Perri and I had an enormous break through last night that I just need to talk about!
Perri has never been a dog who is excited about meal times. Sometimes she eats, sometimes she does not. She is also extremely skinny and I do not like her to skip more than two meals in a row. Since beginning her rehab (aka confinement and boredom), she has become a disaster with her meals. She is getting enough delicious snacks for doing her stretches, so she is not as hungry as she needs to be to eat her meal. Where I used to have to just sit and watch her eat and gently encourage her to keep eating, meal time has become a nightmare. It takes Perri sometimes 15 minutes to slowly eat her cup of kibble.
I have been watching her over the last few months. She circles her bowl with her nose, she picks pieces out and saves them for later, she licks the inside of the bowl, she freezes over the food and stares at it. One time she even drooled. Last night I had the dogs outside to potty and asked them if they were "Hungry?" Molly and Ein were predictably ecstatic, Perri froze and yawned and began sniffing the ground obsessively. Food time has become stressful for her. I have been wondering if something pulls her bad shoulder when she eats, I have been wondering if she doesn't like the food (though I've tried quite a few different sorts, with the same attitude.) I have been wondering if she does not like her metal food bowl.
This is the way of things with Perri. Asking "Why?" all of the time and trying hard to find the answer. The answer for the food bowl dilemma was in a section of Leslie McDevitt's Control Unleashed Puppy Program book that I read years ago, and the lightbulb finally went on for me last night. There is a section in that book called "Quinn: Terrified of Teeters". In short, it is about a border collie who had become completely afraid of the teeter. Leslie rewards any interaction with the teeter by throwing his frisbee away from the teeter and going to play with him away from the teeter. Quinn's reinforcement for interacting with the teeter was the opportunity to get away from the teeter. I know this section of CU well, because it is how I finally got Perri to perform the teeter. If she looked at it, we ran away and played. If she put a paw on it, we ran away and played. Her reward for interacting with that teeter was to get away from it. And before long at all, she wanted it. The pressure was off.
So, that's what I did with the food. Magic! When she did a fake pause over her food I praised her and called her over to me. I gently asked her to eat her food. She walked over to it and licked up one kibble piece and again we partied and I called her over to me and loved her up and praised her amazing behavior. Her tail came up and she had some eagerness to get to her food bowl now. Back and forth, a few bites of food and she got to get away from the food bowl. She ate her entire meal for the first time in weeks. (usually she will eat a quarter to a half of a cup and that is it.)
This morning I put her glucosamine into her breakfast, put the bowl on the floor and as soon as she sniffed it I praised her and invited her to come play away from the bowl. She looked at me, dove into her food bowl, and ate the entire thing without any pause other than wagging her tail at me when I invited her to come away from the bowl.