Let’s get this straight. You never own a Maremma Sheepdog. From the outset, you and the dog harmoniously agree to symbiotically co-exist under one roof and if you cannot accept that, avoid this breed.

My Cal is a perfect example and to illustrate my point, look no further than his attitude towards food. In short, his world does not revolve around food. Yes, he enjoys a meal but will only eat when hungry and he stops eating when he is satisfied. (If I took a leaf out of this Maremma book, I might carry fewer kilos!)

There are days when Cal eats absolutely nothing. If he were any other breed, I would think it’s time to call the vet. But no, I wait patiently for Cal to begin his foodie routine. On day 2 or even 3 of his fast, Cal will quietly appear in the kitchen, sniff at the counter tops and gently wag his tail. I will then offer him, by hand, some tasty morsel and ask if he is ready to eat? He will sniff at the food but never take it. Instead, he will turn tail and trot into the lounge where he will lie down and wait. The uninitiated could be forgiven for interpreting this as a “no, thank you I am not hungry”. I know differently. He has asked me to prep his meal and present it to him. Which I do, pat him on the head and suggest he eats. He will watch me for a while and then agree, this is a good idea and very calmly begin to nibble at his food – never gobbling or wolfing it down. So I leave him to it and he will slowly, with impeccable table manners, clean the bowl out. If this meal satisfies him, he will then just wander off. If he needs more, he will repeat and re-initiate the whole ritual by re-appearing quietly in the kitchen. On days when he is really hungry, he and I have been known to do this weird meal dance up to 4 times before he is satiated.

Some have said I have spoilt the dog. Perhaps. But I see it differently. I have always maintained that one of the worst parenting mistakes that can be made is turning food and meal times into a battle ground. I avoided this pit fall successfully with my son, so why not my dog?

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