Ohio — An Akron, Ohio, couple was confounded when
their rescued great Pyrenees mountain dog began
scattering her food around the kitchen and burying it
under throw rugs.
Michel, a retired postal worker, began searching for
reasons why the normally calm, 6-year-old Maddie began
exhibiting the bizarre behavior about a year ago. His
wife, Jeanette, noted that it started while they were
caring for their son’s puppy.
started taking food from her bowl and giving it to the
puppy. She was trying to make sure the puppy ate,"
ancestors were bred in the Pyrenees mountain range
between southern France and northern Spain to protect
livestock. The dogs are famed for their calm, composed
demeanor. Their patience makes them great companions for
children, and their loyalty makes them great pets.
behavior stumped the couple who are very well versed in
dog care. After the puppy went home and the behavior
escalated, Jim consulted books written by highly
respected animal behaviorists.
I was looking for answers to this specific problem. I
wasn’t looking at the whole picture," he said he
couple took the normally docile dog to their
veterinarian for a physical exam. The vet did not have a
clue as to what was causing the change in Maddie’s
behavior, which was quickly turning into an obsession.
tried different methods to help her, including throwing
away the food she spread as a punishment. But that only
caused Maddie to lose weight.
March, the couple appealed to the Beacon Journal’s pet
expert panel that answers questions from readers about
animal issues each week.
Elizabeth Feltes of the Behavior Clinic in Olmsted Falls
suggested (after Maddie was given a clean bill of health
by her vet), that the couple put her food inside
enrichment toys so she would have to "work"
Feltes’ answer sparked an "aha" moment, said
all started to make sense. Maddie is a working dog and
needs to be challenged. She needed a job to do," he
she was bred to sit quietly but constantly be alert for
predators, Maddie always appears calm. It was easy to
forget that her daily 2-mile walks weren’t enough to
keep her brain engaged, too, he said.
and Jeanette, a retired grade-school teacher, had worked
as a Doggie Brigade team at Akron Children’s Hospital.
They were forced to give up the activity when Jeannette
began volunteering at the hospital.
favorite place was the registration area where kids
would wait for surgery," said Jeanette.
sensed the kids’ nervousness. She would go over and
place her head in their laps. It would break your
heart," said Jim.
lost her "job" when she dropped out of the
Doggie Brigade program, they realized.
getting Dr. Feltes’ advice, the couple began pulling
out toys that Maddie had never shown any interest in.
They loaded one with kibble, making a game out of
feeding time. Over the span of five days, Maddie
gradually learned a new job, spinning the toys around to
release her food.
the toy is empty of food and Maddie is finished eating,
she noses it under an antique dry sink in the foyer,
where Jim or Jeanette will find it and refill it at
no longer spreads food, they said.
but surely, the problem is disappearing," the
Firestone Park, Ohio, couple wrote in May. "We have
the occasional piece from her toy on the floor, and we
have to retrieve the toy from under the dry sink … but
that is a pleasure."
Feltes said she was glad the problem has been solved.
such a pleasure helping pet owners read their companion
animal’s behavior and help find a solution that works
for both the two- and four-legged family members."