Pawsabiliity Dog Behaviour and Training
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How to stop a dog being a fussy eater

I see many dogs with behavioural problems whose owners say that there dog is a fussy eater. They’ve changed their dog’s food over so many times they can’t remember and finally found that if they mix up some chicken in the food that their dog will eat it all up. Sometimes… Sometimes they pick out the tasty bits and leave the rest. Sound familiar?

Of course the old school advice would be to just let the dog starve – when they’re hungry they’ll eat. Well that works too. Sometimes… But I have known situations where owners have tried this approach, worrying every day that their wee pooch wasn’t eating, but sticking to this advice, only to end up with the dog eating grass instead of the food.

Whilst these two options may work and be ok, neither of these solutions is best. Adding tasty bits imbalances the diet, which may cause all sorts of problems and starving a dog may cause other obvious problems too. So, what’s the solution? Well, as per my article in May about car travel, a holistic and broader approach can help to resolve the issue.

Here’s some food for thought…..

Health:
Is your dog fit and well? It can be worthwhile getting a quick vet check. We may think that our wee pals are ok as they are eating some food, but there may be something stopping them eating less tasty food. Issues such as toothache or an abscess could stop a dog eating, as could some other digestive upset from a mild infection to swallowing something they shouldn’t have.

Calories:
Is something else filling your dog up? Many dogs are very capable of managing their own calorie intake. Is your dog skinny, fat or just right? If the latter, then it’s highly likely that they are getting enough food without actually eating out of their bowl. Perhaps they are a tea and biscuit dog? Perhaps they get lots of doggy biscuits? Perhaps their bones and chews are filling them up. Perhaps you are using lots of treats for training? All these factors can just take the edge of hunger.
Keeping an accurate diary, with all the family being honest, will provide you with some answers.

Stress:
Many dogs, even with mild behaviour problems can be suffering from some level of stress. This may simply put them off their food a little or can have major health implications. Stress impacts on the efficiency of the digestive system and may inhibit the desire to eat. Perhaps your dog doesn’t like eating when you’re not in the room? Or perhaps they are concerned that another family dog may pester them. Or there may be some other seemingly unrelated behavioural concern.
Writing down a few situations where your dog seems unhappy may highlight a growing problem. Staying beside your dog whilst they eat may help
,in the short term at least.

The act of eating:
Many times, fussy eating is actually more about eating than about the food. For instance, dogs with very short noses or undershot jaws may find it difficult to eat from a bowl, as may dogs with long ears. The environment may also cause difficulties: a dog who doesn’t like the noise of a washing machine won’t like to eat near it; or the clanking of their name tag on the bowl might be unpleasant.

The food:
Finally, there are of course problems where dogs are actually picky about what they eat. Sometimes this is caused by preference to their puppy-time diet, or perhaps they’ve been ill whilst eating something. Most dogs will overcome any of the above ideas if the food is tasty enough; hence leading us to the fussy eater conclusion.

So, do please have a wider think about this. The important consideration when feeding is that they are getting a balanced diet. Doing some critical analysis on the ingredients in the food, rather than just randomly trying various options, may also provide you with answers.

If you’d like some help in analysing food fussiness or other behavioural problems, please contact us

This article was first published in the Northern Times, Nov 2015.


Have a look at the opposite problem - How to stop my dog eating too quickly

And some notes about food - Is food affecting my dog's behaviour?

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