Of all naturally-driven or instinctive behaviors, eating food is obviously among the most important. Dogs normally do not have to learn how to eat—from the time they are born and are compelled to seek their mothers’ breast, they survive by seeking food. In pet dogs, however, eating behavior can be associated with problems—either because it is excessive and results in obesity, or because owners feel their dogs do not eat enough and are finicky about food. Although it is less common to hear of a finicky dog than a cat, some dogs just are not voracious eaters. Why would this be?
First, it is important to understand that normal dogs will not starve themselves to death simply because of fastidious taste in food. Second, a thin appearance may not indicate that anything is amiss. Individual dogs, like other species, have a physiologically determined “set point” of body weight—while some are overweight, others are quite thin, and efforts to change that weight may not be successful in the long term. If your thin dog is maintaining his weight over time, there is probably little to worry about (weight loss or a new change in eating habits should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian). Following are some of the reasons dogs may act finicky:
1. Health issues
The first thing to worry about when this behavior begins is dog’s health. Any sudden change is activity or weight should not be ignored. Contact vet before beginning any treatment at home. If the dog is active and weight is also alright then no need to worry about health.But in any case, contact the vet first and get him checked properly because may be there’s something stuck in his throat and he is unable to eat.
2. He has low appetite
Some dogs lose appetite when they are either moved from one place to another. The sudden change is their location or activities can also result in loss of appetite. If one member of the family is away, the dog may be missing him.
3. He doesn’t like the food
One most important possibility could be the dog’s dislike for his food. Try changing the brand, ingredients or flavours. If the food is home-cooked, try something new. May be the dog is just bored and he’s probably craving new flavours. Add something new in his previously cooked meal, without giving him anything from your table. Another possibility could be that he is unable to chew the food properly so whatever is served should be chewable.
4. To seek owner’s attention
Another reason of finicky behavior could be the dog’s need for attention. No dog ever starves himself, maybe he needs more petting. His attention seeking behavior may have developed when the owner started feeding him from the table. He needs the attention and joy he felt, when he was fed right from dining table. In some cases, dogs balk at the food we serve them because they have learned that they can either get lots of attention and hand-feeding from their worried owners or because, if they hold out long enough, more delicious human food will be offered. To change finicky behavior, the first step is identifying the ways it might (accidentally or purposely) be reinforced.
Here are some of the solutions that may work best if the dog just needs more attention
1. Stop hand feeding
If you have been handfeeding the dog in the past, take a break. Dogs get used to the attention and then they expect more. This behavior can result in a lot of inconvenience for the owner since he will have to compromise.
2. Stop praising for every bite he takes
Hunger is a natural instinct, let it be. Don’t turn food consumption into a competition. Leave him while he eats his food. Give the dog some space so he can eat the food he’s been given. If you praise him for every bite he takes, he will only eat while you sit there and praise him. He will keep running after you, convincing you to stay with him. This will be a hassle in the long term.
3. Offer something new
Try mixing his old dog food with a new one with a different flavor. It is possible that your dog is expecting some human food showing his finicky behavior. It is highly recommended not to offer him any human food at all.
4. Offer meal only when its time
It’s about time, the routine is set. Follow the routine and offer food to your dog only when it is his mealtime. After 10mins take the bowl away, if you notice that he is not eating, eating slow, or seeking your attention. Do not reinforce bad behavior by petting him or praising him or handfeeding him. Let him enjoy the mealtime and take the bowl away when the time is over. Offer the next meal only after 12 hours. This will teach your dog to eat at mealtimes only.
5. Be patient
This is really important! Do not get angry at him. Be patient and just be consistent. Keep giving food at the mealtimes, take it when it’s over. Strictly stop feeding him from the table and have your family on the same page. Stop petting when he’s eating and ignore if he makes a sad face. If you are consistent he will learn and his behavior will change eventually. Be patient and keep an eye on any signs of illness, any sudden weight loss or change in activity level. Contact your Vet if you find any disturbing signs.
If you are worried about his food choices and you notice that he loves human food more, offer him Shrewd food protein crisps, available on amazon for $7 only. The tasty pizza and cheese flavor would have even the finickiest dog begging for food! You can order online here.
If you are petting your dog, or hand-feeding her, to coax her to eat, try stopping for a while. You can increase the palatability of dry food by adding a good quality canned food to the dry kibble. Place this on the floor for fifteen minutes—if it is not consumed, remove it and offer a fresh bowl of food twelve hours later. As long as food is available twice daily, your finicky dog will not starve. It may help to feed your dog during your family meal so that he is socially facilitated to eat. Otherwise, try ignoring him during the meal—resist the urge even to praise him for eating. In time, even the fussiest dog will begin to eat when food is placed before him. By following above instructions, ‘my dog is finicky’ would soon be a thing of the past!