourage her to finish all of her food by making a big deal when she has emptied her bowl and giving her a "dessert" like a few green peas or half a slice of cheese, and then doing training with treats immediately after.

I am feeding her Purina One for Puppies dry kibble with some Purina Pro Plan for Puppies canned food mixed in. This is what was recommended to my by the breeder so I didn't change her food at all. She has two meals a day.


12th June 2008, 12:04 AM
To answer your basic question: Yes, you can still train. Rather than using treats for a reward though, just use the leftover kibble!! That way, the dog still gets her daily balanced diet AND her training rewards.

On another note, I wouldn't be throwing uneaten kibble away. Simply pick up the dog dish and leave the food in it until the next meal time.

If you are considering changing the dog's food, there are many better kibbles available. A quick search on this site will pull up many discussions on food and different brands. A higher quality food will be healthier for your dog, and many also find that the dog has to poop less. The poops are also more solid and smaller, making clean up much easier.

12th June 2008, 12:06 AM
Start giving her 5 minutes to eat and then lift the food. You can read more in the Finicky Eater post in the Library section. Most dogs eat in about 2-3 minutes. 15 is clearly too long but also you absolutely must stick with lifting the food and not feeding anything til her next mealtime.

If the eating issue is ongoing I wouldn't do any training with food at all on days when she doesn't eat her meals. But you can also train with praise and indeed should not always give treat rewards -- this is only a short term way of getting the desired behaviour and from then on you only occasionally give a food reward.

If you are planning to train on any given day then feed her half her normal amount anyway. Don't forget you always must subtract all those training treats from her total diet.

You may simply be giving her far more food than she actually wants or needs, too. Some dogs need as little as 1/4th a cup of food a DAY -- one of mine only gets a third of a cup of food a day and this is all she needs. Puppies and young dogs tend to eat what they want and need.

Barbara Nixon
12th June 2008, 11:12 AM
Izzy was a very picky boy, but he trained purely for lots of praise and reached a competition standard (if only he hadn't been too timid). When Joly, greedy pot, began training with him, he decided that he quite liked hot dog sausage, preferably with added garlic or haslet, which is also strongly flavoured/scented.

12th June 2008, 11:23 AM
Alfs went thruogh a picky time as well.I found he was really hungry after his walks.Hes ok now and really enjoys his food,i dont think to many inbetween food helps,i suppose if we eat between meals you woudnt enjoy your main meal.

12th June 2008, 02:41 PM
Moviedust, the reason I throw the food away is because I mix canned food into the kibble. Noone wants me to store the half eaten bowl in the fridge because they all think its gross. I'm just wondering if doing training with the food from her bowl will encourage her to leave her meal half eaten. I know she will gladly take the food from my hand as a training treat as I have tried that before. It was like a fun game to her and the food she was turning her nose at was like ambrosia.

Meenah did finish the last two meals I gave her, but she took all of the 15 allotted minutes. In between bites, she roamed around sniffing the floor of the kitchen and dining room. I tried ignoring her but I think she got the better of me and I did redirect her to her food and ordered her to "eat". Eventually, she gave up on the food and layed in her bed which is next to her food bowl. Last night, I ended up putting the food bowl in her bed with her and she became interested in the food again, eating the remainder of it. This morning, one of my daughters did the same. I know! I should have completely ignored her for the whole 15 minutes.

I'm not sure how much food is enough for Meenah. I have been going by what the breeder had suggested. She gets a lot of exercise and has a well defined waist, so I do not believe that she is overweight at all. She has one or two (sometimes three) poops a day and they are solid. She does seem hungry all the time, sniffing constantly and ALWAYS willing to take any food given to her, even the same kibble she eats for her meals. So I am surprised that she doesn't just wolf down her food when its given to her in her bowl! Its food that's easy to come by.

My husband bought a bag of Kirkland Premium Puppy Food at Costco yesterday so we'll give it a try. Its supposed to be rated highly.

Karlin, I will try doing more praise based training. I have been giving her food treats during training sessions and she gets so hyped up that she goes through all of the commands before I can even utter them! Its kind of funny to see her sitting, then laying down, then spinning, then laying down again, then lifting her paw to shake hands, then spinning a few more times as I stand there quietly! But that's how focussed she is on the food treat, which I know is not good.

Barbara, I would LOVE for Meenah to have her commands down so well that she's show quality. She is spayed and timid so we'd never do a show, but that's how well trained I'd like her to be! We're working on it.

Justine, I'll try to curb back on the extras during the day. I sometimes give her a bone, which she'll consume. or rawhide or some carrot sticks. When I crate her for the night, I always give her a Nutro cookie. I've read in some of the posts that people like to give their dogs some snacks during the day so I thought this would be ok.

16th June 2008, 07:02 PM

Just wanted to update you all and let you know that Meenah has been eating better lately. The big change I made was moving her to another room, the room that her crate is in, for meals. That room has a door with a window, so I can close her in but peek in to monitor her progress. She has been eating a lot better since I've started doing this, finishing her meals within about 5 minutes most of the time. I think the problem we were having before was that she was getting very distracted as her meals were in the kitchen area. Any movement or noise by anyone would make her stop eating to investigate and then she'd get sidetracked. Last night, she didn't actually finish her dinner but I think that was because my mother was visiting that day and had spoiled her with a lot of treats.

17th June 2008, 12:07 AM
That sounds good! Glad you are f ding she is settling more into her meals now. :)

Its kind of funny to see her sitting, then laying down, then spinning, then laying down again, then lifting her paw to shake hands, then spinning a few more times as I stand there quietly! But that's how focussed she is on the food treat, which I know is not good.

All dogs do this, don't worry. Part of training is to get them to stop trying to do their repertoire and instead focus on waiting for what you are going to ask for and to do that one thing.