When Your Dog Is a Picky Eater (cont.)
What if You Started on the Wrong Foot?
It's never too late to start over, but if you want to transition your pup off the filet mignon and sweets, and on to strictly canine fare, it's best to take it one step at a time. “It's going to be tough and require 100% compliance from the entire family,” Murray says. She suggests lessening people cuisine and increasing dog food bit by bit every day until your pup is off human food entirely.
While you are mixing foods, it's best to use canned dog food as opposed to dry food. That way your pet can't separate out and just eat the people food. If your dog refuses to eat, he is likely holding out for people food, but it's important to hold firm. “Just because he skips a few meals, don't give in and give him what he wants,” Hoppe says. “Leave the bowl out for 15 minutes, and if he's not finished, take it away.” He'll eventually choose dog food over no food at all.
Make Sure You're Giving Your Dog a Healthy Diet
Occasionally the problem with a picky eater may be that he doesn't like the brand of food you're giving him. Or it may be that he prefers canned food over dry or vice versa. Both vets tell WebMD that a high-quality commercial brand is important for a healthy diet. Check the ingredients, and make sure corn doesn't top the list. Murray says, “Corn isn't an ideal diet for a carnivore.”
If you've tried three brands and both canned and dry food, it's time to look for another reason your dog refuses to eat. Most likely, he's holding out for table scraps.
Reserve treats for times when praise is necessary, such as in training. But remember, not all rewards have to be edible. “If your dog loves attention, a scratch behind the ears is a treat,” Murray says.
If you find that food treats get the best results, create some boundaries. For instance, only give a treat after a trick, and always do it in the backyard. Also, limit treats to three a week, and put them in a separate container so that the entire family knows how many have been given. “It's one thing if your dog knows he only gets certain things while he's training,” Murray says. “But it's another if you're sitting in the kitchen reading a magazine and give your dog a treat because he looks cute.”
Louise Murray, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM and director of medicine for ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital In New York.
Margaret Hoppe, DVM, Abingdon Square Veterinary Clinic in New York.
© 2009 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.