By Susan Smith, East Valley Dog Training 

Answers to questions are based on the information provided. It’s always a good idea to have your pet thoroughly examined by a veterinarian when having behavior problems. Although I can give general information and management suggestions on serious behavior problems such as aggression, issues such as these can be a very serious problem and a certified dog trainer should be consulted. 

I have 3 pugs, Cecil 4, Odin 1 and Olga 4 months. Why will they not eat unless I’m in the room with them? – Leisa

Another interesting question from Leisa. Unfortunately, I can’t answer the “why.” However, dogs are creatures of habit, so if they’ve developed the habit of eating when you are in the room with them, they may not even realize there’s another option. If this is not a problem for you, it’s not a big problem for the pugs unless you ever need them to spend the night away from you. However, healthy dogs won’t starve themselves to death, so when they’re hungry enough, they’ll eat.

If you’d like to change their behavior, there are a couple of ways you can go about it. The easiest is to just leave the room – again, when they’re hungry, they’ll eat! Or, you can gradually move away from where you normally wait toward the next room, staying at each distance until they’re comfortable enough to eat. When you reach the doorway, gradually disappear, putting half your body through the door, then three-quarters, then all of you but only disappear for a count of 5 then reappear. Then disappear again, and reappear. Gradually increase the time you’re gone and continue doing this until they eat throughout your absence. Once they eat their entire meal with you gone, you’re probably over the hurdle.

If you have questions for the trainer, please send them to:

Susan Smith, CDBC, CPDT-KA, is a dog trainer in San Tan Valley, AZ, specializing in pet dog training as well as cat and parrot training—from obedience behaviors to serious problems such as aggression. She can be contacted at:

Sue is also the owner of Raising Canine, LLC which provides professional education to animal trainers.