Dog Training Tips: Help, my dog won’t eat!
… is probably a phrase that will never be heard in our household, since ADHDog would eat himself to death if given the opportunity, and has helped himself to snacks in our open pantry on more than one occasion. During his first (and only! – we learned better) garbage adventure, he consumed:
- A cup of spicy tofu soup
- A quarter of a moldy baguette
- 3 rib bones
- chewed open and licked out a bottle of mustard
However, there are dogs out there that are not quite as exuberant about food as ours. First things first: if your dog is normally an enthusiastic eater, and suddenly stops showing interest in food, she should go to the vet: sudden behavior changes, including loss of appetite, could indicate that she is sick or injured (for example, she may have a sore in her mouth or a bad tooth that needs extraction). Dogs will also stop eating if they are stressed. Newly purchased or adopted dogs, including shelter dogs, rescues, and puppies, have just experienced some pretty significant upheaval in their lives, and may not eat due to anxiety – in time, they will typically come around.
But what if your dog is just a food snob? Healthy dogs won’t starve themselves, and though it may feel like you need to entice them to eat with tasty toppings (dog gravy is a thing!), this only teaches them that if they hold out, they get something WAY better than their regular kibble – why should they ever eat without a fuss?
If you have a fussy dog, the first thing may be to eliminate free-feeding, where food is left out for the dog to eat as he pleases. Though this works for some dogs (not mine!), it can encourage pickiness because food is never scarce. Additionally, when free-feeding, it can be difficult to assess how much your dog is truly eating in a day. You may try to encourage the dog to see the food as something important, by placing his food bowl down for 10-15 minutes. Whatever is left when the time is up goes away, and he has to wait until his next meal.