If you own a fussy dog, or you are unsure about how to feed your dog, then you’ll be pleased to read this.
I have been feeding dogs for over 30 years now and have used this technique for the last 20 years. In all that time, I have never had problems with fussy eaters. And fully 100% of the dogs whose owners have come to me for advice and tried this technique have gone from fussy to good eaters.
First, no dog is born fussy. Dogs are opportunistic hunters by nature. This means they scavenge food when given the opportunity. That’s how wild dogs became domesticated – it was easy to scavenge around humans and, over time, they became less and less wary of humans until eventually they became domesticated. Yet, this inherent scavenging behaviour continues, and is still strong in all healthy dogs today.
So, if dogs are not born fussy, then they must be learning (from us) to be fussy. How? Let’s look at this from a dog’s perspective.
Dog: ‘Here comes John with my food again. I can’t possibly eat anymore, what with all the food he’s been feeding me. But if I don’t, he insists.’ [The dog reluctantly begins to eat.] ‘This is really too much for me. I can’t finish it.’
John: ‘Poor Dog, you’re not eating. You must not like your food anymore. I’ll go to the supermarket and get you something else.’
A few hours pass.
Dog: ‘Oh, no, here he comes again. Doesn’t he know I can’t possibly be hungry? I just ate a few hours ago. Oh, wait, you’ve bought me chicken necks. I remember those from when I was a pup. They were delicious. OK, even though I’m full I’ll eat them before any other pups get them.’ [He eats, half-heartedly.]
John: ‘You don’t look like you’re enjoying that. I’d better try something else.’
The following day, at feeding time.
Dog: ‘Here comes John with more food. I’m still full from all those chicken necks I made myself eat yesterday. And now he’s giving me the same amount of food again. I’m not gonna be able to finish this, but I’ll eat as much as I can. [Eats slowly, lifting his head repeatedly.] I can’t – I can’t even get through half of it today.’
John: ‘Dog, I wish you would finish your food. I’ll have to buy you some new food tomorrow.’
A few hours pass.
Dog: ‘I think I‘ll go do my puppy dog eyes at John. He really likes it when I do that.’
John: [Jumping to his feet] ‘Awww, poor Dog, you must still be hungry. Let’s see what we have in the fridge. Look, a nice big juicy steak! Here, Dog, have this.’
Dog: [Looks up, uncertainly] ‘I’m so full, but I hardly ever get steak. Who knows when I might get another chance? [Eats steak slowly.] That steak was so juicy, but now I’m about to explode. I’ll go lie down and try to digest all this food.’
The following day, at feeding time.
John: ‘Here, Dog, I bought you some new dog food. The lady at the shop said it’s the most popular brand of food and all dogs like it.’
Dog: [looking up at John with puppy dog eyes, pleading] ‘I’m sorry, John, I know you want me to eat this but I’m so full I don’t want to eat anything. Let me rest and I’ll eat it tomorrow.’
John: ‘Wow, Dog, you are turning into a really fussy eater. I don’t know what to do with you. I’ll just leave this food here in case you want to eat later.’
Does this story sound familiar?
Now, I sped up the process, but it should give you an idea of how we, as owners, turn our dogs into seemingly fussy eaters.
The next step is Dog realising that when he turns his nose up at the food offered, John brings him something else, something even more tantalising. Congratulations, John, you have now created a really fussy dog.
Yep, that’s me – I’m John. So, now what do I do?
Let me show you how to reverse this process. First off, medical conditions can stop a dog from feeling the need to eat, so if your dog really is refusing to eat, a health check at the vet’s should be considered. Once you get the clean bill of health, it’s important to understand that while a dog will overeat, it will NEVER choose to starve itself. If they’re not eating, most likely they’re just not hungry.
Here is how I feed my dogs, and how you should do it too.
During feed time, place your dog’s food on the ground and walk away. Don’t watch your dog to see if it is eating. Some dogs feel uncomfortable if watched while eating. Come back in 10 minutes. If any food remains, take it away. Don’t offer ANY food until the next scheduled feed time. Repeat this process at EVERY feed time. Don’t worry if your dog doesn’t eat. When they’re hungry, they will eat.
This simple method works for two reasons:
Reason 1 – Dogs love consistency. If you haven’t read my article ‘The No. 1 Rule Of Dog Training! read it now. If you feed any other way, you risk not being consistent enough.
Reason 2 – Dogs, as I explained, are opportunistic hunters. By only allowing them to eat at feed time, they quickly learn that feed time is their only opportunity to eat.
So follow these three simple steps:
- Place food on the ground and say, ‘Good dog.’
- Turn your back and walk away. Don’t watch to see if your dog eats.
- Return in 10 minutes and remove any unfinished food.
It’s really that easy. And, I promise, your dog will love you all the more for it.
For more tips on what to feed, when to feed, and how much to feed, read our article “Avoid Health Problems by Following These Dog Care Tips!”.