Many people have a dog which they would describe as a fussy feeder, and some of the ideas here may help if you are worried about your dogs feeding habits. I will of course say at the outset that if you suspect at all that your dog has a medical problem then your vet is the place to go for advice.
If your dog has had a healthy appetite for years, and suddenly doesnt want to eat anything or is losing weight and condition, then an urgent check-up is called for. We eat for various reasons, and often carry on eating when we are not hungry because we enjoy certain tastes or for social or psychological reasons. It is important to realise that dogs view food differently – they eat in order to fulfill their energy needs, or in other words because they are hungry.
The vast majority of dogs will be perfectly happy (and healthy) eating the same food every day for the whole of their lives, and indeed a dogs digestive system does not take well to changes in diet. In the wild, dogs and wolves would eat the prey which was easiest to catch, and would probably eat the same diet most of the time. Many people with a young puppy or a new rescue dog tell me that their dog will eat a food for a week or so, and then go off that food. They then offer another food, which again is eaten for a few days and then refused.
Once we have explained what to feed, when to feed and how to feed their problem dog the vast majority of customers come back a couple of weeks later to tell us in amazement that the dog is now eating. We have changed the situation so that instead of the dog dictating what and when it would eat, the owner is now in control. We always recommend a top quality, complete dry food, so that your dog is getting concentrated nourishment which is completely balanced. For example, the Arden Grange range of foods all have fresh chicken as the first ingredient, which makes the food extremely palatable. Some dogs are fussy about the bite size, and so small dogs may be fed the Graduate food even though they are adult dogs.
This has the added advantage of being a more concentrated food which is highly suited to small dogs. Larger dogs would be more suited to the Prestige, which is another concentrated food but with a larger bite size. Your dog will get all of his energy requirements from a relatively small volume of these foods, and as every mouthful is the same, he will always have a balanced diet. For more information, read this page to give you more insights on how to properly take good care of your dog. As a pet owner, it is important to educate yourself and learn things about the best ways to love your dog.
(Your dog would have to eat a far greater volume of a tinned food or a cereal-based food, and much of this volume would just pass straight through and have to be picked up.) We usually suggest that you initially offer some of this food from your hand as a treat. If your dog eats the food as a treat, then you will know that he does actually like the food. You will then start mixing the new food in with his usual food, and gradually change the diet over a period of a few days. It is better if your dog will eat the food dry, but you may add a little warm water if your dog wants a soft food. Another tip is to try adding just a small amount of extra oil, such as Flora sunflower oil, to the food as the oils in the food make it more palatable. This will moisten the food slightly but without wetting it. If you feel that a wet food is needed, then we recommend Naturediet.
This comes in a vacuum-sealed pack, and consists of meat, brown rice, and vegetables. There are different meats available, such as chicken, lamb, and tripe, it contains no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. It can be fed on its own, or a small amount can be used to mix with the complete diet in order to encourage the dog to eat it. Once the dog is eating this mixture, the amount of wet food can be gradually reduced. Many people tell us that their dog will eat a complete food like Arden Grange from the hand, but will ignore it and walk away if the same food is put into their dish.
This tells us that the dog is using food to get its own way. Always feed your dog after you and your family have eaten, so that he knows there is no other more exciting food coming later. Put a small portion of the food you wish to feed in his dish and put it down in a quiet area. If he eats it, then praise him and pick up the dish – do not offer any more food until the next feed time. It is best to feed twice a day. Next mealtime do exactly the same. If he eats it all, then gradually increase the amount fed until he is eating the required amount. In this way, he will realise that you are in control of what he eats and when he eats, and so he had better eat his food while he has the chance! Never leave the food down for him to pick at – this is often the cause of a fussy feeder.
If your dog does not eat the food offered (and he has previously eaten this food, perhaps from your hand ), then do the same as above – but only leave the food down for about five minutes. If it is not eaten, do not comment on it but simply pick it up. The next mealtime put a small amount of food down again for five minutes, and pick it up. Your dog may hold out for a couple of days, but he is not stupid and will realise that as nothing else is on offer he had better eat the food while it is available. Carry on giving less than the full amount for a couple of days, so that he gets used to clearing his bowl.