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My dog is a fussy eater, what should I do?

Don’t want to watch the video on Fussy Eaters?  No problem text below:

Hi this is Mark from Bella and Duke and this article and video I’ve been wanting to do for some time. I’ve been doing a lot of research into fussy eaters, so here’s some of our tips to help you with your little munchkin.

There’s two types of dogs:

  1. The first type of dog that lives to eat and
  2. The second type of dog they eats to live

There is a big difference in how they do eat, if you have a Labrador for example, you’ll know what I’m talking about, they just Hoover up the food where maybe a toy dog maybe just grazes and takes longer to finish their meal and sometimes won’t finish it at all.

Most issues are because of the way we train our pets and not the dogs fault! Sometimes hard to accept but true none the less

One of the things I have to be straight up from the very start is quite often we have to train the pet guardian. These issues arise because the dog has been trained to look at human food as part of their diet.  It’s important to realize a dog is a dog and a human is a human and we both eat in separate parts of the house.  You also have to get family and friends committed to follow the rules as well there’s no point you trying to do the discipline and then other people in the family are still doing the bad habits.

With my kids, if I put some cabbage, broccoli or brussels sprouts in front of them or a plate the chips which one are they going to eat? Of course they’re going to go for the chips but which one do we know is healthier for them, and that’s the same with our dogs.  If you have a real juicy steak or fish for dinner, your dogs salivary glands are going crazy why wouldn’t your dog hold out for that just in case they get some.

What is a picky eater?

What’s the definition of a picky or fussy eater? I’d say a fussy eater is a dog that misses at least one meal a day.   If your dog has always been a picky eater there’s no need for concern if they miss a few meals, issues arise when you have a dog that regularly eats and then stops, that’s when you should consider getting medical advice. A picky eater will always be a picky eater.

Picky eaters often

  • Miss a meal
  • Walk away from a meal
  • Eat a protein then stop eating it
  • Don’t eat for a day or two

DON’T WORRY, as long as they maintain a healthy weight, stay alert, perky and have a shiny coat there’s nothing to worry about.  Some dogs just like to starve a little, fasting is quite normal and actually really healthy.  If they really don’t like their food they will wait till they are starving before they eat it, we often find this with dry kibble.

Some big DONT’s

One of the things we need to be aware of when it comes to a picky eater is if you keep changing the food. This can cause issues with their gut flora.  The dog becomes picky because they have learnt some bad habits, ie if I refuse to eat I will get something tastier instead.   In some cases, like humans they could have also become addicted to certain ingredients in human food.

When choosing a dog food brand make sure its has all the nutritional benefits and it’s not doing any internal damage.  It’s a good idea to choose a brand of dog food that offers a selection of proteins as this will stop them getting bored, also it’s a much more natural way of eating for them as they would capture or scavenge different animals each day if they were living in the wild (that lovely firend of yours is a wolf at heart)

When to get a vet involved

If your dog has been a voracious eater and then stops then go and visit the vet if they have not eaten for 48 hours, if you have a puppy don’t wait for 48 hours it’s recommended that you visit a vet if they don’t eat for 24 hours

Tips for fussy eaters

  1. Start early before you even bring the dog home, make sure you know what you’re going to feed your dog, do your research.  We are a massive advocate of raw feeding because that’s what we do.
  2. Make sure everybody in the family is on the same page there’s no point one of you following the rules and then somebody else feeding the dog from the table it just completely contradicts the training and messes with the dog’s head.
  3. Make sure you agree on the treats, don’t feed them from the table. If you start feeding your dog scraps all you’re doing again is making the dog aware of human food versus dog food.  Human food can upset their digestion and cause diarrhea as well as certain foods are not suitable such as oinions, grapes, chocolate, salt and can cause serious issues if they are present in the left overs you feed your pet.  Keep the dog food and the people food separate, don’t allow them to associate the two together.
  4. Don’t allow begging or sitting under the table while you are eating.  Whenever I put the bowl down for my dog she eats from her bowl, she associates her food in her bowl and not off our table.
  5. Stick to a schedule, you’re going to probably feed your puppy three times a day when they’re growing or as recommended by your vet, overtime increase the volume of the food and decrease the frequency so the puppy gets used to two your meals, one in the morning and one at night.
  6. Do not feed any treats if your dog is not eating their main food, again it’s important as they’ll be waiting for the human food or treats.
  7. Reward them for eating their dinner, you don’t always have to reward them of course with a treat just a good old cuddle is good.
  8. Don’t watch them to see if they are eating, leave them alone and ignore them, they can pick up on your anxiety.

So what happens if your dog is already a fussy eater?

It’s not too late to retrain an older dog, the most important thing is to hold firm.   Don’t give them any treats if they skip a few meals, don’t give in, that’s what he wants, he wants you to give him human food, stand your ground, leave the bowl out for 15 minutes, if he’s not touched it pick it up and put it away back in the fridge covered up a cling film or put it in the bin.  It will be tough over the next day or two, reserve treats only for when the dog is being trained or has actually done something correct, I know they will look at you with their big ‘puppy dog’ eyes  – be strong and don’t give a treat because they look cute, you’ll confuse them and just make your job harder.

One thing I noticed especially on the Facebook videos is people are watching their dog to see if they eat, my dog does not like me watching, she can pick up if I’m tense,  I have shown in the video my dog Trin as she watches me watching her,  when I sit down and start talking to the family she goes off and starts to eat.  So put the food down and don’t fuss, go away leave them alone, don’t give them any attention until they’ve eaten and if they don’t eat it you just pick it up. If you’re coming across nervous and worried you’re just going to pass that anxiety on to the dog.

So those are my tips, remember you’re the PACK LEADER, they’re a dog and they need boundaries, that’s what makes them happier.

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