Friday, October 9, 2009


Nothing is more aggravating for the dog owner than a picky, fussy eater. And why does this happen to be the dog that you have big hopes for in the show ring? By the time you’re just about ready to have a nervous break down switching and trying new foods for “Ms. Priss”, she decides to eat something you give her. FINALLY! Oh, no, no, no…….don’t get too comfortable and feel you’ve finally conquered this food war. Your little darling has other ideas in mind. This new food might have tempted her for awhile, but she’s wondering what else you have hiding in the refrigerator that she can get you to give to her. All it takes for her to accomplish her goal is to……….go off her food AGAIN! You don’t think that they have your number? Oh yeah, they do. Our spoiled rotten dogs are no different then children. They know what works to get them what they want from you.

Unless there is a physical reason like an illness, most dogs are good eaters. It’s something that comes natural to them. They should never be thinking about it. You put the bowl down and they eat. It’s when they are thinking too much about it, that it becomes a problem and a “pain in the arse” dog is created. If he is not sick……then the fussy dog is created. Any dog can have a tummy ache and not feel like eating. Then you need to find out what is causing the problem for him.

Some dogs can be very emotional or very sensitive to their surroundings. Every little thing might bother these kinds of dogs. Any change in their environment can set them off and make them refuse to eat. As we all know, dogs are creatures of habit. That’s why it’s smart not to change their feeding schedule too often. Stick to a routine.

We all have had a favorite dog. This might be the dog that we lavish more affection to. He might be the one that we give lots of treats to, and even the occasional table scrap to. He knows you adore him and sometimes he will milk everything he can get from you because he knows all he has to do his look at you with those “big browns” and you’re going to give in to him. Being the pack leader that the owner needs to be must also extend to feeding the dog. Now some dogs may not like a certain brand of dog food. That’s alright. Once you have found a dog food that he likes, this is the food you should stick with feeding him.

I believe more than anything else, it is we humans who cause some or our dogs to have bad eating habits. If you see your dog walk away from his bowel and not eat his food, the first thing to do is to make sure the dog is not sick. Once your find out that he doesn’t have a medical problem, then you know that the dog is “playing you.” It becomes a battle of wills. If he doesn’t eat, you will add a little of this and a little of that…..anything to get him to eat. If he waits a little longer, maybe next time you’ll add a big old piece of steak to his dinner. This is not a stupid breed that we chose to own. The more we fuss, the more they win their way. Don’t ever think that your dog can’t read you. He can pick up on just about any mood that you are experiencing. If he feels that you get anxious around the time that you have to feed him, he picks up on this mood. Then he may choose not to eat. You get mad. You get frustrated and may tell him, “That’s it. I’ve had it with you. Either you eat your food or you're not getting anything.” Yeah, sure……..until the next time you add something else. Maybe he’ll like that additive better! He’ll wait!

If you make feeding time a big production, then that’s what you’re going to get……a big production. I’ve had dogs who were fussy eaters twice in my lifetime. One was a young male that I was showing to his championship. It was crucial for him to look good out in the ring against tough competition. It was always about a week or two before a big show that he would decide he didn’t want to eat his dinners. Did he pick up my excitement about the up coming shows? Maybe; I don’t know. He decided he wasn’t going to eat and had the attitude that there was nothing I could do to change his mind. I mean I was on my hands and knees with the dog pleading for him to eat. The more fuss that I made with him, the more that he’d turn his head the other way. I reduced myself as the alpha in his eyes by taking his food and shaping it into little meatballs. I’d open up his jaws and shove the meatball in the back of his mouth, then close it and wait for him to swallow it. Sometimes he did and more times than not, he’d hold the food in his mouth and not so politely, spit it out onto the floor. Did he gain any weight? Did he become a better eater? Did he look forward to his dinner? No, no, and again no! I created a monster all in the name of wanting the little darling to eat and get some weight on. Looking back on it, I now realize that eating time wasn’t a pleasant experience for my dog. I’d never put another dog or myself through that again.

My other dog, who tried to pull rank on me around supper time, is one of the girls that I own now. When I first got her, I wanted to show her how much I loved her and I spoiled her. Stupid me; I began to give her treats from the table. Smart her, she liked them better than her dried out dog food. She wasn’t dumb. Given the choice, the people food was always better than the dog food. After throwing away bowl after bowl of expensive dog food, I said enough is enough. I’m not a rich woman and I couldn’t afford to throw out this food. So I’d put her food down. She had 15 – 20 minutes (tops) to eat her dinner. If she walked away from it with her nose up in the air, then she wouldn’t see her second meal that day. She’d go to bed hungry. The next day, I’d offer her a much smaller meal. If she was hungry, she’d eat it. I kept on doing this until she got the idea that she better eat because nothing else was being offered to her. No dog snacks and most certainly no people food. She had a choice, either eat what I gave her or don’t eat at all. A healthy dog won’t starve themselves.

If we keep making special foods for them by adding all sorts of “yummies” to their food, we will create finicky eaters. If they are not given a choice of a menu to choose from, then they will eat whatever it is that you give to them.

Something that I have found that works well with a fussy eater is to feed them in a crate next to another dog who loves to eat. They’ll see the other dog gobbling their food down and many times this will give them an incentive to eat for fear that the other dog will get their dinner.

So before you reach for the Xanax, take control and make feeding time a regular part of your routine and stop giving special attention to the bad eater. He must be made to realize, dinner time is for eating. Any other activity is not acceptable and if he tries to interrupt your rules, he doesn’t get fed. Believe me, he’ll begin to wonder how come his bowl of food isn’t put don’t for him to turn his nose up at anymore. He’ll see you feeding the other dogs and they’re gobbling their food down happily. Perhaps, he’s not getting his that night. Once he knows that you are not going to cave into his “spoiled brat” ways, he will eat his dog food like it was a plate of filet mignon!

My rating: finicky eaters: (1), dealing with them: (1), success rate as long as it’s not medical: (4), happy dog, happy owner: (4)

1 comment:

  1. The black and red stallion of a dog rose up; stretching his muscles and yawning complacently. Last night was much like every other for him...sleeping comfortably on the egg crate mattress meant to cradle his body; protecting him from the tile floor of his kennel. He saunters to the water bucket filled to the brim with water brought in by delivery truck, thereby avoiding any possibility of a gastric upset. The door to his private paddock opens allowing the morning sun to flood his room. His coat glistens with health; the product of years of good food and loving care. He inspects his domain; wandering around the grassy area that was planted especially for him. No stones to injure pads... no mud or sand to dull the coat...The trees provide shade from the warm summer sun outside while air conditions whir non stop; maintaining a comfortable 70 degrees inside. Soon his person would come with the stainless steel pan of food that had been prepared for him. He would be bathed, brushed, exercised and doted on before being returned to the comfort of his kennel home. For he was something that his person called a "SHOW DOG".... tho he did not understand the words. His whole life had been lived among the adulation of the crowds...the photo ops of cameramen eager to catch that one special moment...the miles drifting one into another as he traveled with his person from show to show and ultimately...home.

    The washed out black and tan dog rose from his fitful sleep under the bus. He had survived yet another night though the temperature had dipped well below freezing. The tips of his ears were numb and black; mange had robbed him of much of the fur that was meant to keep him warm. Memories of the life he once shared with his person all too often came flooding back; the chain he dragged behind him now an ever present reminder of the abuse he suffered.
    He tries to blend into the scenery around him as he slowly advances toward the trash barrels lined up along the building; hoping for something edible. Perhaps a kindly shop owner would toss him some scraps...helping to ease the ache in his stomach at least for today. The snow is falling, adding insult to injury as it balls up in the pads of his feet and soaks him to the bone. The only available water is the melting snow; and it is mixed with the chemicals of the street...hardly drinkable.
    A truck groans to a stop at the end of the alley, depositing its driver in his path.
    A pole appears; a noose at its business end. The uniformed man deftly passes it over the aged dogs head and drags him to the waiting van. He is unceremoniously jammed into a crate that is meant for a much smaller dog and with a slam of the door his fate is sealed. For he is a "stray"...unwanted, forgotten by society and the owner who was meant to protect him.