The responsibility of providing a healthy and nutritious diet for domesticated dogs falls in the hands of the owner. While we all want optimum health for dogs, what happens when you’ve done all the research, taken advice from fellow dog owners, vets and breeders, only to be met with a fussy dog?
Your dog’s response to a particular food will take precedence over all your research. YOU’VE JUST GOT TO GET THIS DOG TO EAT!
If you were to present two nutritious foods to your dog, there is no doubt that your dog will take preference to one dog food over the other. I once offered my dog a bowl of Frontier Chicken and a plate of fresh caught raw fish, I couldn’t believe it when she opted for the Frontier. It made me question if the domestication process has altered food selection behaviour and why are some dogs fussier than others?
To understand this better, first let’s unpack the factors effecting eating habits in domestic dogs:
Palatability: Flavour preferences vary from species to species, but generally, your dog will prefer meat protein over vegetable, although that’s not to say they don’t need vegetables in their diet, because they do!
Many pet food manufacturers actually ADD PALATABILITY products to the food in production, so that your dog will like it at first lick. This ensures that your dog will continue to eat that product.
Domestication: The ‘fast-track’ of domestication of dogs by humans has altered the natural selection process of the species, creating breeds whose undesirable characteristics are supressed, while desirable traits are enhanced. These dogs are being ‘groomed’ to eat certain foods including those that are heavily processed and flavoured.
Energy output & Lifestyle: The day-to-day existence of domesticated dogs compared to their wild counterparts differs considerably and with it so does their dietary needs and preferences. Wild dogs spend their day hunting and foraging, expelling lots of energy in the process. Domestic dogs lay around a lot and just don’t need as much feeding. So they tend to walk away from food – often because they are simply just not hungry!
These all result in the fact that dogs are fussy because us humans have allowed them to be.
Before we look at techniques to get your fussy dog eating, make sure you first rule out any medical conditions that may be affecting your dog’s appetite.
- Recent Vaccination – a vaccination will keep your puppy alive but may cause loss of appetite as a side effect. It usually passes after a couple of hours, but don’t be alarmed if your puppy skips a meal or two after vaccination.
- Dental Disease – rotten teeth, cuts or infected gums will cause pain while eating for your dog. If you suspect a dental issue, it’s time for a visit to your local vet.
- Upset Stomach or blockage – puppies and dogs are notorious for eating everything in sight. If your dog has eaten something he shouldn’t have, he’s probably feeling some discomfort and won’t want to eat until it has passed
- Underlying medical condition – a tell-tale sign that your dog is unwell is their refusal to eat which could include kidney failure, cancer, liver disease or infection. It’s common for older dogs diagnosed with illness to lose their appetite. If your dog refuses to eat for long periods of time, it’s worth a visit to your vet.
Once you’ve ruled out any medical conditions and conclude that you just have a fussy dog, here is what you need to know:
- You dog may just not be hungry today: If they don’t eat what you give them, then take it away and re-feed the next day. You can do this for up to two days.
- If they still refuse to eat, make sure they have no underlying medical issues.
- If they are okay but not eating, then try switching their meals around. We feed our dogs 5 days of Frontier Pet food per week and raw food the other two days. This includes:
- A mix of cooked pumpkin or sweet potato with a can of tuna or sardines.
- A mix of raw mince meat with some chopped up fruit & veg and a raw egg.
- Stop feeding treats. Treats should only be given to dogs when they train or for good behaviour. Also treats are often filled with synthetic flavours and MSG, once your dog has a flavour for treats, you’ll have a hard time getting him to switch to anything else.
- Break your dog’s daily food intake up into 4 portions and feed every 3 hours. Make sure the food is served warm or at room temperature.
- Your dog’s meal should be served in his bowl and give your dog personal space while eating. Allowing 20 minutes, uninterrupted for each meal. Dogs can sometimes feel threatened, distracted or even just shy when eating around humans.
- Make sure your dog knows that mealtime is the only food he will get that day and it’s his choice whether he wants to eat it or go hungry. We do this by limiting mealtime to 20 minute intervals and removing the bowl afterwards, regardless of whether or not he has eaten the food.
- Every time your dog finishes his meal in full, offer positive reinforcement – pat him, call him a good boy, offer one small treat as a reward.
- Every time your dog doesn’t finish his meal, do not react, do not get upset, simply ignore him. Dogs want to please you and if this happens only after he finishes a complete meal, he’ll soon realise the way to get your love is by eating his meal.
- Increase your dog’s energy output to increase his appetite.
BE CONSISTENT: Make sure you keep this up. Otherwise your dog will have you round its little paw!
What’s the best food for a fussy dog?
Its best to opt for a diet that closely mimics the canine ancestral diet. Dogs need a diet that is predominantly meat based, rich in animal proteins and fats with fruits and vegetables and free from grains
Don’t have time to home prepare? Frontier Pets dog food is the closest dry dog food on the market to mimic the natural canine diet.
Dr Kathy Cornack – Frontier Pets resident vet
Veterinarians.org - Why is My Dog Not Eating? The Top 6 Reasons! (veterinarians.org)
Raw Dog Food – Make it easy for you and your dog – Caring Beth Macdonald