That's why, when you get a dog that doesn't do this, it can be quite confusing. You leave the room, and when you get back, there is still as much food in there as before. It hasn't even been touched.
You might think that your pooch should be hungry all of the time. After a trip to the vet, it might turn out that they are (sort of) a picky eater, and some of your habits might need to change.
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Is My Dog a Picky Eater?
However, some dogs are actually picky. According to Margaret Hoppe, a vet at Abingdon Square Clinic in Grenich Village, some dogs do just like the finer things in life and have a particular appetite. “If you’re having trouble getting your pet to eat on a regular basis, and he won’t consume his food at least once a day, your dog is a picky eater," she says. If your doggo has done this since the day you've had them, it turns out that your dog may just be a picky eater.
What you need to look out for, however, is whether or not your picky eater is staying healthy. Make sure your fur-kiddo is alert, happy, and playful between meals (or at least when they should be eating!), and that they maintain a healthy weight. You can talk with your vet about what that weight is. Shiny, soft coats are a sign of health, so if your dog is looking their best but still not chowing down, they may just be picky.
If your dog has suddenly become uninterested in food, that's when you need to look out. Dogs that rapidly lose weight, are listless or depressed, and seem lethargic are probably ill, and picky eating is just a symptom. When your doggo, who is usually a voracious eater, suddenly stops eating, it's good to go get checked out by a vet if the symptoms don't change within a day or two.
In either scenario, what's important is making sure your dog stays healthy, no matter how voracious their appetite is. Look out for the characteristics of being healthy below.
- Wag tail
- Shiny coat
- Playful and happy
- Consistent weight
- Fresh(ish!) breath
- Normal pees and poops
- Just their normal, lovable selves!
The Science Behind Picky (And Not So Picky) Eating in Dogs
For one thing, your dog may be stressed. This can happen when you bring your pupper home for the first time. Dogs that are in a new environment or surrounded by strangers often may be stressed out, afraid of their new surroundings, or just too darn curious to care about food. For some, it can be all three - they may miss their siblings, haven't had a lot of food before, or may have previously been stuck in a kennel. When introduced to a happy home, it can be over-stimulation central. There are way too many things for them to check out, smell, and explore, and way too many people for them to love.
Bottom line, when it comes to your dog's behavior, before freaking out about your dog being a picky eater and rushing to the vet, try to reduce the stress in your dog's life. Put them someplace familiar, or leave them alone with their food for a little bit. Guaranteed you'll have the little guy eating in no time!
As to our own behavior as owners, we have to re-check what we are doing. Do you sneek your pup snacks from the table? One look at that little face and how can you resist giving them at least a taste of dinner.
However, science has shown that dogs that are fed from the table often won't eat their food that's given to them during mealtime. This is for obvious reasons - they're already full from your delicious meal, or at this point, they know that if they don't eat their dinner, they'll get yours (which tastes way better!). This pertains to treats, too. If your doggo knows that they'll get treats instead of dinner, they'll stick their nose up and wait for you to oblige!
Getting Your Dog to Eat Regularly
Yes, your guy is perfect, and yes, he deserves the best, but feeding your dog half of your steak will start to get expensive!
Once you stop sneaking snacks, your dog will necessarily become less picky, since their dog food will be the only thing available to them. This means cutting out treats too. Treats for doggos taste better than their food, so by eliminating them (at least until your dog becomes used to eating dog food), there really is no other option to satisfy a rumbly tummy.
Another thing you can do as an owner is to feed your dog around the same time every day and avoid leaving food out. This is not only for sanitary purposes (hello mice!), but also because it further creates a need that your dog MUST eat during specific times, and can only munch for a limited amount of time.
Vets and trainers usually suggest leaving food out for 15-30 minutes. If your doggo hasn't eaten all his food during that time, take it away and try again next meal time. Eventually, they'll learn that that's all they're going to get and that's the only time they're going to get it. It'll be hard at first, but stay patient! They'll get it, and be happier and healthier for it.
What To Do If Your Dog Still Just Won't Eat
Talk to your Vet: Sometimes, dogs are just picky. Talk to your vet about your dog's eating habits. If they seem normal and just don't eat super regularly, that may be fine, so long as they are maintaining a consistent weight. Your vet will know what's best for your BFF.
Check On Meal Amounts: This may sound silly, but if someone else is helping to take care of your doggo, it may be that your dog is getting more than one meal and just isn't hungry when you try to feed him! Confirm with your household who's in charge of feeding, and make sure that your dog only gets fed once per mealtime.
Check On Secret Stashes: Relatedly, make sure your little thief hasn't gotten into anybody else's food! If your dog snuck tons of cat food earlier in the day, it's likely they won't be hungry at dinner time. Make sure they're only eating what they're supposed to, when they're supposed to!
Try Changing Foods: Sometimes, the food we think our dogs will like actually hurts their tummy, or they are just bored and need variety. When this happens, it's OK to switch food brands, as long as it's done properly. Combine the new food and the old food over a couple days, slowly adding more of the new and replacing the old. Eventually, your dog will get accustomed, and hopefully, start eating normally!