Do you wonder why your dog isn’t eating his food? Do you worry that he may not be getting enough of the right nutrients for growth, development and good health?
First make sure that you are not feeding too much human food and dog treats. A biscuit here and a piece of toast there and before you know it any sensible dog will be turning up his nose at dog food.
The good news is that all dogs can be trained to have healthy eating habits. Picky eaters are made, not born.
First make sure that your dog doesn’t have a health problem. If your dog is usually a good eater and suddenly refuses his food completely, get him to the vet within 24 hours as your dog might have a serious illness like Biliary (Tick fever). He also might have a rotten or broken tooth which causes pain when eating.
If your new puppy refuses food completely, take him to the vet for a check up before you assume that he is just a picky eater. Also make sure that you continue the diet fed by the breeder, gradually changing over to what ever you have decided you will be feeding your puppy. A puppy in a new environment, overwhelmed by new sights and smells may not eat well in the first few days. Offering familiar food will reduce the stress.
Why Won’t My Dog Eat?
Most dogs fit into one of the following two categories: Those who eat to live and those who live to eat. The first kind are discerning about what they put into their mouths. They take a while to eat or will walk away, leaving food in their bowl. The second kind will eat anything put in front of them and spend their spare time foraging for anything else edible.
Your dog’s breed can also be an influencing factor. Most Labradors and “Township Dogs” are food crazy while some small breeds like Maltese and Yorkies are more selective.
Your dog’s age will also influence his enthusiasm to eat. Tiny puppies are still experimenting with food. Older puppies and adolescents need more food to maintain their energy levels and older, more sedentary dogs require smaller amounts of food.
Your new puppy’s eating habits will be influenced by his early experience while still at the breeder. For example a puppy from a large litter who were all allowed to compete for food, will eat more quickly as he might feel he will miss out.
Make sure that you are not expecting your dog to eat more than he requires. Many pet dogs are overfed which can lead to all the health risks associated with obesity. If your dogs ribs are covered by a thin layer of flesh, his coat shines and he is full of energy, chances are your dog is eating enough food for his needs. If you are worried about this, chat to your vet. The package portion size on dried food is just a guideline – some dogs will need more and some less.
What is Picky Eating?
If your dog is not interested when you put down his food bowl, will only eat if coaxed or hand fed or will only eat when his food is suplemented or replaced by “human food”, you have a picky eater.
If your dog has always been a picky eater, you can address the behaviour and get him to eat normally. If your dogs has always eaten well and becomes a picky eater get him checked by the vet.
How to Get Your Dog to Improve his Eating Habits?
- Start as you plan to continue. Before you bring your new puppy or dog home, decide on a feeding plan. Decide what food you are going to be feeding your dog and at what times.
- Don’t feed from the table. Make sure the whole family agrees not to feed tidbits except during training and not to feed from the table. Besides causing begging, this will interfere with his feeding programme. A small amount of left overs of healthy food can be added to his next meal.
- Do not share your food with your dog. Do not feed your dog while you are preparing food or share your human food with your dog.
- Stick to a feeding schedule. Feed your puppy three to four small meals a day. Adult dogs should be fed twice daily.
- Remove all uneaten food within five minutes.This mimics the competiton from the litter or pack which stimulates your dog’s instinct to eat whenever food becomes available.
- Stick to the correct portion size. If feeding a complete dry food, use the package as a guide line for portion size. If feeding a mixed or raw diet, experiment with portion size until you find a quantity that your dog finishes quickly.
What if You Started Off all Wrong?
It’s never too late to start addressing the problem. You will need to get the whole family to commit to the new set of rules. Having one family member undermine all your good intentions will undo all your hard work. You can gradually decrease the amount of “human food” your dog is getting as you slowly increase the dog food quantity. Mix the food well so your dog can not pick out the bits he likes.
If your dog refuses to eat completely, do not give in or add anything to his food or replace it it with something he prefers. Dogs will not starve themselves completely, they will eat when they are hungry. Remove the uneaten food after five minutes, put it in the fridge and do not feed anything else until the next scheduled meal time. At the next mealtime, put out the same food again and if he rejects it again, return it to the fridge. He will eventually eat when he is hungry.
What Should Your dog be Eating?
Pet food companies spend a fortune on research to ensure that they produce foods that have the correct balance of nutrients for your dog. You do get what you pay for when it comes to dog food so many of the more expensve foods are a better bet. If these are not within your league, there are plaenty other options for feeding your dog. You can purchase a cheaper dry food and supplement it with small amonts of “human food” or tinned food.
If you have tried three or more commercial foods, your vet has confirmed that your dog is healthy, most likely your dog is holding our for “human food”. You just have to be firm.
Every expert has their own strong ideas about feeding but the truth is commercial food is not the only way to feed a dog. You might choose to cook for your dog. A diet of cooked rice, vegetables with quality pets mince like offal, tripe or chicken (from a butcher, not the supermarket) supplemented with an occasional egg and tinned fish is well balanced.
Raw feeding is the latest trend in feeding dogs. The diet can consist of raw chicken on the bone (necks, backs, carcasses), raw meaty bones (especially pork which is soft), raw mince (chicken, ostrich, dirty tripe, offal), fish (fresh, frozen or tinned) , crushed vegetables and fruit (use a food processer) and natural yoghurt.
Which ever diet you choose, large raw bones should be offered between meals to keep your dog occupied and keep his teeth clean.
Any picky eater can be reformed. If you care about your dog and you want him to live to a ripe old age, you need to make sure that he is eating a balanced diet.