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Control The Food, Control The Dog

Controlling your dog’s food helps put you in the position of leader, and that’s an important position to for you to be in.

I Don't Want To To Be Leader - I Don't Want To Control Anyone!

For some people, the words "control" and "leader" are loaded with negativity, so let me talk a little about them.

A lot of people strongly object to the idea of controlling anything to do with their dog and being leader, because they immediately associate those words with forcefulness and bullying. And it’s true that some people control by manipulation, and others lead by force - but that’s the exact opposite of what I’m talking about here.

Think of the best teacher you’ve ever had and I’m sure you’ll recall that he controlled the room and led everyone in the class in a way that didn’t feel like you were being manipulated or bullied in any way. And that’s the kind of control and leading I’m talking about: gentle control and compassionate leadership.

Your Dog Needs You To Be Leader

Understand that your dog lives in a human-made, human-dominated world that he doesn’t truly comprehend. You therefore need to guide (control) your dog, and be his guardian (leader) to keep him safe.

Think of it as being exactly the same as acting as guide and guardian to a toddler - except that most toddlers (unless intellectually disabled) will grow up to understand the world, while a dog never does.

Sure, adult dogs understand more than puppies do, but they never fully understand this world we humans have created that they're made to live in. (Hell, a lot of the time highly intelligent adult humans find it hard to wrap their brains around some aspects of the world we’ve created, so it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that non-humans don’t understand it all either!)

What's Food Got To Do With Leadership?

Getting back to the title of this Dog Blog, being leader to your dog has several aspects to it, food being but one of them. Specifically, controlling the food.

Food means life or death to all living beings, so it’s very high up on the list of importance in a dog’s world. The individual who controls the food is therefore the one who quite literally controls life and death, and so is very high up in the pack.

(And do remember that, as much as you may think of your dog as your baby - and they are our beloved babies! - your dog regards the family unit as a pack, so you must take that into consideration at all times.)

I've Got The Why - What About The How?

Does controlling the food mean teasing your dog with the promise of food but not giving it? NO. Does it mean withholding food? DOUBLE NO! Does it mean starving your dog? INFINITY NO!

Controlling the food involves getting your dog to drop/stay until you give him leave to eat by saying the release word free.

(Note the release word is free and not “okay” as is often recommended. “Okay” is a terrible release word as it’s used far too frequently in conversation. For example, you might say to your friend, “Okay, I’ll see you later”. Your dog hears the word “Okay”, and thinks he's released from the stay when he's not - and if you're in a potentially dangerous situation, it could end very badly.)

Is That It?

So is a drop/stay until you say free all it means to control the food? Almost.

It also means not leaving food in your dog’s bowl for him to eat whenever he wants. This is because if your dog can eat whenever he wants, you can’t possibly be controlling the food. On this same point, once your dog walks away from his food bowl, the bowl must get taken up if it still has food in it, and only get put down again at the next meal.

It's Different With Water

Although it should go without saying, I will add that water should ALWAYS be available to your dog. Always, always, always. You should control the food - NOT the water!


Here's the point-form summary of how to help elevate you to the status of leader via food control:

  • Tell your dog to drop/stay, pause for several seconds, and then say free to signal that it’s okay for him to eat.

  • Don’t leave food in your dog’s bowl for him to eat at any time.

  • Take the bowl up once your dog walks away from his food.

It may all seem too simple. The actions may seem so small that they might feel insignificant. Well, as I said before, food control is just one aspect of leadership. But also, you know as well as I do that actions don’t need to be big to be important.

You scratching your dog’s belly might seem like something small to the point of being of little significance, but it’s an important moment of pleasure and bonding for both you and your dog. You hugging your child before you part might seem small and insignificant, but the action is a show of love - and what else is more important than love?

Which leads us right back to the basis of this (and every other) Dog Blog: love. It’s a show of love for you to guide your dog through life, and be his guardian. It’s not abusive, it’s not manipulative, and it’s not bullying to exercise leadership. Quite the opposite: it only serves to keep your beloved dog safe, and that is a duty of care that you owe to your beloved dog.

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Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

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