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Can anyone help with food, glorious food?

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Hi all, I recently introduced myself and our recently adopted greyhound Sable in the Intros and Bios forum but after nearly three weeks, I’m in the market for some help.  Sable is a gorgeous dog and she’s been fabulous settling in with us in so many ways BUT she is an absolute demon when it comes to food.  She eats her meals (complete dry dog food – Wainwrights, the same as she had at the Dog’s Trust) twice a day and she gets treats as part of her training, which is still in the very early stages of teaching her to pay attention to us and respond to her name etc.  She gets no scraps or leftovers from the kitchen and we never feed her from the table or let her lick plates but if one of us is carrying a plate of (our own) food, she’s there in an instant, nosing the dish and trying to jump up.

I realise that food orientation can be useful for training but it's actually quite difficult trying to reward her for something with treats because she's got her nose in my hand the second I pick up the treat and just follows it round so there's no real opportunity to even get her to do something to earn the reward, if you can picture the scene.
It's even harder when we want to eat.  I have no door to the kitchen so I put up a tall pet gate so she can still see me (I can’t imagine trying to prepare food with her in there with me!) but as soon as I bring dinner out she's all over it.  My daughters dash into the front room and shut the door while I distract her then I eat at the table in the back room (which is where her bed is) to try and teach her she can't have my food so I'm usually eating half turned away from her, trying to get her off the table with one hand and shovelling my dinner down with the other.  She usually gives up after a while and goes and lies down (at my feet...) and when I finish, I give her a treat on her bed as a "Thanks" for finally letting me eat.  If the girls try and eat in the back room, she's straight up, paws on the table trying to snarf their food, which they find a bit too intimidating - she's gentle but big, and very driven where food is concerned.  If we all eat in the front room and shut her out, she just whines and barks which we try to ignore but it is difficult and it doesn’t make for a peaceful meal.  

If anyone has any good tips on how I can teach her that her food is hers and our food is ours and to leave us alone when we're eating, I'd be immensely grateful.  I know it's really early days and we've all got a lot to learn but I want to make sure I'm doing things right from the start.  I understand greyhounds are renowned for being counter surfers and food swipers but I just don't know how to deal with it.  I know it's my problem not hers and I’m sure we can work through it as she is the most adorable dog in every other way and we love her to bits.  I don't want to be reinforcing the wrong messages to her if I'm doing things wrong already (and what newbie doesn't worry about doing things wrong?) but it's starting to stress me out and that’s something I definitely don't want her picking up on.  I really hope help is out there…


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How long have you had Sable?

Does she have a comfy bed in the kitchen?  Or in an adjoining room where she can see you when you are in the kitchen?

Has Sable learned   'wait' / 'stay' ?  'Down' ? 

These 'commands'  are invaluable, not only for keeping her out of your personal space, but they will keep her safe.

The very first thing any of my dogs learn is 'Wait'. 

They wait before they go out the door.  Or through the gate. Or to get out of the car.

They wait before they eat.

Then you can introduce 'lay down' / 'down'  combined with the  'wait' and eventually Sable will lay quietly on her comfy bed in the kitchen while you prepare and eat meals.

None of this is going to happen overnight.  And -especially with children- you must all be consistent with the training.  Everyone in the family must use the same 'commands' / 'words'.






Nancy...Mom to Sid (Peteles Tiger), Kibo (112 Carlota Galgos).   Missing Casey, Gomer, Mona, Penelope, BillieJean, Bandit, Nixon (Starz Sammie),  Ruby (Watch Me Dash) Nigel (Nigel), and especially little Mario, waiting at the Bridge.




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Patience and time.  Her food motivation will eventually calm down (probably ;) ).

In the meantime, set up training scenarios when *you* are not eating.  Decide on a spot for her to be when you and the family are eating.  She should be able to see you, but it's not completely necessary.  Prior to fixing something to "eat"  lead her to her spot and give her her new command - settle, or bed, or whatever you choose.  Treat.  During the time you're preparing the food and after you sit down to "eat" keep calmly returning her to her spot and repeating the command and treating.  Keep the sessions short, but do them several times a day.

You may need to eat in shifts for a few days so the eaters can eat in peace and the trainer can keep training, then switch off.  If your kids are old enough they can certainly help with this sort of training, too.

If she has a crate or xpen that she views as a safe spot you can also use this space for her people eating spot.  Alternatively,  feed her her meals when you are eating to distract her - especially if she eats in her crate.



Chris - Mom to: Lilly, Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)


Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby), Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Atom

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Thanks both of you for these tips.  We have a long weekend ahead and some serious time to devote to training.  Whenever I'm in the kitchen (behind the pet gate), she lies dow in the hallway where she can see me.  We have a galley kitchen so not really enough room for more than one person at a time, let alone a greyhound but we can "practise" eating in the dining room and keep taking her back to her bed.  

I've so far found that if I want to get her to, for example, settle on her bed and then reward her with a treat, she knows that I have a treat in my hand and immediately just stuffs her nose in my hand.  I go to her bed and say "On your bed, Sable" but she just follows her nose - which is attached to my hand - over to her bed and she gets the treat.  If I moved my hand in circles, she'd go round in circles too!  Then when I walk away, she just follows me waiting to do the whole thing again.  She doesn't go to her bed by herself, knowing she will get a treat, she just goes wherever my hand with the treat in it goes so it doesn't really feel like she's learning anything.  

Another example is using treats to get her to come to me or respond to her name.  She doesn't exactly come *to* me because as soon as I have that treat in my hand, she's already there - before I can even turn around or say her name.  I'm guessing this is where the "wait/stay" command comes in but I'm not sure how to even start when she seems to be permanently attached to me, especially if I have treats of any kind.  Am I expecting too much too soon?  Thanks again for all your help!

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Our guy is almost as food motivated as your girl, though, fortunately, less so with food that is not his.

What has worked out really nicely for us is using that strong motivation to our advantage with training. I'd highly recommend attending a training class, or doing a private session, because (unless you are a dog trainer by trade) you don't really know when/what she's learning. It doesn't take too long to figure out that a lot of dog training is not intuitive to humans; paying a professional trainer (in whatever capacity) is like 90% teaching the human, 10% teaching the dog.

That'll help set you up for success with the other, very valuable strategies already mentioned: patience and time.

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yes.. if you can find a good positive training class that will give you some ideas. 

That said.. I have had multiple dogs for eons and have not attended a training class in many years.

I do not usually treat my dogs when trying to teach them something. As you have discovered, it can often lead them to only focus on the treat in your hand.  You want sable to focus on you and what you are asking her.

For the 'wait',  take Sable to her bed,  hold your flat hand/palm hand in front of her and say 'Wait'.  Breathe.  Then take one small step backwards.  If she doesn't move praise her!   


If (when) she moves to follow you, calmly put her back, say 'wait' and back up a step.

Do this a gazillion times until you can reliably take 1,2,3,4,5 steps away and she will not move.

This will not happen overnight!


And... I am not a 'dog trainer', nor do I portray one on TV  ;)     

And I am sure there are many other ways/methods to train your dog to wait/stay.


Nancy...Mom to Sid (Peteles Tiger), Kibo (112 Carlota Galgos).   Missing Casey, Gomer, Mona, Penelope, BillieJean, Bandit, Nixon (Starz Sammie),  Ruby (Watch Me Dash) Nigel (Nigel), and especially little Mario, waiting at the Bridge.




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Sable and my Eve were probably related to each other and share a "crazed about food" gene. :lol

I also am not a dog trainer.  I'm lucky that most of my hounds have come to me with good manners and it was my job just not to mess that up.  But Eve, my first dog as a grownup, was a different kettle of fish.  Very strong-willed and very impulsive.   I did take her to a mixed breed positive reinforcement general obedience course and got some needed confidence (for me) and a sloppy sit and a good "come" command (for her).   

I agree with the not using food as a reward since she's too focused on it.  At the most, use food only occasionally as a reward.  Human psychological studies show that rewards given intermittently are more motivating than when given for each success  :dunno  and I expect the same might be true for dogs.

I also agree that giving another command for her to do (e.g., go to your bed) is easier to train than to try to teach her from refraining from doing something (don't climb on the table).  

Some training is easier done with two people.  One person can hold the dog, the other person some distance away claps their hands to get Sable's attention and calls her to come or calls her name.  Your daughters might enjoy a variation of this by playing hide and seek inside.  If Sable doesn't respond, this is one time when you could use food as a motivator. 

 For "wait" or "stay," person #1 can hold her leash and person #2 can put down a treat or loved toy just out of reach.  I use "okay" as a general word that means the dog can do whatever it likes, so in this case when one of you says "okay," person #1 relaxes on the leash enough for Sable to reach the treat/toy.  You might try this with two people and food treats at the back table where your girls eat, but not while they are eating, at first.  And you would never say "okay" in this circumstance. :lol  If you don't have two people, try putting your foot on the leash but this can be physically tricky.  

I'm going to take a deep breath and say that with Eve I used some negative reinforcement methods.  There are people on this board who feel very negatively about negative reinforcement.  They are better trainers than I am.  But that is what worked for me with Eve.  With the no jumping on me for my food, I also tried a shake can (clean metal food can with fitted top with coins inside).  The noise deters most dogs.   The noise did not deter Eve.  But a stamped foot and the Voice of God (VOG) shouting "NO!" helped.  So did a spray bottle.  She really didn't like a gentle spritz of water on her face.  

I forget how long it took, but she eventually showed beautiful manners when humans were eating.  And getting the VOG or a squirt of water on her muzzle did not quench her wonderful spirit.  

Edited by EllenEveBaz


Ellen, with brindle Milo and the blonde ballerina, Gelsey

remembering Eve, Baz, Scout, Romie, Nutmeg, and Jeter

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Hi all! 

Oh my goodness, thank you all! This is so much to work with! I will certainly draft the children in to help, they are just as keen as I am for us all to live in full-bellied harmony :D I will report back with progress! 

Thanks again and I hope you all enjoy your  weekend with your lovely dogs!

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I'd recommend some "it's your choice" training to harness the food motivation a little. Food motivation is absolutely amazing. Although you can certainly train dogs without food, it is by far one of the easiest reinforcers to work with and is one of the main things I look for in a dog. It's important to train our dogs not to grab though. For one thing it's rude and potentially hazardous if the thing in our hand isn't actually food (pills for example) or is hot (bowl of soup). It also, as you noted, makes it a bit difficult to work if the dog can't remove its attention from the food long enough to learn anything. Now, one way to reduce that issue is don't train with food in your hand. For one thing, the food is a reward and not a bribe, so it's better to keep it out of the equation until the moment you plan to reward. This is why clicker training is great, because it buys you the extra few seconds to get the treat out and give it to the dog without the dog thinking she was wrong. Get a nice training pouch and don't open it until after the behaviour has been performed unless you are using a luring method for the behaviour in question.

And then it also helps to teach the dog not to grab food just because it is there. We call this game "it's your choice" because the dog controls what happens and whether she gets the food. It's essentially an unspoken "leave it" behaviour. It can be done with toys as well as food. If the dog makes a good decision and doesn't grab at the food she gets a piece. If she tries to take it for herself, it gets covered up and becomes inaccessible to her. Her choice to leave the food alone is what results in her payoff.


Kristie and the Apex Agility Greyhounds: Kili (ATChC AgMCh Lakilanni Where Eagles Fly RN IP MSCDC MTRDC ExS Bronze ExJ Bronze ) and Kenna (Lakilanni Kiss The Sky RN MADC MJDC AGDC AGEx AGExJ). Waiting at the Bridge: Retired racer Summit (Bbf Dropout) May 5, 2005-Jan 30, 2019

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5 hours ago, krissy said:

I'd recommend some "it's your choice" training to harness the food motivation a little. Food motivation is absolutely amazing. Although you can certainly train dogs without food, it is by far one of the easiest reinforcers to work with and is one of the main things I look for in a dog. It's important to train our dogs not to grab though.

Highly recommend this! Our trainer called this skill "Doggy Zen" - your pup only gets what they want, when they stop trying to get it. It can apply to so many things in the dog's life. Polite loose-leash walking is doggy zen. Waiting to go through doors is doggy zen. Greeting strangers can be doggy zen. Go to mat before dinner is definitely doggy zen. Etc. Etc.


Batman (racing name CTW Battle Plan) adopted May 2011, passed away July 2017

Buffy (racing name CTW Bathsheba) adopted Oct 2012, passed away March 2022

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  • 6 months later...

Dear All
First of all, my apologies.  It's been 6 whole months since I came to you for help.  My goodness, having a greyhound (or any dog) really is a full-time job - along with being a parent and running a household plus the other stuff I do during the day that I actually get paid for - but it is one of the most rewarding! 
Anyway, I digress.  I promised myself I would come back with an update for you because I know it can be frustrating when you come to a forum and find lots of great advice given to someone but then no follow up as to whether it worked or not.  So here I am.

We've had Sable 7 months now and she's really come on in leaps and bounds from the right-in-your-face foodie that came to us in April.  We concentrated on training her to "wait" and "leave it" using the "it's your choice" method recommended by so many of you and the difference has been remarkable.  The children especially can walk around the house with plates of food, bags of crisps, popcorn or whatever and we can sit at the dining table to eat or even at Sable's level on the sofa and she will just come and check it out and then go and lie down. She never jumps up any more.  In fact I can't remember when she last did.  

I think it's important to say it was as much of a learning journey for us as it was for her.  Looking back, I know that we were nervous around her with food.  Reading over my original post, it all comes back to me.  If she came to me nosing my hand for the treat I was holding, I gave it up straight away!  Not surprising she thought she was on to a good thing.  I toughened up when I researched the training videos and realised that our Sable doesn't have a mean or aggressive bone in her body and that she would never actually harm me (which I think is what I was afraid of from a previous fostering experience).  My younger daughter, who was also very nervous, really took to training with her and now the two of them are the greatest of buddies - two gentle souls together. Sable learnt very quickly that she wouldn't get whatever treat I was holding until she backed off and left me alone.  She can "lie down", "wait" and "Leave it" to order and her impulse control is truly impressive.

Once we had that level of training down, the next step was eating meals with her in the room and I think here is another area where we unwittingly perpetuated (or at least prolonged) her behaviour.  For a long time, we chose avoidance as the line of least resistance.  The girls would eat in the front room with Sable outside and I would be standing up in the kitchen!!  At the time it seemed like the only way to eat in peace but ultimately, it just made everyone miserable and didn't actually solve anything.  My advice, for what it's worth, is that this kind of thing really needs to be tackled head on and it doesn't take long when you do that.  So we resolved to sit at the table or on the sofa to eat and if she got too close, we would turn our back, standing up if necessary, and use body-blocking (thank you, Victoria Stilwell on YouTube) until she got the message. Now, like I said, she comes over for a sniff and then goes and lies down.

I honestly don't know how long it would have taken us to get here, or if we ever would have got here, if it hadn't been for the support and advice I got from all of you so "Thank You" and I hope this update will give hope and inspiration to anyone else in a similar situation.



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