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Tips & Advice

Fussy Eating Dogs

Is your dog a fussy eater?I am the owner of possibly the fussiest dog on the planet.  Monty has been known to love a particular flavour of kibbles one day and then, the next day and the one after that (you get the idea) he'll refuse to eat it.  I'm not really sure how it all started as he seems to have been eternally fussy from a very small pup and now as a 1 year old, I think that we have tried over 8 different brands of kibbles.  From the very expensive to the vet recommended food, Monty has tried it all and turned his nose up.  The amount of money wasted on food that Monty has refused to eat is incredible.  Give him a whiff of roast chicken though.....and he will bark at me and nudge me until it comes out of the oven.  He would happily live on boiled rice and chicken.  Where did I go wrong? 

How does it happen?

Anxious to get to the bottom of it all, stop wasting money and get Monty more motivated to eat what is put in front of him, led me to ask some advice from a local dog trainer.  It seems that the problem may be all my fault after all.  Uh oh!  I have spoiled Monty rotten and allowed him to have the upper hand.  He has learned that if he holds out long enough, I'll surrender and cook him something tasty to add to his dry food.  I can't count just how many times I've rushed out to get him some lamb's heart to fry up or cooked him a bit of mince or worse still, boiled up a chicken carcass to add tasty juice to his kibbles, worrying that he'll starve if I don't give him something he'll actually eat.....  Yes, it would seem on closer inspection of the situation that I am entirely to blame for Monty's fussiness.  I wonder how many owners have been duped by a soppy faced spaniel.  So now I've learned the hard way, I'm trying to go back to the very beginning and set Monty straight with a few simple ground rules that I've been given. 

Monty the fussy eater

What to do next?

Here are a few top tips to help you if you too have a dog who is prone to fussiness and food fads:

  • Don't leave your dog's food down for more than 10-15 minutes - your dog won't be interested in it after that. Dogs work on instinctive behaviour when it comes to food - alpha dogs get to the food first and if there's anything left, it usually isn't worth having! Leaving food out is like saying "This is so disgusting that not even I want to eat it". By taking it away, you are telling your dog that you are the alpha in the relationship and that you can give and take the food away at will. If food is only available when you say it is, your dog will soon learn that if he doesn't eat it, there will be nothing else until the next meal. Harsh but it does work.
  • Put less in the bowl. Better to give a little bit less as you can always add a bit more if your dog wolfs it all down at once.
  • Add a little warm water to kibbles - I find that Monty is much more interested in his food when it gives off a stronger scent.
  • Don't offer your dog any titbits - would you eat kibbles if you were being offered delicious home cooked meals hand-fed to you from the table? No chance!
  • Make sure that everyone in your household is following the same routine and no one is slipping the odd bit of bacon to the dog. My children are entirely guilty of this one! Monty believes that our 2 year old is his best friend as she always drops something tasty for him under the table!
  • Don't forget to praise your dog when he DOES eat the food in his bowl. Dogs are usually keen to please and if praised, will soon learn that they are doing something which will mean that they have more of your attention and affection.
  • Finally and quite importantly, keep your dog fit and healthy with plenty of exercise. If your dog is getting regular exercise, he will be hungrier and more likely to polish off his food with gusto.

Who me?Just with these few guidelines, Helen, our lovely local dog trainer and behaviourist has taught me so much and although, Monty still has his moments, he is now eating from his bowl happily.  Well....most of the time anyway!  He does still sit by the Everhot and bark at me when the aroma of roast chicken begins wafting from the oven door.  Can you blame him?!



Rebecca Fletcher

Rebecca is a freelance writer who finally upped sticks to rural Hampshire after over a decade in London.  She lives with her husband, 2 daughters, 2 cats, a motley crew of hens and her beloved working cocker spaniel Monty, general gundog dunce and probably the most spoilt dog in Hampshire.  With the phrase 'the more the merrier' being embraced as part of their new rural life, a bundle of joyful furriness named Isadora joined the family just before Christmas 2015 and life has not been the same since. 

They say that you can never have too much of a good thing!  Good job too as now there are two cocker spaniels at home to train, walk and play with, when they are not curled up at Rebecca's feet waiting for her to finish writing for the day!

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Rebecca Fletcher

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