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Species: dog | Category: behaviour | Submitted: 06-Nov-07 08:24AM | viewed 35044 times
Q Elaine asks about Alfie (dog - british bulldog, M) (age 2 years, 1 months):
Hi Sam Thank you. Alfie has no feeding time he just has food in his bowl when he wants it as he doesn't eat it when served, he is not a greedy dog. He plays all day with us a different times but no set time. We have a big garden and he has never really had walks partly because he will not get his lead on. However I have managed to get it on yesterday and will leave it on. Alfie sleeps at the same time as us usually he has a crate which is his bed. So all in all he has no set routine. After reading this I know this is a problem. How do I fix it?
Q Samantha says: You may have lots of work to do here! Lets start with feeding. A dominant animal would eat the choicest parts of the kill in a wild pack situation and would also be able to eat when he liked. This is the situation for Alfie- tasty food is available at any time he likes and he does not even have to work for it. See it from his point of view- the lesser members of the pack have done all the work to bring food to him and now leave him in peace to eat it as and when he likes!

Start by taking up the food bowls and deciding on a strictly timed feeding regime. You might like to feed him a small amount in the morning and his main meal at night for example. You should take up any food which remains after 20 minutes and he should have no further access to food until the next meal time. (Do not attempt to remove food while he is eating as this may lead to you getting bitten). Ideally he should be fed enough to satisfy him but he should be hungry again at the next meal time- if he does not eat at all for a meal don't worry-he will be hungry next time or the next.

If he is a little bit hungry at his meal time it will make your job of establishing yourself as pack leader easier. Ideally he should be allowed to see you eating your meal before he is given any food (do not ever feed him scraps from the table). Let him see you eat peacefully while you ignore any attempts he might make to get scraps etc. Later when you have cleaned up etc it will be his turn. If he knows any basic obedience commands such as sit he should be asked to do so before he receives his food (he should work a little for his reward). Let him feed in peace (as not to do so may result in a bite) but remove any left over food once he leaves his dish.

I suspect that you may play with Alfie when he wants, not when you initiate it. Play is good but it should be on your terms not his. Set aside a time for play if possible and otherwise ignore his attempts to involve you in games. At play time call him to you to initiate the game. Obedience commands are a good idea and if possible a training class would really help.

I am pleased you have a lead on Alfie it will give you more control- keep it on and if you can, use a long lead to pull him off the furniture- his place should be firmly on the floor not the raised chairs and sofas which should be the privilege of the pack leaders alone. (Do not challenge him if you may get bitten though)

Ideally Alfie should sleep downstairs and it is good that he sleeps in his crate- hopefully not in your bedroom?

Remember that Alfie will definitely see all this as a direct challenge to his dominant position and things may get worse for a while! If you feel that you are in any danger of being bitten- do not challenge him or make the changes I have suggested- your safety must come first. I would suggest the change to his feeding regime may be the easiest to make first and present fewest difficulties for the biggest impact.

Whatever you do at the moment though do not try to take food/ objects away from Alfie while he is nearby- this may come later but the other changes should be well established first and he may always be unreliable in this respect.

Good luck and let me know how you get on. Ideally you should consult your own animal trainer or behaviourist as soon as you can. Your own safety must always come first so do not attempt any direct challenges to Alfie which could get you bitten!

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