How to Deal With Dogs That Are Picky Eaters
Dogs are like kids in so many ways. They are loving, cute and playful, and they are great companions. However, they can also present challenges that are similar to the ones present especially when it comes to mealtime. While many dogs are grateful, avid eaters, other dogs are picky eaters that are finicky about what ends up in their food bowl. While dogs can have allergies that limit what they eat, it’s possible for your canine companion to also just have selective taste buds, which means that mealtimes with pups can be similar to mealtimes with kids: They’ll turn their noses up at food and whine until they finally get something they want to eat.
If you’re dealing with a pooch who has a picky palate, fear not. You don’t need to share your plate of human food with your dog every night, and you don’t have to rotate through all the most expensive foods experimenting to see what gets eaten. There are some simple tips you can tackle to help encourage your dog to eat and enjoy every bite of his food.
Make Dry Food More Enticing
Dry food is healthier for your dog than wet food. It tends to have high-quality ingredients and cleans a dog’s teeth and gums while they chew. However, some dogs tend to resist eating dry food. You don’t have to immediately try wet or canned food if your dog refuses to eat the dry stuff. First, try making the dry food more enticing to the dog:
- First, make sure you’re feeding the dog a dry food with meat as the main ingredient. Grain- or corn-based foods aren’t as good for the dog’s body, and the dog may not like how the food makes him feel.
- Add warm, low-sodium chicken broth to the bowl. This gives the dry food a bit more flavor. It also makes the food warm and moist, which can entice the dog to eat.
- Try hand-feeding. It’s possible that your dog doesn’t like his bowl, or doesn’t like the sound dry food makes in his bowl when he eats it. Try hand feeding your dog for a meal or two to see if he will eat his dry food. If he will, consider switching the bowl or dish to one that is less reflective or noisy — or one that’s easier to get his snout into.
- Mix in a little bit of wet food. Your dog shouldn’t primarily eat wet food, but try adding in just a tablespoon of wet food to your dog’s dry food each day. Mix the two in together, and your dog may just gobble down everything that is in his bowl.
Change the Feeding Routine
Sometimes dogs develop picky eating habits due to their eating routines. There are many different habits that dog can develop that make them resistant to their own food, but there are some helpful ways that you can schedule mealtime so that your dog is encouraged to eat from his own bowl:
- Never feed your dog human food. If you have fed him human food before, stop now. Move his bowl away from the human dining table and set feeding time at a completely different time than when your family eats. You don’t want your dog to associate your mealtime with his, as this encourages him to think of your food as his — and your food will always be more delicious. Stick to a schedule so that you always feed your dog at the same times during the day. You can consult with your vet about the best feeding schedule to keep your dog satiated, nourished and happy.
- When you feed your dog, place a bowl of his food on the floor where he usually eats. Leave the room. Come back twenty minutes later and remove whatever dog food hasn’t been eaten. Repeat this at each mealtime. Eventually, your dog will learn that he has to eat when he’s fed, and he’ll be encouraged to chow down when you put the bowl down.
- Limit treats. Treats are fun for dogs and they encourage tricks and good behavior. However, they’re also more delicious than your dog’s normal food — hence the name “treats” — and your dog would rather fill up on those than on kibble. Limit treats to one a day or a couple per week for really good behavior. That way your dog’s appetite will be big enough to eat his regular food.
Dogs can be picky eaters, but if your dog was a good eater and suddenly stopped liking his food, there may be a bigger issue than just his taste buds. Before you spend time working to get your dog to eat more, it’s important to take your dog to the vet to make sure that an underlying disease or condition isn’t causing a decreased appetite. Your vet can test for things like pancreatitis, food allergies, digestive issues and more. While you’re there, your vet can also give your dog Heartgard Plus for dogs, which can help protect him from heartworm disease.