“There’s no way my dog will eat a morsel from her bowl, unless she is spoon-fed,” proudly claimed a client of mine recently. “And not just that, she will only eat the choicest meaty morsels, cooked in the right spices – add even a hint of vegetables and she won’t go near the food; the poor thing will just starve then!” One look at the obese Lhasa Apso told me she was anything but starved. This clever little dog had learnt how to manipulate her owner into feeding her exactly what she wanted and how.
Fussy eating habits are almost always created by us humans and only seen in domesticated dogs. It all starts when the dog, for some reason or another, doesn’t dive right into its food bowl. Concerned, the owner mixes in a little something to make it taste better. And it does. So the next time, the dog waits to see if you will add something tasty. And when you do, a finicky eater is born. Fussy dogs are not uncommon and many fail to receive a balanced diet as a result. Yet, the problem is easy to put right – as long as you can resist your urge to hand-feed your dog and stick to the programme. Most fussy eaters have realised that if they hold out long enough, the owner will cave in and feed them exactly what they desire.
Here are a few ways to put right the Picky Eater:
Get A Vet Check: If you feel your dog may be a fussy eater, the first step towards putting it right would be to get your dog checked up by the veterinarian, as certain medical disorders can cause a lack of appetite – even in young puppies. If your dog’s lack of appetite is accompanied by vomiting, diarrhoea or sudden weight loss, it is likely that a gastrointestinal or an oral disease is at fault; your vet will help put it right. If your dog has a reasonable appetite normally and suddenly goes off its food, make sure you get in touch with your vet immediately.
Feed Fresh Food: Once your dog gets a clean bill of health, the next step is to check your dog’s diet. If you buy ready dog food, make sure you always check the expiry date before picking up the bag. Both – dry and moist foods – can expire and it is also possible to purchase a bad batch of food. If the food smells suspicious to you or has started to discolour, replace it. It is also wise to purchase small bags of food, thus ensuring the food is always fresh. Make sure you choose a food that is of good quality and has a high digestibility factor; and do store the food in a cool, dry place in a sealed container. Make sure home cooked food is freshly cooked and if in doubt, it is always better to throw it away.
Mother Knows Best: The quickest and easiest way to put right a fussy eater is to resist your human maternal instincts and behave like a pup’s mother would in the wild. If the pup refused to eat the food the mother offered, the mother wouldn’t swap it for other food; she’d just walk away.
You can use this same principle to get your pet to eat its meal in a matter of days. Put together a healthy balanced meal and offer it to your dog at mealtime. Pick up the bowl and any remaining food after ten minutes and put it away, even if your dog hasn’t eaten anything. Do not try to hand feed or coax your pet if it doesn’t touch the food. It is really important that you don’t give in at this point. Keep in mind that dogs by nature are voracious eaters and will eat when they are hungry. Do not give your pet any other food or titbits through the day. At the next mealtime, put down the same healthy, unadorned food and repeat the above. Keep at this; sooner or later your dog will eat. Some dogs may go a day or two without eating (in very rare cases), but that is not abnormal for a dog and usually causes no harm. Most dogs will give in within twenty-four hours. Do check with your vet before starting this programme.
Work Up An Appetite: Most of today’s pets lack a good appetite as they are just lounging around at home with little do to and suffer from a lack of mental and physical stimulation. Exercise can help stimulate a lazy or bored dog’s appetite. Take your dog out for long walks, play a game of fetch or hide and seek and watch his appetite improve virtually overnight. Most dogs enjoy eating a meal after a healthy workout session. Do remember to never exercise your dog after it has eaten a heavy meal – it can cause your dog to become very sick.
Cut Out All Snacks: If your dog is getting his daily calories in the form of snacks, he will be less likely to want to consume his meals. Make sure your fussy eater gets nothing other than his meals. Most dogs, like children, if given the choice between tasty titbits and a regular boring meal, will choose the former. A dog that gets most of his nutrition from snacks and not a balanced diet, can end up with health and skin problems and is also likely to be obese.
Most fussy eaters are happy to revert to healthy eating habits – they just need a bit of goading from the owner and a little guidance. A little control on your part will ensure that your dog will soon be eating a healthy balanced diet happily again!