THE OLD TRAINER: Dogs often play tricks on their owners to get some treats

March 15, 2014 

D ear Old Trainer: Queenie is 10 and the perfect dog. We feed her and our two young dogs at dusk, then give them a treat, a few pieces of hot dog. Queenie suddenly became very picky about her dinner a few days ago. She takes a bite or two, then looks at me and wags her tail and refuses to eat anything. But she wolfs down the treat and wants more. What’s going on, and what do we do about her?

JEAN

Boulder City, Nev.

Dear Jean: It’s always a good idea for a vet take a look at any dog when it changesits eating pattern, Jean, but the fact Queenie still wolfs down treats tells me she’s healthy and is just playing games with you.

Old dogs spend a lot of time thinking and it sounds like Queenie thought up a new way to have fun with you. All dogs play tricks on their human and she has a big laugh every time she plays this one. That’s why her tail is wagging.

There may be several causes. Many dogs play games with their food and Queenie, at 10, has lost some of her appetite. Old dogs are wily and she knows she can manipulate you by ignoring her food. Maybe she decided it is beneath her to eat with the young dogs. Or maybe she just got tired of her normal food, but still likes the hot dogs.

Here are two things to try:

• Do something new with her food. Cut the portions, add brown rice, maybe a little bacon grease or a different brand of kibble.

• Turn the game around on her. Bring her food in and give her small portions as her treat. That worked for me a few weeks ago when my old dog, Dixie, refused to eat. The same thing, she wouldn’t eat outside and she gobbled down when presented as a treat later in the evening.

I have a special rule for old dogs – do whatever it takes to make them happy. They have been wonderful friends for so long they deserve special treatment. I give it to them.

Dear Old Trainer: We just moved to the lake and heard that the Newfoundland is one of the best water dogs. Are they a good family dog?

DOUGLAS

Clearlake

Dear Douglas: The lovable Newf – intelligent, calm, and sweet natured – is one of the best family dogs of any breed, so gentle and protective with kids they were immortalized as the guardian in Peter Pan.

Newfs are low energy and don’t mind being couch potatoes at times, but are a working breed with tremendous strength and lung capacity, so when swimming or playing with kids they can go all day.

They excel in water. With their webbed feet and muscular build, they swim faster than any breed. A thick double-coat makes them immune to cold and ice.

Two things to consider: Newfs are giants – adults weigh from 150 to 200 pounds – and, like most water dogs, can’t resist water or mud, so they sometimes come home looking like a giant mess.

That’s why many families provide a dog house or place on the porch for them to stay until they are clean and dry.

Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained, and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to theoldtrainer@gmail.com.

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