Picky Eaters | How to get my dog to eat his food?

Picky Eater dog

For years I’ve seen so many pet parents looking for a food that their picky dog doesn’t get tired of. It seems like they like their food for a few days and then the dog gets tired and “stops eating”.

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By Mariel Calderon

For years I’ve seen so many pet parents looking for a food that their picky dog doesn’t get tired of. It seems like they like their food for a few days and then the dog gets tired and “stops eating”. Not to offend anyone but, I’ve seen many of those dogs and they don’t look skinny at all. In fact, some of them look borderline overweight. What leads me to think that the dog either has a health issue or that he is being fed other goodies besides from his food. Some owners even end up just giving them cooked meat, which may eventually lead to health issues because of nutrients and mineral deficiencies. Others think that if they don’t mix their kibbles with cooked chicken their dog will starve.

Understand your dog’s nature when feeding him.

I have had dogs of my own for many years and I’m guilty of, putting my feelings before their true needs at moments. This is why I write this article. Because, as humans, we need to understand our dog’s true needs and not please them by overfeeding them or pleasing them with food or treats that are not healthy for them. Here are my experiences and point of view as a dog trainer that has been seeing a repeated pattern for the past 20 years or more. 

Humans tend to show love by overfeeding, and sometimes we overeat for comfort as well (guilty!), so we think that dogs need to eat all their food in order to be healthy and feel loved. Well, they don’t. In nature dogs would need to hunt their food. They would need to work for their food! We take that away from them by just serving their food on a bowl and creating a boring routine. So, if you are asking yourself “how to get my dog dog to eat his food?”, this is what I recommend. Of course, if your dog has a health issue, please ask your vet before changing his diet.

  • Feeding time. If you have a puppy or a dog with special needs, you should feed him three times per day. If he is an adult, you may feed him once or twice per day. I prefer to feed mine twice a day. Only leave his food out for 15 minutes. Don’t give him any treats in between feedings, at least until he gets used to his food and his new routine and starts eating on a schedule.
  • Stop the treats! Dog food has the nutrients that dogs need. If they get used to treats, most probably they will stop eating their food and wait for the next treat. When I say treats I mean ANYTHING that is not their food. Sometimes, as I keep asking questions to my clients little secret treats like a piece of crackers, cereal, cheese, ham, carrots and others start to come out. Dogs will prefer all these yummy extras over their food. Personally, I can’t blame them, I would rather eat ice cream and sweets before eating my food but I know that it’s not healthy for me.
  • Make him work for food. If you are imagining your dog cooking, mopping and getting ready for work in order to win his food, well that’s not the way it works. When I mean work, I refer to making him do tricks in exchange for his food. This is a great way to bond with your dog, plus it reinforces all his commands. You can either use each kibble as a treat or just some. An example of how to make your dog work for his food is: 
    • Serve his portion of food. Use half of it to train him. 
    • Make him sit then treat, down then treat, stay then treat and so on. 
    • Give him the rest in his bowl or just keep practicing. 

You will notice the difference in your dog’s interest. The first few days he may not react as you want him to, but be persistent and you’ll see that feeding time will be his favorite part of the day.

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