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Discussion Starter #1
I'm worried that something we trained our 11 month old lab to do has backfired.

One of the very first things we trained him to do was to wait for us to say "OK!" before digging into his food. We didn't use any negative or punitive methods to train him...we just held his collar and said "wait" and then said "OK!" as we released him. He would then dig right into his food happily. It didn't take him long to catch on and pretty soon he was sitting patiently by his bowl while we poured his food.

Then things started to change about a month ago. Instead of leaping to his bowl as soon as we said "OK!" he would look at us uncertainly and we'd have to say it a few times before he would believe us. This has been getting progessively worse over the past month.

Starting this weekend, Louie seems absolutely terrified to eat his food. We've said "OK!," we've walked out of the room, we've pulled him toward his bowl, we've taken food out of the bowl and fed him from our hands, we've even tried putting his food in non-shiny human bowls. No luck. He just pokes his snout around his bowl and walks away, whining.

The weird thing is that he has no problem eating treats! In other words, the problem isn't that he's feeling sick or doesn't have an appetite. It's all in his head. He's terrified to eat his food.

We have run out of ideas. What should we do??
 

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Hmmm... he's equating the sound of the word "okay" with something negative? Like "okay" at the end of a mom and dad argument? You know, "OKAY! FINE!"

Or some other word that sounds like "okay" he connects with in a negative way? Spoken meanly by someone he hears regularly? OBEY! STAY! HEY!

And then again, he may just be trying something on. Just to see.

How does he display fright of eating? Just not eating, or does he shiver and cower and walk away?
 

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try putting some tasty treats or cooked steak inside and see if he eats.

He may be a finicky eater, and wants only treats.
good luck
 

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Just read your post for the third time... 11 months old. He's trying something on, is my thought now. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I can't think of any other word he might be confusing with "OK!"

I assume that he is afraid because he looks at me uncertainly, whines, nudges the bowl with his snout, and then walks away. He goes back to it every once in a while, but doesn't eat. He finally ate his breakfast after 15 minutes. Tonight it has been 30 minutes since we gave him dinner and he hasn't had any. This is very strange for him, as I'm sure it would be for most labs.
 

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don't pull him to the bowl

I'd put the bowl down - say ok quickly and leave him with it - no fuss

after 10 or 15 minutes take it up

offer it again the next day in the same way

meals have become a BIG deal to him for some reason ... you need to prove it's no big deal

I have yet to hear of a dog (expecially a lab) who was in good health starving himself by choice so toughen up - offer the meals with the cue he expects and don't give him forever to decide to eat

I have lived with MANY fussy eaters ...
 

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offer the meals with the cue he expects and don't give him forever to decide to eat
Oh I like that! I've never had fussy or "cue reliant" eaters, so the situation is a little out of my league. But I like that suggestion!
 

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don't pull him to the bowl

I'd put the bowl down - say ok quickly and leave him with it - no fuss

after 10 or 15 minutes take it up

offer it again the next day in the same way

meals have become a BIG deal to him for some reason ... you need to prove it's no big deal

I have yet to hear of a dog (expecially a lab) who was in good health starving himself by choice so toughen up - offer the meals with the cue he expects and don't give him forever to decide to eat

I have lived with MANY fussy eaters ...
+1. Don't make the mistake of adding anything to his food or hand feeding him. A healthy dog will not starve itself.

How much are you (trying) to feed him a day? Around that age, their metabolism goes down a bit, so you might be giving him so much that he's not *really* hungry when mealtime comes.
 

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if you found he wasn't eating well what I'd suggest (and BOY people have trouble with this) is offer him a normal meal - take it up in 15 minutes
next meal offer him half as much
take it up
next meal half as much as last meal and so on and so on
once he eats whatever amount three meals in a row ( and I've had dogs who ate 3 pieces of kibble ONLY) then slowly increase til the dogs seems sated

however I don't think eating is a problem once he gets going ...
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Is this a new bag of food? A different brand than before? If its a different brand or a new bag he's refusing to eat I'd try a small bag of what you had before or the same lot the old bag came from. There are just too many recalls on food these days to take a chance
That's a good point. We haven't changed the kind of food (science diet large breed), but we did start a new bag a few days ago and that is when this thing got a lot worse.
 

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That's a good point. We haven't changed the kind of food (science diet large breed), but we did start a new bag a few days ago and that is when this thing got a lot worse.
Food can go bad, check the date on the new bag. Maybe the old bag was a little off and the one is more off and he just doesn't like it. Or maybe they changed the formulation and it's not something that agrees with him. It sounds to me, from the way he acts, that it's the kibble itself he doesn't want for some reason, not that he's afraid of actually eating.

Have you had his teeth checked? Have the vet check him out to make sure there isn't a physical problem that makes it painful for him to eat.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Ok I have an update! I have figured out what the problem is, but I still haven't figured out why.

We got a new bag of food (same brand/type, different flavor that he has had before but not recently)and gave some to him this morning for breakfast. Again, he wouldn't eat. But I really watched to see what he was doing this time. He kept nudging the bowl with his snout from every angle, so hard that he smacked the food bowl into the water bowl and spilled water on the floor. He kept nudging nudging nudging until one kibble jumped out of the bowl. He picked up the kibble and ran into the living room with it, just like he does with treats, and ate it. I thought "hmm..I wonder if the bowl is the issue." So I dumped the bowl of food on the floor. He came trotting in and ate it all off the floor.

Now I know that maybe I shouldn't have done that because I was giving in to his pickiness, but I thought it was good to try once just to diagnose the problem.

His current bowls (and the ones he has had since the first day he came home at 8 weeks of age) are large shiny metal bowls. Last night I had tried putting his food in a ceramic people bowl and he wouldn't eat from that either.

So what should I do? Get new bowls? Maybe plastic? Louie does have an aversion to some sounds and maybe the bowls made a clanging noise at some point that he did not like.

This is such a mystery! But I'm glad I am one step closer to the answer.
 

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My opinion is if he is eating his treats fine then maybe he is trying it on with food. We do exactly the same and make Alfie wait until we say GO, he may just be being picky in which case if he doesnt eat it lift the bowl and represent it at the next feeding time
 

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You have gotten a lot of advice, and given what I think is confusing information.

When asked if you changed food, you said no. But later you said you changed the flavor, and the behavior was coincident with that. Changing the flavor is changing the food. I would go out and get a small bag of the original food, check the date before ou buy it, and see what happens. If he goes after his food like he used to, you can assume he doesn't like the new flavor, or the bag is bad. If he still rejects it, listen to all the smart people. I suspect he is testing you and might be winning. He won't starve himself unless that food has really gone bad.
 

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don't pull him to the bowl

I'd put the bowl down - say ok quickly and leave him with it - no fuss

after 10 or 15 minutes take it up

offer it again the next day in the same way

meals have become a BIG deal to him for some reason ... you need to prove it's no big deal

I have yet to hear of a dog (expecially a lab) who was in good health starving himself by choice so toughen up - offer the meals with the cue he expects and don't give him forever to decide to eat

I have lived with MANY fussy eaters ...
I agree!
 

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There is NO WAY my dog would eat meals off the floor.

In addition to being gross -- it's dangerous, IMHO, for a dog to learn that ANY "food" on the floor is his. Just think about the effect of dropping a glass bowl loaded with roast beef and having that container shatter on the floor. You've now got a dog accustomed (hell, TRAINED) to eat each meal off the floor, nosing around the broken glass and scarfing up everything with abandon.

Get the kibble back in a dog bowl. Put it down to be eaten. After 15 minutes, it's out of sight until the next mealtime.

Regardless of your follow-up posts, you're still facing the same issue. Which has the same solution.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
You have gotten a lot of advice, and given what I think is confusing information.

When asked if you changed food, you said no. But later you said you changed the flavor, and the behavior was coincident with that. Changing the flavor is changing the food. I would go out and get a small bag of the original food, check the date before ou buy it, and see what happens. If he goes after his food like he used to, you can assume he doesn't like the new flavor, or the bag is bad. If he still rejects it, listen to all the smart people. I suspect he is testing you and might be winning. He won't starve himself unless that food has really gone bad.
No, that's not how it went. Louie has always had Science Diet Large Breed, sometimes the lamb and rice flavor, sometimes the regular flavor. This behavior did not begin or end with the switching of flavors. We bought a new bag of lamb and rice last night, something that he has had several times before and has always enjoyed. He refused to eat it from the bowl, but ate it when it was on the floor. That tells me it's not the food, but the bowl.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
There is NO WAY my dog would eat meals off the floor.

In addition to being gross -- it's dangerous, IMHO, for a dog to learn that ANY "food" on the floor is his. Just think about the effect of dropping a glass bowl loaded with roast beef and having that container shatter on the floor. You've now got a dog accustomed (hell, TRAINED) to eat each meal off the floor, nosing around the broken glass and scarfing up everything with abandon.

Get the kibble back in a dog bowl. Put it down to be eaten. After 15 minutes, it's out of sight until the next mealtime.

Regardless of your follow-up posts, you're still facing the same issue. Which has the same solution.
Perhaps I wasn't clear on this topic either. I put the food on the floor ONCE to see if the bowl was the problem. I certainly have no intention of allowing him to eat off the floor from now on. I just wanted to get to the bottom of the issue (food vs. bowl). Sheesh.
 
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