Dogs have a reputation for eating anything and everything, but some can actually be as fussy as felines…
Fuss and bother
When your dog shuffles up to the bowl, sniffs at its contents, then looks up at you in disinterest or even disgust, what do you do?
Firstly, don’t panic and give into the temptation of allowing him to settle into bad eating habits – because you may end up killing him with kindness. So even if you find it hard to resist those big, begging eyes, be aware that fussy eating is a problem that needs to be addressed - for the good of you both.
Every dog is different
When it comes to fussy eating, remember that dogs will not normally starve themselves just because they are a bit choosy about their food (although if your dog goes 24 hours without eating anything, consult your vet). A thin appearance does not necessarily mean that anything is wrong. Just like us, some dogs are naturally thinner than others.
Don't teach your dog bad habits
For the most part, fussy eaters are made, not born. Dogs are smart characters, and often they will baulk at their food because they've learned that they can get lots of extra attention, and hand-feeding, by worrying their owners.
The really clever ones will also know that if they hold out just long enough, they might get offered some delicious human food instead.
To change fussy behaviour, the first step is to identify the ways you may have encouraged it, whether by accident or on purpose.
Alternatively, your dog may be sneaking extra meals somewhere – or from someone – else! A quick check with your neighbours, other family members and the rubbish bins, may explain why dinner is left untouched.
What to do?
Try the following to give your dog his appetite back:
- If you are petting or hand-feeding, stop for a while;
- Increase the palatability of dry food by adding a good-quality canned food, or by soaking it in warm water.
- Try gently warming wet food in the microwave to release its delicious aromas;
- Feeding dogs during the family meal will make them feel socially included, but always ignore them when you eat;
- Resist the urge to praise your dog for eating, and only leave food on offer for 15 minutes – if it's not consumed, remove it and offer a fresh bowl of food 12 hours later. As long as food is available twice daily, your fussy dog will not starve.
Less could be more for your dog
You could also try switching to a dry complete food designed for 'active' dogs. These formulations tend to be very concentrated, so your dog won't need to eat as much to receive an equivalent level of energy. Active foods also contain higher levels of oil, which can make them more attractive to your dog. Specially formulated 'sensitive' recipes, meanwhile, have a high level of digestibility, which can also sometimes encourage a fussy eater.