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My dog only loves food

Discussion in 'Dog Behaviour and Training' started by OliviaS, Jul 15, 2018.

  1. OliviaS

    OliviaS New Member Registered

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    We adopted our Alaskan Malamute/husky (alusky) last summer. He has gone through 7 families before and I think I'm starting to see why.

    He literally only cares about food. He only comes to us to socialise when there is food on the table. I have had a husky before and he was rescued by me and was the sweetest dog ever. Don't get me wrong, he liked a good snack but he would be there for me when I felt sad or cried, he would always try to help.

    My current dog, to whom this thread is related to, is only interested in food and walks. It saddens me truly to see that I have a 'parasite' living in my house. I try to give him everything, daily dental sticks, food three times a day, plenty of walks and runs and he literally gives nothing in return. It makes me feel embarrassed when he scavenges for food on trains and buses when we travel - as if he does not get fed wnough. We have checked with the vet the dosages of food for him based on his weight and level of activity just in case it was us. I felt like I would be able to handle this myself, since I have always been working with dogs and trained them successfully but this one is a real character.

    Are there any ways you guys recommend I train him? The only thing I haven't tried yet is e-collars and I have been hesitant to do so for obvious reasons..

    I realise you can't make a dog love you, no matter how much you do.. I am starting to suspect that maybe he doesn't want to get attached because of how many times he was rehomed. I will never give up on him and I am willing to do anything to fix all this. I just need some guidance.
     
  2. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    If you put an e-collar on him, you are going to make him far less likely to trust you and bond with you. So absolutely no to that idea.

    A food motivated dog is actually one of the easiest types of dog to train because you know already what motivates him. What are you trying to train him to do?

    Some dogs are just less demonstrably affectionate than others. You may need to accept that he just isn't a tactile dog. But over time, you can still develop a bond of trust.

    Has the vet checked for any reason why he is hungry all the time as well as advising you on the amount to feed and his weight?
     
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  3. Mad Murphy

    Mad Murphy Well-Known Member Registered

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    One of the reasons Ive taken whatever dog came along and never had the same breed twice is because there is a natural tendency to compare , bad enough when its a past dog but when its also of the same breed you are setting yourself up for dissapointment because no two dogs are the same.
    I dont know where you are but in most civilised countries Ecollars and prong collars are against the law so dont even go there...
    My last dog Benny only loved food. He had had to fight for every scrap he got and so when he came to us he was very protective of food and prepared to do anything to get it. As @JoanneF says this makes them easy to train because he would have jumped through hoops of fire to get a biscuit. Murphy isnt that interested in food so food rewards mean little to him.
    As long as you are sure there is no medical reason for your dog's constant hunger use his passion to help you bond..We did drag trails with Benny and at the end of the trail he got a liver treat. Then we tried spotting the trail with scent and OH waited with a treat so that when he found OH he got the treat. we used his drive to bond with him we found what made him tick and used that.

    When you rescue a dog they come with baggage thats a fact. How long it takes them to readjust differs some do it it weeks some in months and some never fully get used to a safe home with love and food in abundance. You might as well ask how long is a piece of string.
     
  4. OliviaS

    OliviaS New Member Registered

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    Thank you guys for your replies. I of course would not want to have to use an e collar on him and was hoping you guys would come up with some ideas instead. See the thing is, I know that a food motivated dog is a trainable dog but this type of training is practically useless, because as soon as you leave the house he will put the environment above you and food. So it's just that he prioritizes everything else above us and I think it may have to do with the fact that he thinks he is the pack leader and he does whatever he wants. He will cry in public because we stand still for 2 minutes and talk to a friend on the street because HE WANTS TO GO and apparently that's all that matters. Is there any way we can train him to obey outisde? Insise the house he is obedient but still tries to steal food when no one is in the house. But outside we don't even feel confident to let him off the leash and have a 20 m expandable leash to make up for the fact that we don't trust our dog.
     
  5. JudyN

    JudyN Well-Known Member Registered

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    The idea that there is a pack leader who has authority over the others and access to all resources is now thoroughly debunked. Basically, dogs do what they want to do and your job as trainer is to make them want to do what you want them to do.

    It's quite normal for a dog to help himself to any food in the house he can get to, particularly if there's no one else around. When you think about it, not eating food that is there and available would be a pretty poor strategy for any animal. My dog is of a type that was developed to be a poacher's dog so I accept that stealth and theft is written into his genes. It's not a problem - the bin is in a cupboard, food is kept out of reach, and if the doorbell rings while I'm eating I take my food with me! He'd certainly scavenge in a train or bus too - I can't even walk him easily past the birdfood aisle in garden centres!

    When outside, if you're talking to a friend, could you chain-feed him tiny treats while he's being quiet? If he can last for one minute, then walk away after one minute and stop feeding the treats, next time aim for one minute and 15 seconds, and so on... gradually he will learn that being patient is rewarding.

    What are you worried will happen if you let him off lead? Is it his recall that is the main concern, or him raiding picnics, or how he interacts with other dogs, or cats & wildlife?

    I don't know much about malamutes/huskies but they do seem to have a very independent spirit and very 'driven', and can be difficult dogs to own and train. It's possible that your previous husky was unusual in this respect rather than your current one being particularly challenging for his type. If you haven't already, I wonder if you could find a breed-specific forum to read, to find what is typical for the breed? Sometimes it can be helpful just to know that there's others having the same problems you have.

    Also, although my dog is very strongly bonded to me, and affectionate in his own way (he will, e.g., rest his head against me leg and sigh - he doesn't go in for full-body cuddles), I've never seen any sign of him empathising with me when I'm feeling sad or ill. Again, I think they can just have very different natures.

    Do you play any mental games with him - hide and seek, interactive toys, treat balls, trick training? This type of dog can keep going all day, and exercising his brain may tire him out far more effectively than walking. Again, food obsession is your friend here - keep rewards tiny, healthy and frequent, and adjust his main meals accordingly.

    Also, just a thought - it's normally recommended that dogs are fed twice a day and I wonder if more frequent feeding, and the fact that he never knows when he might find a tasty snack on the kitchen worktop, lead him to focus on his stomach even more. When a dog KNOWS there's no food available for some time it's easier for them to relax and forget about food than if they think they MIGHT get something, or it MIGHT be nearly teatime.
     
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  6. OliviaS

    OliviaS New Member Registered

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    Thanks for your reply Judy. My previous dog(s) were literally taken from the street - so I would expect that they would have a stronger survival drive than my current dog. Also, although he does seem to be affectionate sometimes (he lays his head on my leg or gives lots of kisses or cuddles in bed with me ) it always seems to be linked to food. As you said minimising exposure to food could help and does help usually but it's not about me adapting to his behaviour that seems to be the problem. What i want is for him to respect that our food is ours and not his to eat. Thing is he knows exactly that it's NOT OK, but he still does it just cuz he wants to and he's not afraid. We have never punished him in a way that would make him fearful.. like we o my use his crate to isolate him (the crate of shame)

    Outside we never let him off the leash cuz even the shelter employee said that he will run off. He just feels like, when he's off the lessh, we dont have any power over him anymore. He knows that we won't be happy when we get a hold off him but he's willing to take the risk for this feeling of freedom and doing whatever he wants. So at this point I'm afraid of everything that could go wrong when there's an out of control dog off the leash...

    On the leash he finds every other dog more interesting than us.. I just feel like he's not loyal. Dogs are thought to be loyal creatures and that's usually what sets them apart from cats for example, who are more independent. Maybe it has to do with how many families he had to go through to find him forever home. I just want to know how to make him respect us, and be loyal.
     
  7. JoanneF

    JoanneF Well-Known Member Registered

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    Very few husky type / mals can be let off lead - they were bred to run. And that's what they do. If he is out of your control off leash then I'm afraid you just have to keep him on leash. You can get a long line - please attach to a harness, not his collar, as there is a high risk of trachea damage if he is running and reaches the end and gets stopped suddenly. Other dogs may not appreciate his attention so a long line is going to help you there too. You could also use the times when other dogs approach to get his attention back to you by doing some training exercises with him. Start with simple things like sit, and "watch me" which are behaviours incompatible with going off to see other dogs. Or you can hire secure enclosures. If you work on his recall off leash there, recall, reward, release so he sees coming back to you as a good thing, not the end of fun.

    I'm hesitant about the "crate of shame" - we normally recommend a crate to be made a safe and happy place for our dogs and using it as punishment won't help that. However keeping him separate when you eat will help with the begging for your food - can you perhaps give him some of his own food at these times maybe frozen in a Kong so it occupies him for longer?

    I don't think you have said how long you have had him?
     
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  8. JudyN

    JudyN Well-Known Member Registered

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    He doesn't know that it's not OK as such, just that if he takes the food there will be consequences. But like a hungry toddler left in a room with a chocolate cake they've been told not to touch, either he's willing to take the consequences or it's just too tempting. Dogs don't have a social conscience or moral code, they just understand cause and effect. If you don't actually have the food in your hand, a dog won't see it as yours. I honestly think that your expectations here are unrealistic for this particular dog (again, hardly any lurcher owners would ever expect their dogs to 'respect' their food in this way).

    Why do you think his signs of affection are linked to food if you're cuddling in bed?

    It won't help to compare his personality to your previous dogs and say that he 'should' do x, y and z because they did despite coming from the streets. He is what he is, and dogs can have unexpected quirks that couldn't be predicted from their background.

    I used to think that my dog should do what I want because I said so but that was a recipe for failure. Now he does what I want (mostly) because reward-based training has resulting in him doing what I want because it gets him great results (i.e. food) and has thus become a habit.
     
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