Monday, February 7, 2011

Bucket of Chicks

Our baby chicks/guineas are doing great.   I purchased
a variety of poultry to keep our chicken pen colorful, so we have French guineas, black sex-linked (love these, they are pretty and are great layers), cochin bantams (assorted), Danish Leghorns, Sussex, Cream Brabanters, Brahmas and one Silkie.  Unfortunately we lost the tiny sick Silkie yesterday. Poor thing never figured out how to eat, and feeding it sugar water every few hours wasn't enough to keep the little guy alive. 

These tiny little creatures are so messy. I have to clean out their cage three times a day, and what better place to store them safely as I clean than in a bucket.

KFC has nothing on me!

I have also had some issues with Maple, our lab-mix puppy.  She has some food agression and will sometimes growl at me if I pat her when she is eating.  I know this started when she was a puppy at the pound.  She was in a cage with her nine brothers and sisters and had to fight for her food.  However, I never thought she would bite (well, growl) at the hand that feeds her.

If f there is one thing I will not put up with (and believe me, I put up with many things;  like hand-feeding sick baby chicks for days and mole guts on my patio from my cats),  is ANY agression in a dog.  I know you can't trust any dog 100%, but I have to know that children are safe around my dog.  Otherwise I will find a new home for that dog.

Maple has never snapped or shown her teeth to anyone, and other than a few growls when she eats she has been incredibly sweet.  However, I can't take any chances.  So I googled food agression in dogs and found some tips.  Tips that are pretty gross.

So what am I doing, you might ask?  I have to feed Maple by hand for a week.  I am not a fan of dog spit (I don't like dog kisses, esp. on my face) so this has been a bit challenging.  Maple is not crazy about eating her dry food out of my hands, so every other feeding I am giving her canned food.  Can you imagine feeding your dog wet canned food by hand???  YUCK!

But so far so good, she is even wagging her tail now as she eats, which is completely new.  And she is taking the food gently and not one growl.

After a week I am supposed to drop her food piece-by-piece in her food bowl. Then I am supposed to fill her bowl up and sit by her.  Finally, if she is still growling after I have done all of the steps, I will tell her that she better shape up or she is getting a new home, one without children.  :-)  So wish us luck.  Maple has to learn that I am alpha dog in our house (at least when my husband is at work). 

If you have ever had to deal with food agression in your dog, I would love if you could give me some tips.  So far this method seems to be working so I am going to stick it out and just make sure I have plenty of soap and warm water on hand.  :-)

NOTE:  Megan commented below that I should not be feeding Maple the canned food because this is a treat and she would eat this no matter what.  That smart dog is still alpha because she is getting me to feed her exactly what she wants (and that isn't dry food)!  Am I smarter than a eight-month old lab-mix?  Maybe not...  ;-)  So no more canned food for now.  My husband always tells me that if a dog is hungry enough they will eat what you are serving and in our house dogs eat their healthy dry-food.


  1. Aww, the chicks are so cute...but living near many chicken farms...pretty nasty/smelly too. Good luck with them.

    I am with you on growling dogs! Our lab is so sweet, and has never growled. One thing we did with her training was fill her bowl and make her sit next to it for a minute or two. Then give her permission to eat. You are correct in being the alpha too! I can take her food bowl away from her mid way thru her meal and she will sit back down an wait. Seems your method is working, so keep it up. We also watched A LOT of "The Dog Whisperer" when we were training. It definately helped us when she was a puppy. Most dogs are "retrainable", it's having the patience to do it and let them know YOU'RE the one in charge!


    p.s. not a big one on dog licking/spit either. And now we've got a bloodhound...drool, slobber...blehhhh...

  2. You're doing the right stuff! Patience is the key. And the calmer you are, the calmer she will be.
    Also, I'm not sure how old she is - so I'm not sure how much exercise she can tolerate. Check with your vet, then I recommend as much on-lead exercise as her growing body can handle. (You don't want to stress her joints!) Take her everywhere - it will help tire her out, which will mellow her out, plus it is GREAT bonding for you both. Also great socialization. If you take her around people, give someone one of her treats, then ask the person to tell Maple to sit - then treat her. That can help, too.

  3. so cute! I can't wait to have a farm of our own. . . chickens will be the first thing we get. ;)

  4. Love the chick pic! lol :) so cute!!

    as for food agression- it just comes from being a dog and growing up. Shes getting to the point in her life that she is starting to mature and the growling is purely a way of her being "in charge" something. Not acceptable of course- but thats where its coming from. Pretty much any dog does that isnt totally submissive by nature.

    Youre taking all the right steps except, I dont think canned food is the way to go. In my experience (as a vet tech and kennel manager for many years as well as a life time dog owner) shes not a fan of eating the dry food from your hand because its giving in. Its letting you have the control over the food. The canned food is like a treat- which she has always taken form you (or the kids or whom ever) so its a different kind of thing. I would go back to just the dry food (canned food is an icky habit to get into but thats a whole other post) and just sit on the floor and feed her a couple handfuls of it. might take her a few minutes- but she will get the idea and she will submit to you feeding her. then let her eat out of her bowl while youre holding it. Basically- all the stuff youre doing- minus the canned food.

    our current dog had a phase like this also. I did just that. I fed her by hand. I held her bowl while she ate. and eve n now- just for fun- about once a week I will stick my hand in her food while she eat and mix it around and play with it- ll while she has her face in there eating- just to remind her whos in charge and that i will touch her food if I want to. I even had the kids feed her by hand towards the end of the week I worked with her on it. she was fine with me feeding her at that point- so I wanted to make sure she was fine with the kids too. and she was. now she knows her place that much better than before.

    its wonderful that you caught this so early and are being so smart about fixing it. I have seen plenty of dogs in my professional career that you can barely look at while they are eating because they are so food aggressive. It drives me nuts because its such a simple thing to fix when you deal with it early instead of letting them have their way. and every one is safer in the long run!

    my email is attached to my blogger account, feel free to shoot me any more questions you might have!

  5. Megan, you make complete sense! When I feed her canned food she is still alpha because she made me feed her what she wants. I didn't think of that and I will switch to all dry food.

    Great advice! I am so glad I am using a method that can work if I am patient.

  6. The cutest bucket of chicks ever... Rita, thank you so much for all your free actions and hard work - you are amazing!

  7. Couple of dog thoughts:
    Start with giving her a low value food. Then, occasionally take away the handful you were about to give her. If she stays calm, then reward her by giving wet food. You want them to think it is a good thing if you ever take their food away.

    Also, before setting the bowl down, dip your face in it and make chompy noises. Alpha gets to eat first.

    If she has a "leave it" command, make her leave it many times while eating. She has to stop eating and wait for your "take it". With each "leave it", add something special or just more kibble into her bowl (be careful not to overfeed).

    Good luck!

  8. Love the pic of the baby chicks! so tiny!!

    And I think you're doing great w/ Maple. I agree with another post above where they said to make the dog sit and stay by their food bowl, and they can't eat until you tell them it's ok. We never wanted to deal with food aggression and so when we got Storm (who was also a "rescue" puppy) we fed her out of our hands, made sure we petted and messed with both her and her food while she ate, took the food away from her for a few seconds before giving it back. When we gave her bones as treats, we'd also take those from her and then give them back a few seconds/minutes later. Never had any issues! If you can stand the taste (I can't, but my hubby can) put a treat in your mouth and let Maple take it gently. Gross I know, but it works! You'll be fine!!

  9. Good luck with the dog training. You should only be feeding that big dog dry food. If the dog is hungry, it will eat it. Remember who is training who! Sounds like she was teased about food at a young age. Some dogs do not understand the concept of "teasing", so please have a no teasing policy in your household with the dog about anything (like playing keep-away with a toy), or else you might get the same behavior coming out.

    And never, ever give the dog "people food". No exceptions.

  10. oh I love those chicks!!!!!! they're so so so so cute!
    I've seen one or two episodes on the dog whisperer when Cesar dealt with food aggression with food. it takes some patience and water and soaps!

  11. Rita, feeding your dog wet food isn't *her( training *you*. She just likes canned food.


    Dogs are smart, but not that smart.

    Feeding by hand is one method Dr. Karen Overall, DVM, PhD and veterinary behaviorist recommends for dogs who are worried about food/people. She also recommends that you request a sit with eye contact before putting the bowl down. She ran the behavior clinic at the University of Pennsylvania, so that should tell you something about what she knows. She's a top notch behavior expert. Her methods are easy to follow, simple enough for anyone to do and keep both the dog and people safe.

    I believe in her work so much that I spent the money on her book "Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals". If you are interested in more information from her protocol, my email is

    Just keep doing what you are doing and don't worry about whose in charge or alpha.

  12. Thank you Holly (and everyone else). I appreciate all of this advice so much. I have never had to train a large dog and I need all of the tips I can get.

  13. Our golden retriever didn't ever have food aggression, but we wanted to make sure she never did as we had kids.
    So we would put her food in her bowl and let her start eating it. Then in the middle of her eating it we would pick up the bowl and take it away. Giving it a few seconds, we would put the bowl back down for her to eat.
    Basically letting her know we were the alpha dog.
    So maybe after she gets used to eating out of your hands, you could try this as well.
    You have the right idea and since you are catching it when Maple is still a pup I would think you would be able to still change her ways.
    Good luck!

  14. Rita,
    I never feed my dogs canned food. It is sticky and will stick in their teeth causing plaque. Just go with the dry food. Get a *good* brand. I've been very happy with the lamb mix at Costco.
    Good luck!

  15. Since my dog was a puppy I would stick my hand in his bowl, pet him as I walked by, bumped his behind gently enough to move him a bit. Thankfully I never had this issue. Even still, I put my hand in his bowl while he's eating occasionally.

    On the other hand I had rescue dog for a day when she had 8 puppies. They each got their own bowls and never had to fight for food, but they were lab mixes and my BFF got one of the puppies. The dog has been aggressive with her food from the start, and although she never bit anyone, she still growls pretty loudly and no one goes near her food while she's inhaling.

    I hope you get this figured out!


  16. Rita, This was on an episode I just recently watched of the Dog Whisperer. He was actually using a similar method of what you are doing with a full blooded wolf (yes I said WOLF-stupid people) He was not using his hands and he was using dry food, but he kept the dogs bowl as his waist level (so he did have to kind of reach up to get at it) in order to be fed. He had to wait for Cesars okay to eat and had to eat his food in this manner (this particular "dog" may always have to eat this way) but he was no longer growling at the owners at dinner time. I thought for sure he might lose a few digits in this episode, these people had two, yes TWO full blooded wolves, one a Mexican gray, and the other was this HUGE white North American Timber. I was a vet tech for several years and have seen several half bred wolves, all with aggression problems, mostly due to owner stupidity. But it is not in their nature to be house dogs to start with. Poor things, I also knew a full blooded rescue that was sweet as could be, but would turn on the other dogs when a brew would start in a heart beat. Not the "dogs" fault just the nature of the beast and a product of some red-neck that thought it would be cool to have one, luckily he was rescued from those people and in a a better home. I'm sure you can find that episode on you-tube or they re-run them all the time.

  17. I think all of the other suggestions for the puppy are great. I'd like to add that this needs to be carried through with other aspects of the dog's life, as well. If they show any aggression over toys, food, a favorite place to lay and sleep, immediately take that away from them. We have two dogs and four cats... the dogs have had their dinner removed enough to know that they don't growl at a cat who walks too close (don't worry, we give it back after a few minutes and after making them sit/stay for it). Never slack off on making the dog sit/stay before receiving a meal. You're doing the right things!! :)