newtracie2Your dog may be one of those rare creatures who can take it or leave it as far as food is concerned. The rest of us have to guard our breakfast plate with our lives, afraid to turn around or our dog will help herself to our toast and peanut butter even after she has polished off her own bowl of yummy dog breakfast.

While those of us whose dogs view anything and everything as potentially edible might envy your food-un-obsessed pooch, I can imagine it is frustrating to put down a thoughtfully prepared dish of food for your dog and have her yawn and go back to her nap. Picky eaters may leave their dog food uneaten much of the time. This can prey on your guilt and worry that “she’ll starve” so you tempt her with all sorts of “people food.” While I am all for giving healthy small snacks of food people are eating, and also adding nutritious human leftovers to a dog’s bowl, she does need to get at last half of her calories from a premium, balanced prepared dog food.

Want to know a good way to discover whether your dog has no appetite because she is ho-hum about the dog food you are serving? One sure way to know if your dog isn’t hungry or is just holding out for something “better” is to offer a more tempting snack if she has ignored her food bowl. If the dog gets enthusiastic about a bit of cheese pizza you offer, but her own dinner never seems to put a smile on her face, you are seeing definite signs of picky eating.

The first thing you should do is switch to a new super premium dry and wet dog food like Halo. If you have had a bag of any kibble open longer than one month, throw it away. The food has gotten stale and may even be going rancid. Sorry, but a good quality dog food without chemical preservatives usually recommends buying bags only large enough to last about three weeks so freshness is guaranteed once you open it.

Boost the flavor and smell of the food. Increasing the odor of the food can stimulate appetite in a dog who has not seemed interested in eating. Put some warm broth on the food or pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds (but no longer than that because dogs’ sensitive tongues do not do well with very warm or hot food). Sprinkle some Halo Dinner Party on top of the food or crumble a bit of human leftovers to get their appetite stoked. This may sound a little like bribery but it is not the same as a bite of cheese pizza! These small enticements are on top of the nutritionally balanced food and are simply a way to “kick start” a dog to eat what’s in the bowl

Another solution is to keep your dog company. Some dogs do much better if they have your companionship while they are eating: they don’t like being left alone. Some people will eat out alone in a restaurant, but most of us would be much happier (and eat more heartily) if we have a table companion. Some dogs won’t concentrate on eating if their bowl is put far from where people are – they may hate to be left out of the household action.

If they cannot see you at their dinnertime they may wonder where you are and worry about what they are missing or whether you have gone somewhere without them (or is it only my Weimaraners, the Gray Ghosts, who feel this way?!). If you have been feeding your dog somewhere like a laundry, consider bringing the dog’s bowl into the kitchen. Hang out with her, and even verbally encourage your dog to tuck into her meal.

Another effective tactic with picky eaters it take the dish away. It is widely suggested that if your dog doesn’t eat her food within fifteen minutes of putting it out, then pick it up until the next usual mealtime. Being a little hungry makes a big difference in the dog’s attitude to food- we know this ourselves! By only giving food at two definite mealtimes you help your dog develop a routine whereby her internal clock tells her digestive system that a mealtime is imminent: digestive juices and appetite begin to anticipate the meal.

Feeding at a regular mealtime can also aid in house training because eating at the same time every day accustoms a dog’s bowels that once they are stimulated by food they can then eliminate and it becomes natural to get her on a regular routine of relieving herself.

Tracie Hotchner, author of The Dog Bible and The Cat Bible, guest blogs here every Thursday on healthy, natural choices for pets.

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