“My dog won’t eat and is becoming thin”.  “My dog is so fussy, I don’t know what to do”.  These are very common statements that we hear at Doggie Care Resort.  

It can be heart wrenching to watch your beloved dog fuss and pick over food to a point of barely eating. It’s worrisome to say the least. However, you’re not alone.  Surprisingly, the fussy eater is quite common.   In this article regarding a dog that hardly eats, we are assuming that you have an otherwise healthy, happy dog and there is no vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal blood work, symptons or questionable health issues that would require the attention of a vet.

We are discussing the wholesome canine who holds minimal interest in her own quality food.  We may be describing your Missy Fido with the millions of scent receptors in her nose who could be smelling that scrumptious steak morsel on your dinner plate. She is hoping to help you out with the eating of such a delicacy that is in no way more healthy than her vitamin-filled dog food which is still in her dish.

However, you know better than to feed Missy from the table and have always purchased wholesome dog food for her.  You look down and note that Missy’s own dog food is still in her dish and she hasn’t eaten all day.

When our customers say their dog won’t eat, the very first question we ask is, “do you leave the dish with dog food down for her all day long?”.   About 90% of the time, the answer is “yes”.  Missy’s dog food is being left down all day, every day in hopes that she’ll eat.  With the dish of food being left down all day,  food is no longer special or important so the answer to the picky eating bow-wow is often simple.

Never leave the dog food down all day; this puts the dog in charge of the food. The dog will no longer view the food as coming from you, the alpha, the  leader and the one in charge.   With doggie now in charge of the food, it takes the control away from you. You will actually lose a bit of respect from your dog.   You are supposed to be the needed and important alpha that the dog looks up to for correct decisions and to make her feel secure and safe.   Missy most probably has the mentality of about a two-year-old child and by leaving that dish down all day, you may have just given Missy the status of alpha dog over your home.   And who wants a two-year-old in charge of their home? 

Here’s what to do:   Put the food down.  Give the dog 10 minutes to start eating and if Missy doesn’t eat, pick the dish up.  Many trainers will tell you to leave the dish down 20 minutes, but we disagree.  We work boarding dogs all day and all night seven days a week all year long and we definately can state that 20 minutes is giving the dog too much control and is too long.   Leaving the dish down just 10 minutes is perfect.

Assuming you are serving two meals a day, if Missy sniffs around but doesn’t eat, she will have to wait for the next meal.  We do not recommend waiting a half hour and putting the dish back down; wait untill the next regular meal time.   Is this cruel?  Absolutely not; it has great potential for getting Missy to eat on a very reguar basis.   Missy’s health is of primary importance.

When you find Missy Fido isn’t eating, SAY NOTHING….NOT A WORD.  Make no eye contact, no petting, no cooing or baby talk and no eye contact.  DO NOTHING.  Just pick up the food dish and put it away as though it had no importance.

One other thing that we do here at Doggie Care Resort is to put the picky non-eater near a dog that is totally gobbling his food.  The dogs are divided by one of our portable, see through, wire fences that we use at breakfast and diner times.   The non-eater will watch the other dog gobble his food and subsequently look to gobble the non-eater’s food.  This is unacceptable in the eyes of the non-eater since dogs are usually possessive over food.  It becomes a competition.  Are you going to eat or allow the gobbler to eat your food?    The twelve thousand year old pack mentality concept kicks in whereby everyone else is eating and maybe the non-eater should eat too or she’ll go hungry.   Most likely, with all of Missy’s control having vanished, the fussy dog is going to eat.

Good luck and let us know how this works for you.  If you enjoy our articles, please link to us.