Poison Proofing Your
By Donna K. Lindsey
Educator/Trainer Castle Kennels, New Castle, VA
Poison proofing dogs can be
a life-saving task to teach every canine companion. It can be especially
important for guardian dogs like the fila brasileiro. If someone wants in
your home or yard and they know you have a fila they also know they need
some way to get through that dog. Poisoning is an easy way to achieve this
since most dogs will eat just about anything on the ground.
been varying methods of poison proofing taught over the years. Many of
them, when you think about it don't make a whole lot of sense. I will go
through some of these briefly.
One method that used to be common was teaching the dog to only eat food
fed by the owner. Okay. What happens when the owner gets in an accident
and can't make it home for days or the owner decides to go on vacation
and needs to board the dog? Not very practical. Another method was to
only feed the dog from the left hand. The theory was that most people
are right-handed and would offer Fido food from the wrong hand.
guess this is okay if there were never any left-handed burglars. The
other most common method was to teach the dog to only eat from a certain
bowl or type of bowl. This had its own flaws as well. If you teach Fido
to only eat from one bowl you are in trouble if that bowl breaks or gets
lost! What if
something happens and someone else needs to feed the dog and they don't have
this bowl available? Once again, Fido will go hungry.
So what is a more practical way to achieve poison proofing? Though there is
no totally flawless method, there is one that is much more practical and
works well in most cases. This is what I have found to be the best over the
years. This is teaching your dog not to eat, pickup or mouth ANYTHING on the
ground. Another aspect is that the dog only eats when it is told it can eat.
Giving a command like "Okay" is simple to remember and to teach.
Poison proofing takes a lot of time, consistency, and patience. It can take
months for your dog to be totally poison proofed and reinforcement lessons
should be given. So how do you start poison proofing your dog?
First, you need to start with basic obedience. You need to have a
relationship with your canine companion. Basic obedience commands will give
you a foundation to start.
Some basic rules to remember as you get started are:
feed your dog in the house or in his/her kennel. Don't feed him/her in
do poison proofing ON LEASH for the first few months.
use treats as a reward when poison proofing. Use praise.
EVER let the dog get the "bait" you put on the ground.
to always put your "bait" away when you are done training. Don't leave
it there for your furry friend to find later or you will have defeated
the purpose of the lessons.
and consistent. Be patient.
starting to poison proof you need to teach your dog the "Okay" command.
Whenever you feed your dog make him/her sit or stand quietly. I prefer
"sit." Once Fido is sitting tell him/her "Okay" in a happy voice and put the
food bowl down. No need to tease him/her and try to make this into a game of
Simon Says. Just every time you feed your dog make him/her sit and then tell
him/her "Okay." Also do this with treats. I always make my dogs work for any
treats they get. This can be a simple "sit" and then say "Okay" and give the
treat. Start this at least one week before starting your formal poison
proofing lessons. Remember to do this every time you feed from here on out.
Now for the first lesson. Your dog should be slightly hungry when you work
on this so that he/she is more apt to try to get the food. Put some of
his/her regular food in a bowl and put it in the yard. For now we only want
to use food in a bowl so that we are teaching Fido that the only place to
eat is in the house or kennel. Even bowls are off limits if they are not in
his/her normal eating area. Start by walking around the yard (on leash), but
not near the bowl. Do some sits, some heeling, just meander around. Now,
walk past the bowl. If your dog goes to sniff the bowl let him/her get a
sniff, but don't let them even get a bite.
As soon as
they have gotten a whiff of the food give a correction and tell him/her to
"Leave It" in a firm calm voice while you keep walking. As they leave the
bowl give verbal praise as you keep moving. The reason we don't want to
correct as soon as they head toward the bowl without them even smelling it
is that they need to learn that the smell of food doesn't mean they get to
eat. We also want them to have a chance to learn to think about what they
are doing. Repeat this a few times. Make sure to go off and do other things
in between like sitting or heeling or walking on the other side of the yard.
Repeat this exercise for a few days until your dog is starting to ignore the
bowl or at least move away quickly. Then start putting different food in the
bowl. Use really yummy stuff like hotdogs, steak, cheese, etc. Leftovers are
good to use also. You want to repeat the process with every food. After
about a week I start adding more bowls with different things around the
yard. Always make sure Fido gets to smell what he is leaving, but NEVER gets
a bite. After a day or so of this I put the dog on a flexi-lead or long line
and let him/her mill around and be further away from me when I correct and
tell him/her to "leave it."
The next step is to take the bowls away and put food directly on the ground.
Again, you repeat the exercise. Consistency is the key. After a few days of
working your dog in your own yard with food on the ground take him/her to
parks, parking lots, friends houses, etc and practice. I use an e-collar to
proof this after my dog is consistently leaving the food alone on command on
lead. If you are not familiar with using an e-collar I suggest using fishing
line or light clothesline cord to correct to simulate being off lead.
Also at this point in training, which should have taken at least a month to
progress to, I stop using the "leave it" command. If Fido now goes for the
food don't say anything. Just give a collar correction.
To be done correctly poison proofing should take months and every few weeks
set the dog up for a reminder lesson. Training is never "finished," but is
ongoing throughout the dog's life.
While we are using the "Leave It" command let me say that this command can
be useful for things other than food. For the socks lying on the floor, the
baby's toy, a bottle in a field, just about anything you don't want your dog
to pick up or put his mouth on. I also use the "Leave It" command for
teaching my dogs to not chase cats, not eat dead things they come across, to
leave snakes and other dangers alone.
Just remember. This may take many months to teach to your dog, but it could
save his life!
Copyright Donna K. Lindsey 2005