Learning to Be a Picky Eater
- Dogs can learn to be picky eaters for a number of reasons including: dislike of the particular brand of food; an inconsistent feeding schedule; being fed table scraps; overuse of treats; and a lack of regular exercise. Regular exercise triggers the appetite, so improving a dog's exercise routine may help reverse the picky eating habit.
- Just like people, dogs have food preferences. Sometimes switching the brand of dog food can fix a picky eating problem. Consult the list of ingredients to determine which foods are good quality. Corn should not be the first ingredient. Changing dog food must be done gradually, adding a small amount of new food to the old food over a period of at least 10 days. Dogs also eat better on a schedule of two meals a day at, or close to, the same time everyday. Picky eaters who are fed table scraps, or who are overfed treats, learn to hold out for the scraps or treats rather than eat their food. To address a picky eating problem, eliminate table scraps and restrict treats to training.
New Pattern of Behavior
- Picky eating may be a sign of a serious health problem in dogs who normally eat voraciously. A sudden change in eating habits accompanied by any other symptom, such as diarrhea lasting for more than two days, requires veterinary assistance. For puppies, veterinary assistance is necessary after 24 hours. The change in eating habits could be the result of pain or from a wide range of potential illnesses.
Assisting the Picky Eater
- For dogs, not puppies, who suddenly become picky eaters and who have diarrhea, the practice is to withhold food for 24 hours and to then reintroduce a bland food such as a chopped, boiled chicken breast in brown rice. The dog's food is then gradually added back into the diet. The same practice may be recommended by a veterinarian for dogs recovering from illnesses.
Sometimes using some warm chicken broth on the dog food can stimulate the dog's appetite because of their strong sense of smell. If the dog is in pain, perhaps due to arthritis, raising the dog's bowl to a higher level on a stand can reduce pain levels and thereby stimulate the appetite. Finally, an owner can try feeding a picky eater by hand, by removing other dogs to limit stress or, conversely, by adding other dogs to feeding time for encouragement while being careful to monitor for potential fights.