My dog won’t eat! Help!
Having one’s dog being picky about food is something usually all of us go through every now and then.
But what about when it’s persistent, or worse, it’s a persistently picky puppy?!
Having your puppy eat healthy bowlfuls every day is essential for his, or her, growth and development.
Naturally, puppies grow rapidly – in body and mind, both. And if the fuel that’s supposed to propel that growth lags behind, your puppy may well hit a snag in his development.
Thus seeing to it that he eats regularly, every day, and on schedule, is something that you absolutely shouldn’t neglect to ensure that he has everything he needs to grow into a healthy, strong, and intelligent dog.
Besides, as we’ve mentioned earlier, having a regular and consistent feeding schedule also helps a lot with housebreaking your puppy quickly and effectively.
But how on earth does one condition a puppy to “eat his greens”, so to speak, when even with a human kid – who actually understands what we’re nagging on and on about – the task is akin to moving mountains?
We’ll get to that in a scroll or two.
First, let’s get to the whole root of the problem:
Why Won’t My dog Eat?
Having ups and downs with respect to appetite is pretty normal for a lot of dogs.
The problem is when it becomes a habit or a pattern.
A pattern could be indicative of something more worrying, such as an underlying medical problem – and we’ll get to that, along with the signs that should flag such situations in your mind.
But a habit? That is more often than not our own fault as owners:
- Feeding scraps off the table, or your plate, during mealtimes
- Too many treats in between meals
- Changing brands or types of dog food
Fortunately, we have a few simple pointers that’ll give your puppy the hint, and help him accept meals more readily, and on schedule, so he’s back to being well-fed and happy.
1. Rule Out Any Medical Trouble – Go to the Vet!
Picky eaters don’t become so overnight. Unless it’s a habit, the cause is usually sickness.
It may be just about indigestion or some other trivial condition, no cause for concern, and may pass on its own in a day or two.
But, again, it’s always better to be sure, and have an expert’s opinion when it’s available. And you’d rather be early than late with this sort of thing.
If you know that your puppy is acting weird, is showing unusual signs such as lethargy, frequent whining, or conversely, being too quiet, or more obvious things like limping and vomiting – or he just looks generally unwell – get to the vet!
Sometimes, normal behavior may be mistaken for symptoms.
For instance, a lot of dogs tend to occasionally eat grass or other plants to aid with digestion. It’s a fairly normal behavior among a lot of carnivorous animals. But if he’s eating grass excessively, and out of the blue, or has gone off food and is only drinking water for days – it’s a cause for concern.
Don’t wait more than a couple of days if your dog is an adult. And if it’s a puppy, don’t wait more than a day.
Puppies are always hungry, and they really need all of their meals, every day. If your puppy refuses more than two or three meals in the day, go to the vet.
2. Schedule All Mealtimes to Induce Hunger Pangs Like Clockwork
You’ve got to have a regular schedule for your puppy’s mealtimes. There’s no way more straightforward.
Think about it, you probably get insanely hungry if you haven’t had a bite until an hour past your lunchtime.
You should have a schedule for your pup before you get your pup. And you must absolutely insist that he abides by it. No excuses.
For the amount of food and frequency of feeding, make sure you consult your vet to know how to vary these as your puppy grows.
And the cardinal rules for scheduled mealtimes are, of course:
- Absolutely no feeding off the table, scraps or otherwise
- No feeding at any time other than a scheduled mealtime
- No feeding at places other than the regular feeding bowl, in the designated feeding spot
Also, while you fix the times and frequency, make sure that everyone in the house knows the schedule and also understands why it’s important.
3. Narrow the Options – This is Not a Buffet
Some owners like to present their puppies with choices over what to eat. This doesn’t exactly encourage discipline.
Make sure you feed your dog his regular food primarily, and not as an option. This can be a particular brand of dog food, specially prepared home-cooked food, or any other meal advised by your vet.
Don’t be under the impression that variety is essential for your dog to be happy. That is not their way. They will eat anything they can or should, and more.
But if you introduce, and get them used to fine dining, of course, they’ll sulk if you suddenly take it away!
Your dog can live contentedly on a single brand of dog food for the rest of his earthly years, no problem.
Set your puppy’s meals for a roughly fixed duration of 30 minutes to an hour every time, and then clear it away after. If he refuses to eat by the rules for the first few times, you can be sure he will the next!
When dogs gotta eat, the dog most def will eat.
4. Shift Food Brands or Types Gradually, If You Must
Sometimes suddenly changing a brand of dog food can be unpleasant for your puppy, when he’s used to the flavor of the other, and more tellingly, his body is used to digesting it and not the new one.
So when you’re shifting brands, or kinds of food (wet food to dry food, for instance), start with a mix of the two, with the ratio leaning in favor of the older kind initially.
When shifting to dry food, you can try adding a bit of warm water to it to make it more familiar, and palatable.
Gradually taper down the proportion of the old kind over the next few days, until he’s okay with the new kind.
We also have this dog food for a sensitive stomach article, you can read and learn more useful information.
5. Don’t Give Up! This Takes Time and Patience
Changing feeding habits is not something that happens quickly. It’s a challenge.
But it’s a challenge only insofar as it demands patience and firmness on your part as the “parent”.
Don’t give in to unreasonable demands, tantrums, or those “puppy dog eyes”.
Feeding discipline is really important for both of you: for your peace of mind, of course, and most importantly, for your puppy’s growth and development.
So don’t give up on it, for both your sakes!
Did you find these tips to be helpful with your picky little puppy? If you have any other tips of your own, we’d be really glad to hear them, and of your own experiences with your pup – just head on to the comments section below!