My dog won’t eat reliably

15 Jan 2022, 5:25 a.m. by Tracey McLennan

Not eating reliably is pretty common with our high prey drive dogs. What that will look like differs between dogs. Some dogs will step outside the front door and immediately food is of no interest to them. For other dogs, they lose interest if they are locked onto staring at or smelling a prey animal. If you want to use food to reward your dog or to help them to calm down, this inconsistent response to you offering food is a real problem.

I had never encountered this sort of issue with my own dogs until I met Roxy, my Staffordshire bull terrier. It wasn’t prey animals with Roxy, it was sticks or toys that look like sticks. I am aware of the risks to dogs of chasing sticks but in Roxy’s previous life, she had spent a lot of time playing with sticks. I bought her toys that looked like sticks and we’d play on walks. When we were on a walk, Roxy would not eat treats. At first she wouldn’t even look at me when we were out together. I can remember taking one of my nephews out for a walk with us. He offered Roxy a piece of sausage and she turned her head away, sat in front of him and waited for him to throw a toy.

I wanted Roxy to be able to eat reliably when we were out. Food is so useful in such a range of circumstances, and I wanted it to be open to me to use with Roxy. If you feel the same way, a good starting point is to make food easy for your dog to get. If they are already not all that interested in food, don’t make it hard for them to earn food.


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Hi - I'm Tracey

I am the author of Canine aggression: Rehabilitating an aggressive dog with kindess and compassion and founder of Best Dog Learning and Stuff Ltd. I specialise in helping people with dogs who have a high prey drive. I have an honours degree in Canine behaviour and training, am a Tellington TTouch practitioner, and an ACE Advanced Tutor. I am currently studying for an MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Training.

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