7 Tips for the Less Than Enthusiastic Eater

Most dogs are eager eaters. You’d be hard-pressed to find a dog that actually knows how to chew.

However, there are some dogs who don’t eat well. Some are finicky about what foods they eat while others are just less than enthusiastic about the whole experience. There are temporary circumstances when your dog’s appetite may suffer and that includes vaccinations, illnesses, changes in the household, changes in his normal routine or travel. But these are usually short lived decreases in his appetite that will return to normal without much delay.

If there are no known reasons for your dog’s lack of enthusiasm for eating, then your dog may just be picky. Or he may be refusing to eat in hopes of getting something different or better (from his point of view). However, there are some things you can do to increase his appetite.

Increase His Exercise and Activities

Regular exercise is good for your dog. A long walk, a good jog, a game of fetch or some time on the agility course is always great fun and healthy for mind and body; yours and your dog’s. Plus, your dog burns calories while exercising and will be more apt to eat come dinner time.

Feed in a Safe Place

If you regularly feed your dog in a busy place, such as the kitchen while the family’s meals are being prepared, your dog may not be able to concentrate on his food. Puppies especially are easily distracted. It’s much better for your dog to feed him in quiet, safe place. If you have a crate for your dog, that can work. Place his food in the back of his crate and have him eat there.

Feed Twice a Day on a Schedule

Dogs are creatures of habit and thrive on a schedule. Feed your dog two meals a day, morning and evening, and as much as possible with your busy routine try to keep to that schedule. This will help your dog develop an anticipation for his meals. Do not free-feed, leaving food out all day.

Cut Back on Treats

If your dog is not eating his meals well, for the time being, at least until your dog is a better eater, severely cut back (or even eliminate) treats. Don’t give him anything that could take the edge of his appetite. If you’re training your dog and using treats for training, use his food as training treats.

Warm Foods Smell Better

Your dog’s sense of smell is more important to him that his sense of taste. Therefore, provide food that is warm as it will smell better. Add some warm water or warm some of the ingredients or pop it in the microwave for a few seconds. It shouldn’t be hot just warm.

Feed the Best Foods You Can

Feed a dog food with quality meats, good vegetables, and fruits from known sources. Dogs are more apt to eat foods that smell like known good foods. Plus, it’s fine to vary the foods you feed. For example my dogs usually eat The Honest Kitchen’s Zeal but every once in a while I’ll get a box of Thrive or Keen as a change. This not only varies your dog’s nutrition but also keeps him interested in his food.

Hand Feeding is Fine

While you’re implementing these changes, hand feed your dog. In years past, this was discouraged; common wisdom said you would spoil your dog if you did this. Most trainers and behaviorists today don’t agree. Go ahead and hand feed your dog. Not only will he be more likely to eat but the fact that you are giving him good food by hand will be good for your relationship with your dog. It’s great; give it a try.

If you implement a few of these tips and your dog still isn’t eager about eating, call your veterinarian and bring your dog in for an examination. Rule out any potential physical problems. If your dog has a clean bill of health but just isn’t a big eater, then relax. After all, your biggest concern is that he’s healthy.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and the co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in Vista, CA. Liz is also an award-winning author and writer specializing in pets. She writes about cats, cat behavior and health, dogs, dog behavior and health, living with pets, and pet nutrition. Liz’s works have been recognized with many awards, but her most recent book, “Idiot’s Guides: Dog Training” (Penguin Books, 2014) recently won the Best Nonfiction book category in the San Diego Book Writing competition. Liz shares her home with two dogs; Bashir, an Australian Shepherd, and Bones, an English Shepherd. Three cats, Spock, Scottie, and Kirk, provide motivation for her articles about cats. And yes, she is a Star Trek fan. For more information go to www.kindredspiritsk9.com.

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