Pepe is an 8 year old Chihuahua /Papillon rescue. We've had him for 5 years. Recently he's decided that he won't eat unless we tell him it's ok. He'll just stand there, barking. Even if he's just going to grab a kibble for a snack. He's fed fresh food, which he loves, twice a day with a side of kibble that he sometimes saves for later.
The question why is hard to answer. We cannot ask your dog and cannot look inside his head. He did eat without permission in the past, so his current behavior is just a habit.
What's important is that his behavior is completely unnecessary. It's very much comparable to people claiming that their dogs won't eat anything unless they are fed by hand. The behavior started small and then got reinforced over time and now the dog acts like any food that isn't in a hand is poison. The behavior of your dog probably also started small, but the way you reacted to it told your dog somehow that this was the right way to act and now he does it every time.
The simple solution is:
- Give him his full food bowl
- Completely ignore any barking. Don't give him permission. Don't interact with him. Turn around and leave the room without interacting with the dog.
- Give him 20 minutes to eat his food.
- When he's finished eating (or if he didn't start eating after 20 minutes), take his food bowl away until his next meal time.
- Repeat the same process at the next meal time.
This teaches him that the signal to start eating is not you giving him permission, but the food bowl appearing in front of him.
Don't worry if he skips a meal or even an entire day of meals. Wolves and dogs have adapted to irregular mealtimes for thousands of years before we humans domesticated them.
If you want to read about similar problems people have with their dogs, please see these questions:
Dog refuses to eat unless fed by hand
Why won't my dog eat on her own?
Help! My dog wants permission to eat