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 a 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 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 Grain Free Fish Recipe but every once in a while I’ll get a box of the Limited Ingredient Chicken or Whole Grain Turkey 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, CDT, CABC

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer and Certified Animal Behavior Consultant as well as the founder and co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in northern San Diego county. Liz is also the founder of Love on a Leash therapy dogs; her dog, Bones, goes on visits on a regular basis. A prolific writer, Liz is also the author of more than 80 books. Many of her works have been nominated or won awards from a variety of organizations, including Dog Writers Association of America, San Diego Book Awards, the ASPCA, and others. Liz shares her home with three English Shepherds: Bones, Hero, and Seven, as well as one confident and bossy orange tabby cat, Kirk. To relax from work, or to take work on the road, Liz and her crew travel the West and PNW in their RV. If you see an RV on the road named "Travelin' Dogs", honk and say hi!

Introducing a New Pet to your Old Pet
9 Suggestions for How to Housetrain Your Puppy