When we first adopted Watson almost two years ago we had no idea what we would be in store for. We soon found out that he is the pickiest of picky eaters. He was about a pound underweight which is a lot for a small dog who’s healthy body weight is six pounds and would barely eat and vomit due to an empty stomach.
We worked with Watson’s vet to try and find a healthy dog food he would eat. We tried every combination of store bought kibble and wet food, but to no avail. Eventually the vet advised that we cook every meal for him and so we did for about the first year and a half, but luckily, and a little bit on accident, we discovered that he would eat a freeze dried, raw dog food. Watson still isn’t a huge fan of food, and as such we are constantly finding new ways to keep him interested in his meals. We know that there are a lot of dog moms and dads out there that are going through the same struggles and so we thought we would share just a few of the tips and tricks we have tried over the last couple of years.
Rule Out Any Medical Issues
Take your dog to the vet to help rule out any potential medical problems that might be causing her to be a picky eater. It could be due to something as simple as indigestion, but it could be a sign of a more serious problem. If your dog has always been picky then it is less likely that there is a medical problem; however, still consult with your vet on how to proceed
Don’t Give Your Dog Table Scraps
It might be tempting to feed your dog a few scraps from your plate, but doing so can cause your dog to start ignoring his kibble and hold out for more enticing options. Plus, too much variety in your dog’s diet can lead to diarrhea.
Stick to a Feeding Schedule
By sticking to a schedule when feeding your finicky dog not only creates stability for your pooch, but also lets her know that food will only be available for a limited amount of time. At meal time try putting out your dog’s meal for 30 minutes. If it isn’t eaten in that time then take it away. Continue this technique and in a day or two your hungry dog should eventually starting eating her food willingly.
Picky eaters are often more willing to munch on a few treats than their food. As such, try limiting the amount of treats to curb the pickiness. Fewer treats means your dog won’t be able to fill up on the “good stuff” before meal time and he’ll be less likely to compare a tasty chicken jerky treat to his dry kibble.
Keep it Quiet
Picky eaters can also be very easily distracted from the task at hand during meal time. Therefore, try feeding your dog in a quiet space away from any kids or where lots of activity is going on. We often feed Watson in the bedroom where he spends most of his time.
Make Meal Time a Positive Experience
If your dog associates her food with stress, irritability, and punishment she will be less likely to eat. Instead, give praise when your dog does take a nibble of her food. You can also try to change it up by putting her food inside of a fun food dispensing toy. It might engage her more and she may find the gamification of meal time more fun than eating out of a boring old bowl.
You can also try getting your dog to do a trick for her meal. It can be as simple as “sit” or “down.” This will make receiving a meal more of a reward and make your dog feel like it is something special rather than a boring or mundane part of her day.
Try exercising your dog before meals. This will help increase his hunger and will also help burn off any excess energy. Often times just 10 or 15 minutes of running or fetch in the backyard or local dog park will do the trick.
Most importantly, in the process of helping your dog overcome his picky eating remember that it is going to take time. It took us about six or eight months of work with the vet to come to a solution for Watson’s picky eating and his pickiness still creeps back in every now and again.