“Picky”, “Fussy”, “Bored”
These are words we hear all-too often from concerned pet parents ready to throw in the towel. From ages 6 months to 10 years, we hear you pet parents and we want to help ease some of your frustrations. After all, we’re pet parents too.
So, when Corey isn’t so quick to offer you toppers and Meghan gives you her infamous interrogation style of questioning, don’t be offended – we’re here to help. “Turns his nose up to it”, “he’s not really into it”, and “seems bored of it” aren’t usually descriptors of dogs around food.. yet why do we hear it so often?
Picky Dogs are not born, they are made.
When battling the ever-frustrating picky eater, there’s one thing to be clear on – dogs aren’t born picky eaters. A dog’s stomach is similar to ours in that after a few hours of eating the stomach will begin to empty. After 8-10 hours and a now empty stomach, the stomach will send signals to the brain alerting the dog they are hungry. So where is the disconnect? Why are we feeding our dogs supper but suddenly they don’t want to eat?
Sometimes the solution is stopping a small habit we created.
If your dog isn’t eating their breakfast or supper, we want you to carefully take a look at the list of items below that may be contributing to your dog not eating.
- Is your dog of perfect health?
Often paired with lethargy, a dog not eating could be the result of disease or infection. If your dog isn’t acting like their self (and god knows dogs are never NOT themselves), consult your veterinarian.
- Are you feeding by your pet food’s daily feeding guidelines?
Sometimes it’s as simple as you’ve overfed your furry pal. They DO get full despite what Golden Retrievers will try and argue.
How many treats are you allotting per day? Sometimes we overtreat and that too can curb an appetite! If you want your pup to eat, then don’t spoil their supper. Treats, scraps, your kids’ droppings, their dinner, are all calories. And it all adds up.
- Biologically appropriate food
In some cases, over the years we have noticed an uptick in a dog’s appetite simply due to changing a dog’s diet from a rice/corn-based product to a more meat-inclusive one. Introducing a fully-balanced meat topper can also be a great idea if you’re interested in experimenting with a raw diet or plans to transition to one.
Do you free-feed or do you feed meals at meal times? Unfortunately, free-feeding does have its down sides. Ranging from attracting insects in your home to keeping tracks of HOW MUCH your pet actually eats. Also, remember that metabolism? It’s good to know when they’re hungry and to keep that routine, but also, it’s important for house-training and knowing your pet’s regular BM schedule. Free feeding takes away the big hunger that comes from an empty stomach and it’s always readily available making it less desirable than a food you have to wait for.
- Constant switching and toppers
While we encourage toppers for health benefits and a rotating your dogs food receipes in the same brand, enabling a “picky eater” using toppers and switching their food frequently can show its disadvantages. Switching foods often can upset a dog’s stomach as we know due to meat-inclusion changes between brands. Also, it teaches the dog “Well, if I don’t eat this… they will give me something new and exciting in a day.” Sometimes the dog trains us, and we don’t even realize it.
- Hand feeding
We’ve heard it time and time again “I feed them by hand just to get them to eat so I can get to work”. Though a fun bonding experience, giving food by hand is similar to rewarding with treats, which is why they love it. But, that’s not practical for parents on the go. Great for new puppies to treat train but sadly this isn’t practical and you’ll never get to work on time. Plus, who wants to tell the dog sitter “Yes, I’ve left you instructions and yes you have to hand feed them”.
- Homemade food or scraps
So, your pup won’t eat their kibble but loves your lasagna.
Well my friend, you’ve created a monster. But also, can I be your dog?
Giving your pet YOUR food and table scraps is not only unbalanced, it’s a much more palatable option for them making it almost impossible at times to get them to eat their dry, processed, low temperature baked meat pellets. And going back to the point about them training us, they will wait until there is something more delicious offered and then it’s a slippery slope to you creating your own meals every day which HAVE to be balanced nutritionally. Trust me, it’s fun and it’ll be nice to give them moisture-rich food but if you’re going that route you might as well do a Raw diet.
Okay, fine I’ve taken your questionnaire now what.
Remember these points:
- Don’t be quick to switch brands – this can actually be a negative to your dog’s metabolism and nutrition. However, if your meal isn’t a meat-rich diet – then maybe consider going that route. After all, it’s what they’re built for
- Check the feeding guideline (use less active where applicable) and make sure you’re not overfeeding
- Try one meal a day instead of two. Some dogs will only be hungry for that dinner – and if they didn’t have a brekkie and a day’s worth of treats – they’ll be hungry for that dinner meal
- Put the food down, if they don’t eat right away, take the food back. Try again in 20 minutes and if they still won’t eat then try again tomorrow. They won’t starve – we promise)
- A dog will eat when they are hungry, if they are healthy
- Dogs are not born picky
- Don’t be afraid to wait it out. Even if it takes a day, they will eat eventually and if they don’t eat for one day we promise you’re not starving them (but also make sure they’re of good health)
- Stay away from nature’s nuggets like rabbit poop and river water
- Toppers and other supplements are great, but don’t use as an enticer. Kibble or Raw on their own is balanced and should be delicious enough for a dog to want to eat
- Ease up on the treats. If you notice their appetite is low, no treats. That includes and is especially the case with bully sticks and raw bones
- You’re not a bad parent if you don’t knee-jerk react to an uneaten meal
- If your dog is a puppy and they are not eating their meals, be even more stringent as you have a loooooong road ahead of you if you play this game. Believe me by the time that dog is 6 you’ll be hand feeding it caviar and cream cheese with chopsticks while singing “Yankee Doodle” because that’s the only way they’ll eat. For that week.
We want you to know we hear you and we see your frustrations when it comes to feeding the right food in the right way for your pet. A lot of you are parents to humans but first-time pet owners. Some of you have owned dogs your whole life but have never had a picky one.
Know that the questions we ask and the advice we give is based on wanting your home and your lifestyle to be one that is comfortable and manageable. We also appreciate that every situation and every family is unique so not all solutions will work for every dog.
Our hope is that we give you the tough love so we can empower you to give your pet the tough love.
- Corey White