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So I asked my friend Joe (Joe More), not to be confused with my dog Joey, what he thought the chances of Joey eating the kidney in his meal today were after refusing to eat it yesterday; he hummed and hawed.  In the end he gave in to my hints that he should go with Joey eating it. From my perspective, the answer was obvious.  All of my dogs eat their raw meat and bone dinner as though they are eating an animal carcass that was recently captured and thrown in a bowl for them. In fact, I will write another story soon about how valuable this is to me and my dogs.

My vote on Joey was for yes; he would eat the kidney the second time.  Although I had found my dog Dylan sniffing at his kennel where he eats the previous day, only to discover the nice big piece of kidney plopped there under his upside down bowl, I was pretty sure he would eat it the next day. I had chopped smaller pieces and spread it around a bit.  Since he eats like a dog, gulping his food when possible (they are not humans and only chew when necessary), he was bound to just take it all in.  And so he did so and again today too, just gulping it all in.  Tonight I will again give him kidney, but this time in one big piece and my vote is on the fact that he eats it like everything else, voraciously :-)

This is an example of simple desensitization.  Smaller pieces, spread out in the rest of the meal he truly likes are easily ignored, while enjoying the meal. With food that is so pleasurable, I don’t need much in the way of caution, or repetitions, as the pleasure is so intense.  He will quickly desensitize to that special smell of kidney and it will in no time be enjoyed like everything else.  How quickly this can occur is dependent on two things.  The intensity of the pleasure and the intensity of the fear, or in this case, the smell. If they are eating kibble and the pleasure of the food is so-so at best, then it cannot be used to overcome anything.

Why would I want to feed them something they did not want in the first place? Especially something that smells like kidney smells.  Well, the answer is quite simple.  I am trying to feed them what is best for them and not just what they like.  That is my role as their guardian.  Far too often, people give in and give up on their dogs and my intention is to offer a way that you can have both a dog who enjoys their food and eats what is best for them.  I don’t think I could eat kidney, but I am not eating it am I?

I often hear people say their dog does not like this and won’t eat that.  I too once had a similar problem.  Fortunately I have been able to make the changes I wanted to make in the best interest of my dog. In a diet of raw meat and bone, it is important that I feed a variety of organs and species if possible.  A little variability ensures they get all of the nutrients they need at some point.  Organ meats are rich in protein, minerals, vitamins, and many other dietary requirements.  Adding kidney is a way for me to increase the variety from the liver, gizzards, intestine (green tripe), I currently feed them.

I also asked my friend Joe what he thought the likelihood of Jimmi, Joey’s brother, liking a big spot of kidney.  Again, he hummed and hawed. To defend Joe; he has not been close to my dogs for long, so it is only fair that he does not have the answer.  Maybe he is just smart and knows the questions I asked are loaded and have answers.  They are in fact, trick questions.  Although I have never fed kidney to Jimmi, I was certain she would eat it.  Why could I be so certain?

Again, the voracity with which she eats her meal and follows her food prior to getting it.  Since I randomize who of Jimmi and Joey gets food first, she never quite knows until I go to open her door. She follows it like a hawk and then dives into it.  She eats every morsel without hesitation until every drop is cleaned.  Then (like Joey) just in case, she flips the bowl when she is done for one last lick.  Every molecule is gone!  My fraternity friends will like the fact that my dogs tip their bowl over when finished, a sign something is truly empty.

I knew before I gave her the kidney, she would trust what was in the bowl was good for her,without fear or hesitation.  As expected, she dove in and ate everything there was to offer.  These two have been fed raw food since they were weaned, so they are completely desensitized to the textures, scents and taste of raw food. It would be much harder for a dog who has been fed kibble, or even cooked human food to accept such changes so easily. The process of transitioning dogs onto a raw diet can be much harder and takes a effort to desensitize them carefully as you transition to this type of diet.

I wish everyone had a dog who enjoyed food the way mine do. It truly allows me to know right away when something is wrong with them.  Whether the problem is in their digestive tract, or not; like you and I when we feel badly, they don’t eat as much, or as enthusiastically.  This is a key clinical sign to me and something  I watch for every day. It can make a difference.

Lastly, Stevie Ray;  Stevie Ray, Dylan and Jagger had once refused kidney quite a while ago and I had never offered it to any of them again.  Well I am trying to be a little more variable in their diet, even though they have had good variability for awhile.  I am always trying to do more and improve my care of my dogs. So once again, I just plopped a big piece of kidney in the center with all of the other things she liked. Once again, I saw the usual behavior.  She ate everything voraciously and emptied the bowl, cleaning everything, as I expected. Not a surprise at all.

In the time since the last time I tried to give Stevie Ray kidney, my meals have become more varied and they are already eating a more rounded diet.  Her intensity has grown for her food throughout her life, likely as a result of adding new things to the menu.  I exercise my dogs regularly and I keep my dogs fit and lean, with only small amounts of body fat.  This mans they are generally somewhat hungry in addition to giving me room to give food for training and have that food truly mean something to them.

I have not mentioned Dylan, because I am currently keeping her off pork to  see if it is causing soft stool.  That is another story, for another time though.  She will get to try kidney.  Maybe it is beef kidney and not pork, or maybe pork is not the issue.  For that only time and patience will tell.  But I will enjoy the process of giving her the kidney.  She too eats everything voraciously.  Four for four in this household.  I am certain I can get her to eat kidney although she too has refused it before.  This is when I knew my rescue dog, who in her early days was wild and foraged for food herself, was not indiscriminate in what she ate although she had always appeared to be. But I’ll bet she eats kidney now :-)


Richard Ford, My Bullseye View

I have devoted much of my time for more than a decade, dedicated to learning the behavior of my canine friends and their owners and sharing that with others either through education, or training. I have observed and studied both the behavior of people and their dogs during every day life, during training, and in particular, during the performance of trained behavior in public, or at specific events for dogs and their owners. In addition to training behavior in dogs and people, I am often asked to help deal with stress and anxiety, or fear related issues of dogs in every day life, or specifically for performance activities. More recently, I have also been consulting people with very specific health issues in their dogs and assisting them specifically in saving the life of their beloved friend.

3 Responses to “Kidney: My Dog’s Acquired Taste – Using Desensitization”

  1. As expected, Jeoy, Jimmi and Stevie Ray are all eating big lumps of kidney thrown on the top of their other food. No need to hide, or bury it any more. This demonstrates the value of knowing your dog and knowing what they love so you can use it to help them. Caring what they eat is so important and can help you save their life one day even.


  2. Supplementing your dogs raw meal with organ meat as you stated provides many specific nutrients that are needed to keep our pets healthy. Though one does need to be informed that buying from animal sources that are not raised organically can be counter productive. Kidneys and Liver that are not organically raised have been found to contain, toxic metals, antibiotics,and sulpha drugs. What are some of the side effects of sulpha drugs..Kidney damage! When buying organ meat shop organic. Support your local farmer who raises their livestock humanely and follows principles of sustainability.

  3. I totally agree about using organic meats and certainly because of the reasons you mention. Especially when feeding organs such as kidney and liver. I would still encourage the occasional use of non-organic products over not feeding any organ meat, as organ meat is required for a balanced diet when feeding a raw diet. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to feed organic, but non organic is still much better than a kibble diet, or a cooked food diet in most cases. Preferably, even non organic products would best be purchased from a local supplier as well. And certainly I would probably switch up what I am feeding over time and make sure variety is present. Also, sources other than beef, pork and chicken might be better. Grass fed beef is also better and I feed more buffalo, although I have not tracked down organs, because it is generally leading a more natural life.

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