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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi guys,

My boyfriend and I recently moved into a house together. We both had our dogs before we started dating. He has a dog Zeke (problem dog) who is a frenchie 5 years old, and I have my two and they get along just fine. My two are good eaters—they are on a feeding schedule twice a day when I feed them, they do not free graze where there is food all the time available, only when I give it and they do great. Zeke on the other hand always had food available to him at all times and ate whenever he wanted at their old house. He pretty much ruled my boyfriend and his house, there were no rules, no schedules, no training. When we moved in together we had to change that because my dogs would just eat all of his food so we put him on the same schedule. He did okay with that for about a month or so, then he quit eating all together—treats, food, people food, extras in his food to make it more appetizing, the whole 9 yards and nothing worked. Mind you, his regular food was never changed. We were at a complete loss and so frustrated. After reading many forums, we took all the extras out and stayed just with his regular familiar dry food. It got to the point where we could get him to eat, but only hand fed and coaxed by my boyfriend, no longer on his own, and not with me. He completely shuts down and just stares off and gets completely still if my boyfriend didn’t do that so that was the only way to get him to eat. That got old quick for him because it was just a pain and so frustrating so he started to consider rehoming the dog. (There is other factors too, like he chases the chickens and goes after the horses which could be dangerous) I didn’t agree so I hired a trainer and started working with him. The trainer suggested that we stick with the training schedule and if he doesn’t eat within 10 minutes of the food being set down, he misses that meal. We stuck with that for a while until he would go multiple days in a row, even a week without eating and started to become noticeably skinny! Ribs and spine showing and you could see it in his face (he was already a lean boy as it is.) so we nixed that and started hand feeding again just so he ate. My boyfriend got so frustrated the rehoming option came up again so I started working with him myself trying that feeding schedule again without my boyfriend in the picture with the dog. The issue is, he has SEVERE separation anxiety from my boyfriend and he does not listen to me at all! We started kenneling him at night and not letting him on the couch with us to help with the separation anxiety. He took to that well but the eating is the real issue. I contacted a trainer again and she said for me to do everything with him and bond with him so that’s what I did, it’s been weeks and nothing has changed. He won’t eat with me, period. Won’t even take a treat from me. I’ll ask my boyfriend to walk in the room during feeding time and he eats instantly, but when he walks out, he stops eating and gets still again. but we want him to listen to me as well! I think he has us so trained, especially my boyfriend. The dog being so stubborn about it and it’s affecting his Health at this point I think… it can’t be good for a dog to refuse to eat and drink for a week! the vet even recommended what the trainer said—for me to bond with the dog and get him to listen and eat with me before bringing my boyfriend back around him. He will eat when he’s hungry don’t give him stick it out. After all, he should listen to both of us, not just him if we are living together. At this point, The dog hasn’t eaten in a week and we are both at a total loss… he wants to rehome, maybe this home and the change isn’t right for him and that’s best? We want what is in the best interest for the dog. Please help! We’ve been in this house for 6 months for reference, you would think he’d be used to it by now… is it me? What should I do?
 

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If he eats with your boyfriend in the room, then do that. But you be the one to set his food down, etc. Basically, the boyfriend provides the security that he needs, but you provide the actual interaction. That will help him build a bond with you slowly without stressing him out.
 

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You say the vet's advised you to bond with him, but has he has a thorough veterinary exam since this behavior started to rule out any medical concerns? Especially with him not drinking as well as eating.

How is his behavior otherwise? You say he has separation anxiety, and I'm wondering if he's frequently or constantly exhibiting anxious behaviors in the home, like whining/crying, obsessive licking/scratching, inability to settle, exaggerated startle reflex, etc. If this dog is globally anxious to the point where he can't settle and feel safe eating in his own home, it might be time to talk about pharmaceutical intervention with the vet, and try him on an anxiety medication. If he settles fine in the home and just struggles with the eating and separation, it may or may not be a good option, depending on what you and your vet decide.
 

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Yes, the thing I don't see in your post is any mention of a thorough vet exam. Maybe some tests such as x-ray and/or ultra-sound of digestive tract. Thorough exam and maybe x-rays of mouth.

And be realistic or tell your boyfriend to be - the dog isn't eating or drinking. How exactly is rehoming going to solve that? He starves himself in someone else's house? You think adopters are standing in line and volunteering for that?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You say the vet's advised you to bond with him, but has he has a thorough veterinary exam since this behavior started to rule out any medical concerns? Especially with him not drinking as well as eating.

How is his behavior otherwise? You say he has separation anxiety, and I'm wondering if he's frequently or constantly exhibiting anxious behaviors in the home, like whining/crying, obsessive licking/scratching, inability to settle, exaggerated startle reflex, etc. If this dog is globally anxious to the point where he can't settle and feel safe eating in his own home, it might be time to talk about pharmaceutical intervention with the vet, and try him on an anxiety medication. If he settles fine in the home and just struggles with the eating and separation, it may or may not be a good option, depending on what you and your vet decide.
vet ruled out medical concerns, no problems in the mouth or anything. They pretty much said it’s an adjustment and he will eat when he’s hungry just like the trainer said. Although, they said if it isn’t getting better with time an appetite simulate would be a good idea.
As far as the anxiety, he did at first when we started crating him at night he would whine, scratch, and not settle. After a few days though, he started to feel comfortable in his cage and from across the house we are able to say “Zeke kennel” and he runs right in and lays down for the night. He gets the most anxious at feeding time, he gets so still and stares off with his ears back as soon as you set down the food and just won’t eat unless it’s hand fed by my boyfriend. Never with me, he won’t take a treat from me but will from my boyfriend. It’s so odd. Maybe he associates me with the change or feels jealous or something with another person being added to the family? I am the one who came in and gave him rules and took away his rein of ruling the house, I know that sounds ridiculous I just don’t know
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Yes, the thing I don't see in your post is any mention of a thorough vet exam. Maybe some tests such as x-ray and/or ultra-sound of digestive tract. Thorough exam and maybe x-rays of mouth.

And be realistic or tell your boyfriend to be - the dog isn't eating or drinking. How exactly is rehoming going to solve that? He starves himself in someone else's house? You think adopters are standing in line and volunteering for that?
that’s what I told him, I said it’s just going to push his issues to another person to deal with and be frustrated. We are trying our best to figure this out and work with him. No ex rays were done but he eats just fine when he’s hand fed by my boyfriend, the vet did do an exam and cleared him as healthy and fine just anxiety
 

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Does the vet know he hasn't been drinking, either? Dehydration can be seriously bad news, and if he's barely drinking anything for days at a time he can make himself very sick. If the vet isn't concerned about him not drinking for a week, I'd honestly go get a second opinion.

What does your feeding routine look like? Give us as much detail as possible, including how you interact with him (talking, watching him, how close you're standing, etc.)
 

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Have you tried feeding him separate from your other dogs? It may be that he is anxious about them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Does the vet know he hasn't been drinking, either? Dehydration can be seriously bad news, and if he's barely drinking anything for days at a time he can make himself very sick. If the vet isn't concerned about him not drinking for a week, I'd honestly go get a second opinion.

What does your feeding routine look like? Give us as much detail as possible, including how you interact with him (talking, watching him, how close you're standing, etc.)
this morning before we left I put the water in the room with him and saw that he drank while we were away! The vet said he wasn’t dehydrated or anything and that he will drink when he wants. Maybe I should get a second opinion for that.
The feeding routine is am around 9 I put the food down, my dogs eat right away, he just gets stiff. Tried feeding him alone and with the other dogs, same result. I tried moving out of the room even going outside and watching him through the window lol he just stand there staring at the wall over his food. Tried feeding him in other rooms like the living room and the kitchen where he is the most happy and still the same thing. After about 10 minutes I try to coax him just like my boyfriend does and he just stays stiff. I talk to him in a nice voice, hold the food up to him and he just turns his head away when I bring the food close to his face with my hand. I do exactly what my boyfriend does and nothing. My boyfriend can go in there and he eats right away, I just don’t understand! And the same thing in the pm around 9
 

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If you didn't see him drink for a week, then the vet checked him out and said he wasn't dehydrated, it sounds like he is drinking, just not necessarily while you're watching. That's less scary than not drinking at all, but definitely keep an eye on it. Not drinking anything is more dangerous more quickly than not eating anything, just like with humans.

It sounds like he has a room he stays in when you're gone, away from the other dogs, is this correct? If so, have you tried leaving his food in there (or in his crate) with him for an extended period, rather than putting a 10-20 minute time limit on it? I wonder if having a couple quiet hours alone with no social pressure will let him unwind and be comfortable enough to eat again.

Sometimes a sensitive dog will start getting freaked out by all the fuss made over getting them to eat, and get too stressed by the pressure to eat - weird, I know, but it does happen. Conventional wisdom does say that a healthy dog won't starve itself, but while that may be true for dogs holding out for 'better' food, it sounds to me like there's some kind of anxiety/stress element here. I'm no expert, just a nerd interested in dog behavior and training, so take that for what it's worth, and of course I can't see him in person to make a more accurate judgement, so take this for what it's worth! But it sounds like he might be too stressed to eat without your boyfriend there, rather than him being stubborn or spoiled.

How does he act if your boyfriend is feeding him and you're sitting with them on the floor? Will he refuse to eat if you're too close, or is he fine so long as your boyfriend is present? If he's fine with you when your BF is there, you can start by offering a treat or two while he's eating with your boyfriend supervising, even just dropping them into the bowl so he starts getting used to tasty things coming from you in a scenario where he's comfortable eating them.

I know you already have a trainer on-board, but given how serious this situation is (talk of rehoming, risk to the dog's health, etc), getting an evaluation from a qualified behaviorist might be a good option. A good behaviorist has some training in the science of dog behavior, whether it's a literal degree in animal behavior or a certification through a reputable third party organization like the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers or the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. A veterinary behaviorist is a fully qualified vet that has further specialized in behavior problems, so that's another option, though like all veterinary specialists they can be fairly pricey. Either way, an experienced, qualified behaviorist is going to focus more on identifying the root cause of a behavior problem, and then design an individualized program that aims to change that root cause. Think of a regular trainer like a schoolteacher - focusing on building skills and manners - and a behaviorist like a therapist - focusing on promoting a healthy mental and emotional state to be better able to put those skills and manners to use.
 

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I agree that I think there is a major stress factor there. That he goes "stiff" when you attempt to feed him, supports that.

If he will eat for your boyfriend, why doesn't your boyfriend feed him and let the dog simply get used to sharing a home with you and your dogs?

Basically, stop forcing him to accept you completely here and now. Give him space and time to adjust to your new living arrangements. It may take a long time for him to become comfortable. But trying to force the matter isn't working. Your boyfriend needs to put in the effort to help the dog through it all.

@DaySleepers - my mom boarded a cat who would purposely starve herself. It was a longterm board and the cat stopped eating soon after arriving. She started losing weight quickly and the vet had to tube feed her. There was nothing physically wrong with her. She'd gain weight and start eating on her own again, then a week or two later, would stop eating again. My mom ended up going through a cycle of: tube feed - eat on own - stop eating - tube feed... When the owners took her home, she was fine, but she did it if they had a pet sitter come in. It's very rare, but it can happen. The consensus was that she was just too stressed away from the owners and not eating was how she handled it.
 
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Yup, in my opinion "a healthy dog won't starve itself" (or cat) should come with a caveat that 'healthy' includes mental health. A highly stressed or anxious animal absolutely can starve itself past the point where it's safe. I was trying to say that 'waiting it out' might not work in this specific case, because this dog might be too stressed or anxious to eat even when he's starving. Sorry if that wasn't clear!
 

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Sorry, I understood and agreed with you. I was just giving an example that validates your hypothesis.

Back on topic, I really think if the dog will eat if the boyfriend is with him, then the boyfriend needs to step up and give the dog that comfort until the dog can adjust to having sibling dogs and a human mom.
 

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Hi guys,

My boyfriend and I recently moved into a house together. We both had our dogs before we started dating. He has a dog Zeke (problem dog) who is a frenchie 5 years old, and I have my two and they get along just fine. My two are good eaters—they are on a feeding schedule twice a day when I feed them, they do not free graze where there is food all the time available, only when I give it and they do great. Zeke on the other hand always had food available to him at all times and ate whenever he wanted at their old house. He pretty much ruled my boyfriend and his house, there were no rules, no schedules, no training. When we moved in together we had to change that because my dogs would just eat all of his food so we put him on the same schedule. He did okay with that for about a month or so, then he quit eating all together—treats, food, people food, extras in his food to make it more appetizing, the whole 9 yards and nothing worked. Mind you, his regular food was never changed. We were at a complete loss and so frustrated. After reading many forums, we took all the extras out and stayed just with his regular familiar dry food. It got to the point where we could get him to eat, but only hand fed and coaxed by my boyfriend, no longer on his own, and not with me. He completely shuts down and just stares off and gets completely still if my boyfriend didn’t do that so that was the only way to get him to eat. That got old quick for him because it was just a pain and so frustrating so he started to consider rehoming the dog. (There is other factors too, like he chases the chickens and goes after the horses which could be dangerous) I didn’t agree so I hired a trainer and started working with him. The trainer suggested that we stick with the training schedule and if he doesn’t eat within 10 minutes of the food being set down, he misses that meal. We stuck with that for a while until he would go multiple days in a row, even a week without eating and started to become noticeably skinny! Ribs and spine showing and you could see it in his face (he was already a lean boy as it is.) so we nixed that and started hand feeding again just so he ate. My boyfriend got so frustrated the rehoming option came up again so I started working with him myself trying that feeding schedule again without my boyfriend in the picture with the dog. The issue is, he has SEVERE separation anxiety from my boyfriend and he does not listen to me at all! We started kenneling him at night and not letting him on the couch with us to help with the separation anxiety. He took to that well but the eating is the real issue. I contacted a trainer again and she said for me to do everything with him and bond with him so that’s what I did, it’s been weeks and nothing has changed. He won’t eat with me, period. Won’t even take a treat from me. I’ll ask my boyfriend to walk in the room during feeding time and he eats instantly, but when he walks out, he stops eating and gets still again. but we want him to listen to me as well! I think he has us so trained, especially my boyfriend. The dog being so stubborn about it and it’s affecting his Health at this point I think… it can’t be good for a dog to refuse to eat and drink for a week! the vet even recommended what the trainer said—for me to bond with the dog and get him to listen and eat with me before bringing my boyfriend back around him. He will eat when he’s hungry don’t give him stick it out. After all, he should listen to both of us, not just him if we are living together. At this point, The dog hasn’t eaten in a week and we are both at a total loss… he wants to rehome, maybe this home and the change isn’t right for him and that’s best? We want what is in the best interest for the dog. Please help! We’ve been in this house for 6 months for reference, you would think he’d be used to it by now… is it me? What should I do?
 

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If your boyfriend is ready to re-home him, he probably senses that and that his connection with his security person is tenuous. That would cause extreme anxiety. Keeping him instead of find him a loving, secure, safe home is akin to maintaining a relationship when one party wants out. Painful for everyone. Good luck with your boy.
 
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