My dog is a fussy eater!

(When reading this please bear in mind that I assume that your dog is fit and healthy otherwise. If your dog suddenly stop eating after eating normally, take him to the vet!)

So many dog owners I meet struggle with feeding their dog. The most common complaints I hear are that their dogs are fussy eaters or not food motivated.

The simple truth is that dogs eat when they're hungry enough and when they can't pick and choose.

Sounds simple enough, right? So if you're dog seem fussy and not bothered about food, what can you do? Here's some common pitfalls that you can avoid, and some alternative things to try!

Start with making sure that your dog is healthy and at an appropriate weight. I'd talk it over with a vet who will be better at judging if you're dog is healthy and over/under weight. Why I mention this, is because a simple way of making our dogs uninterested in food is simply that we feed them too much!

Don't leave food out all day. This is one of the biggest pitfalls when it comes to dogs that are a bit fussy about their food. Besides the fact that it's rather unsanitary, you also have no idea how much your dog eats. One of the first signs of a dog getting ill might be that it eats less, or not at all, and if food bowl is always topped up, then it's harder to spot. Your dog will also know that food as a resource is readily available and can choose when and how much to eat, it becomes a resource that he won't be to bothered about, as it's always there.

Don't add stuff to your dogs food to try and entice him to eat. We normally add sauces, wet food, left overs etc. to make US feel better. Who'd like dry cereal every day, huh? (I know because I've used that one too!) Unfortunately, all you're doing is teaching your dog that there might just be something better to wait out for...

So what can you do to change things?

Be strict about your meal times. Put the bowl down and if he doesn't eat, remove the bowl after 5 minutes. That's that. Don't try and feed him again after an hour; all you're saying is that food is available whenever he wants. Feed the same food again at dinner time. Don't be tempted to give him other foods during the day either, such as treats or other left overs or such. Do this every day and I promise you that it will not be long before he decides that he better get that food before it disappears! This can take a few days, but dogs are very unlikely to starve themselves, he'll eat when he gets hungry enough and realises nothing else is coming. However, please use common sense!! If you have a small dog be more careful and all dogs should ALWAYS have free access to fresh water.

You can also choose to make your dog work for it's food, the huge benefit of that is that it will also build his food drive/motivation and you'll have fun together doing it! Put his daily portion into a pouch, treat-bag or similar and make him work for each and every kibble over the course of the day. It doesn't have to be fancy stuff; sit, down, place, recall etc. is all good! Whatever is left over (if any) at dinner time, you can feed from a bowl as usual, sticking with the rules above.

As an end note: If you're feeding raw or wet food it's more of a challenge and you have to be more careful about food hygiene, but I've had success using the same tricks mentioned above.

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