Canine Behavior/My 10 year old Schnauzer Louis
QUESTION: Hello, my amazing best friend Louis has after 9 years of having no issues with eating is now displaying major signs of food anxiety and will refused to eat. He starts shaking when it is time to eat and his tail tucks showing insecurity. MY DOG IS NOT INSECURE! I have had him since he was 7 weeks old and has lived a blessed spoiled life of so much love, wild adventures, exercise, stimulated daily by our interactions. He has me well trained as he will talk to me when it's time to play ball, go for a walk, etc. He understands me when I verbally communicate with him. he is extremely smart and well behaved. This new anxiety issue has me in a state of anxiety which I understands does not help the situation so I try to get excited about the food and give a positive energy towards him before I place his food down.
Now here are things you should know about our current living situation which my help you with helping me with this sad issue. I live with 2 roommates who are married and have 2 dogs of their own. Their dogs are not intelligent, food dominate and when they eat they act as though they have been starved for a week. I have noticed Louis attention is on them when it is time to eat. My roommate and I shares feeding responsibilities for the 4 dogs and 1 cat. My roommate has changed foods on my dogs several times, feeds my dogs wet food from day one which I am not happy about as my dogs have never been on wet food nor had eating issues.
I have tried to feed Louis in a different room away from the chaos at feeding time so he doesn't have to worry about protecting his food and it doesn't work. The shaking goes away and his tail becomes erect but he just does the nose bury thing and stares at the food. Louis has no problems eating wet food only, homemade food, Healthy dog treats (one daily in the evening), and there are times, usually, every 2 days where he will EAT WITH NO ANXIETY??? So everyday it is a guessing game as to how he will react at feeding time. I have ruled out possible issue one at a time: the dry food only, wet food only, expensive food, homemade "Monster Mash" I call it :) My next thought is to buy that refrigerated food and hand feed him a few bites and show him the rest is on the plate as though "they're treats". I don't know but it is really stressing me out. Please help us!!! I would really appreciate any knowledge you can offer me and my love bug Louis (the most amazing Schnauzer ever).
Kelly & Louis
ANSWER: Your present living situation is QUITE BAD FOR LOUIS. Two dogs who are food aggressive or are resource guarding, whether Louis is alone in the room with his food or not, are affecting him; his place in this social hierarchy is confused and he is very anxious in general and, so are you.
Your "room mates" have NO RIGHT to change YOUR dog's food, nor do they have the right to impose upon YOU any responsibility for their dogs and cat.
Were you to hand feed Louis even a small portion of the highest quality food available, you would be teaching him to eat only in that manner. He would most likely refuse to eat without you present, at least.
"Feeding time" tells me these people feed their dogs once daily; both of their dogs are so leery of the other over food, and are so hungry, that they are "wolfing" down their food: very unhealthy, but that's not your problem.
My first advice is: MOVE. And do it fast. My second advice is: create a strict regimen for Louis. Settle on one food type, do not mix his diet around to entice him to eat. Purchase a high quality kibble that is low in phosphorous (older dogs need a low phosphorous diet); you can choose to add a small portion of a very high quality "wet" food but, for me, the label says everything: how much protein, totally, Louis is fed is important. You don't want too much protein in an older dog's diet (although there are varying veterinary opinions on this). You also want to avoid "people food" as it does not contain proper nutrition. So you must read a lot of labels in a very large pet supply store and ask questions of the people who are supposed to have the answers in these stores (and they don't always have any answers). Do internet research, also. Third advice: strict regimen means Louis is fed twice daily. I assume you work? This is a problem if the "room mates" insist on treating YOUR dog as one of their own WHICH HE IS NOT. Put the food down casually (make no big deal out of it and do not mess with the food at all once it is down) in a room where Louis is totally alone (and the other animals cannot enter). Leave it there for fifteen minutes (you can do this as you prepare to go to work); at end of day (when you return home), repeat. Say nothing to Louis, do not try to cajole him to eat, do not hand feed him, do not add anything to the food if he is refusing to eat (or you are teaching him to wait until something "better" is added). Calculate how much he is eating by carefully measuring (using measuring cups) each meal. You will then know how much Louis is actually eating. If he is highly stressed, he will eat only what he needs (although this can and will change with time, so long as his feeding times are protected as I suggested). Every 2 days he eats "with no anxiety" because he must eat; yes, he still has anxiety, but few healthy dogs will starve themselves.
Is Louis running free in the house with no Humans at home and the other two dogs present with him? NOT a good idea. You say Louis is not "Insecure" but you are not correct; in this situation, he is quite insecure; it does not sound like it is a stable or healthy environment for you OR for your dog.
Let's try the above regimen for two weeks. Keep a record of how much he eats each day (measuring cup); at the end of the first week, call the veterinarian and tell him the food you have selected and how much Louis is actually eating. Your veterinarian will know if Louis is consuming sufficient calories and nutrition. Use followup feature (allows me to see original question and my answer) after two weeks. I strongly suggest you look for another place to live; I simply don't like how these people are taking over YOUR life.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: You have not been the first person to tell me to move. After relaying what you suggested regarding I feed him only to the specific problem roommate she became defensive and then said OK. next day texted me telling me she fed my dogs and took Louis with her to her parents!!!! Today she told me she was preparing him hamburger!!! I said NO!!! Who knows if she did what I asked as she is home all day while I am at work. I don't have the money to move...I have approached her differently asking for the same thing so we will see if she listens. I bought Louis the raw refrigerated food and he gobbled it up with no anxiety today. I also realized since the time change I haven't been exercising him like I did daily. His routine has changed a lot. I have a new exercise plan for him and with the new strict regimen I think he'll be ok. I'll let you know.
Be careful with the BARF diet (raw food). Ask your VETERINARIAN before doing this; of course the dog will gobble it up but that doesn't mean its age appropriate or nutritionally good for him, so call the Vet and ask.
As for your room mates, this is a bad situation. No one should take your dog anywhere and no one should give him anything to eat EXCEPT YOU. Buy a doorknob that locks. They are easy to install (even ask the guy at Home Depot or any hardware store, all you need is a screwdriver). Then LOCK YOUR DOG in your BEDROOM and give NO ONE the key. I've never heard of such outrageous behavior, it's violating your rights as an adult, your privacy, and your right to your own dog. Put a stop to it.