Feeding Time: On the Dot, or Not?

I have long advised friends and family members to keep their
dogs’ mealtimes vague, in order to prevent “clock-watching” and demand
behaviors from dogs who are anticipating their breakfast or dinner. Not for me,
those dogs who wake me by barking for breakfast, no matter whether I’m sick or
worked until 3 am the night before. Not for me, those dogs who start pacing,
drooling, or staring at 4 pm every afternoon. By keeping mealtimes somewhat
unpredictable, within a range of an hour or two, I haven’t ever had to deal
with those anticipatory behaviors – even when Daylight Saving Time changes. I’m
not one of the people who posts memes and pictures of my dogs freaking out
about dinnertime twice a year!

Oh, sure, either of my dogs might do a little happy skip in
the kitchen, as I walk toward the dog food area – which happens to be next to
the microwave in which I heat my coffee. But if I tell them, “Not yet!” they
resign themselves to waiting – alertly, but not underfoot. Or, dog forbid,
whining under their breath.

Another Dog Is Throwing Things Off

Things have gotten a little testy over the past two weeks,
however. I have been dog-sitting a 14-year-old deaf dog, little Leila, who
belongs to a dear friend. Leila has strong opinions about mealtime – and spins
and chases her tail for attention, and barks, barks, barks, when she is certain
she’s going to starve without food. I have a hard time with barking – but what
am I going to do? She’s old, and deaf! Easiest just to feed her when she starts
up! Naturally, my giving into her demands has resulted in some incredulous
“WHAT DID SHE JUST DO?” behavior from my two dogs. “SHE got fed and we did not?
Perhaps WE should skip about and make noises!”

Mom, pleeease.

Taking my own advice when it comes to my own dogs, I’m
ignoring the noises and skipping about. Otto gets it, and retires to the floor
with a groan and a politely wagging tail. Woody is more persistent, and keeps
trying a charm offensive, coming to me every time I sit down at the kitchen
table with my laptop or at my desk in my office, and placing his heavy head in
my lap, looking up at me with imploring eyes and that seductive slowly wagging
tail. “Pleeeeaaassse? We are so VERY hungry.”

Prepping For Otto’s Surgery

Worse: Over the past two days, it has been necessary to skip
Otto’s breakfast. Yesterday he had a chest x-ray, in preparation for today’s
general anesthesia: He is having yet another tooth removed – he has
somehow suffered another slab fracture of a molar (this is his third), so the
tooth has to be removed. Also, the vet is going to scope his throat; he’s been
having a lot of regurgitation, and we have been treating him for acid reflux
and a possible esophageal ulcer. And when Otto has to go without breakfast, I
don’t feed Woody, either; doing so would be just mean.

“Some experts recommend making dogs fast one day a week all the time,” I tell my dogs. “You are going to live. Mealtime is just delayed.” So the moping and charming persists for hours.

Do you have set mealtimes, or do you wing it with your dogs?

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