How To Conquer Mealtime With A Picky Pet

picky petDo you have a picky pet? There is actually a difference between a picky and a finicky eater. A picky eater will occasionally refuse to eat and can easily be tempted with a slice of cheese added to his bowl. A finicky eater is a dog that has decided to give up dog food for good.

Have you ever wondered why your dog refuses to eat its food?  If you give your pet treats or table scraps all day, it may just turn up its nose if you give plain dog food.  If you are going to give your pet bacon or steak for breakfast, would you blame it for shying away from just the dog food?  Chances are you might just be able to answer your own question by looking in the mirror. By caving in and giving those treats, you may have created a “monster” that becomes finicky or picky.

If there is no disease or illness present, then you just may have a finicky or picky eater. A picky dog will maintain its healthy weight, be alert and playful. It will also have a shiny coat, and is usually not a concern.  When it suddenly stops eating, dropped a few pounds, and has a less lustrous hair coat, these symptoms may be a sign of illness or disease.  In this situation, I would recommend a veterinary check-up as soon as possible.

So if you just have a finicky eater, here are some ways to persuade it to eat.

  • Tone down the treats- A finicky eater is more likely to eat if it is not comparing its dog food to a liver treat.
  • Feed often- Try feeding smaller amounts of its regular food three to four times a day.  Set the food out for 30 minutes.  If it isn’t eaten, pick it up and offer it again later.  By doing this, you are helping your dog learn that no other option will exist. Don’t give in! Eventually, your dog will eat if it is hungry.
  • Exercise- It is good for so many things and it increases a dog’s hunger. Try always exercising your pup before a meal.
  • Spay or Neuter- If you haven’t already, fix your pup.  Besides the many health and behavioral benefits, it can help prevent a finicky eater.
  • Make it positive- Always make feeding a positive experience.  By keeping feeding time positive, the overall experience will also provide positive reinforcement for your pet.  Praise your dog when he eats his food and give him attention only after the meal is gone.
  • Keep it quiet- Feed your dog in a quiet area without children or other dogs mulling around.
  • Try different times- Some dogs eat better in the afternoon, others eat better an hour after you are home.  Test it and see what time and situation work best for yours.
  • Resist temptations- Try the other tips before giving into the urge to tempt your pup to eat with people food.  You’ll find that a few pieces of cooked chicken will perhaps tempt him for a time but he’ll soon grow bored of that too.

Above all, be patient with your dog and watch it closely for signs of illness. Work with your veterinarian or a dog behaviorist if you are concerned about its health. Time, self-discipline, and consistency will do much to cure the finicky eater.  Eventually, “my dog won’t eat” will become a thing of the past! If you are still struggling, contact our office so we can help!