When Your Dog is a Picky Eater & How to Deal with It

I got Pixie when she was old enough to be adopted and ever since day one she has been a picky eater. She will take her food out of the bowl and either eat or set it somewhere else. Ever since moving in with Rose over a year ago she has began to flip her bowl over so the food goes everywhere. Or she'll just lay down near the bowl defending it from Kiki... but not eating a single bite of it. So how to you convince a dog who is a picky eater to actually eat. Or as my roommate and I comment, "She eats to live. She doesn't live to eat." Whereas, Kiki is the other way around. So is my mom's and sister's dog, Winnie.

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Most places will claim this is a matter of pets getting too many table scraps or treats. And that encourages the finicky behavior. And I have to say that's a bunch of bullshit. I tried all of their tips about limiting the number of treats... no changes. It was never the treats to blame. Initially putting the food out she's excited, she asks to eat... then she just doesn't. But I do agree with not giving into your dog who wants you to open or add things to their bowl to coax them to eat. That just gives the authority over to your dog and guess what? They still won't eat.

Here are all the common tips "pet experts" give you to encourage your dog to eat:

  • Give no other options so they have to eat their food.
  • Only leave the food out for 30 minutes, if they don't eat they have to wait until the next meal. Then try again.
  • Don't feed them from the table and limit treats.
  • Stick to a schedule.
  • Take them for a walk beforehand, it will make them see it as a reward.

Now I'm not a pet expert. But I am a Pixie expert. Let me break down each of these tips. Pixie has a food allergy to rice and can't handle most people food. So she's never gotten people food. She also gets one treat a day and that's immediately before bedtime after she's gone outside to go to the bathroom. So limiting treats and people food isn't the issue. Alright so let's look at the next tip. Leave the food out for 30 minutes? Kiki will steal it way before then as she loses patience with Pixie. Plus Pixie will merely go whatever and not care, and she will maintain that attitude for days. No health issues, she is just stubborn. Originally Pixie was free feed but that had to change when I moved in with my roommate. So now she eats twice a day, once in the morning after she's gone outside to go to the bathroom then immediately when I get home... again after she's gone to the bathroom. So it's not that the schedule is inconsistent. Alright so walk beforehand? I don't have time to go for 30 minutes walk every morning and evening just so she'll eat. Also you have to sit next to her in order for her to eat which takes like 30 minutes. So that would be an hour on top of everything else I have to do before work. I would have to get up at like 5 AM if not earlier. And I like sleep. A lot. Plus if I did the same thing in the evening then I literally would be an hour or two for anything else I need to do. Don't get me wrong, she does go for walks but that tip is just unrealistic for us. But I try to follow something similar by letting her outside beforehand. Again the behavior still exists.

So when all the pet experts don't have good tips that don't work for your dog, what do you do?

Some days I don't have to do anything, she'll just eat. But that's rare. I do give her around 45 minutes to eat but if she doesn't eat in that time period with me holding off Kiki, I do put the food away or Kiki will help herself to a second meal. If we're going on the second or third day of her still not nibbling, I will break the rule about treats. I will rip up a chicken jerky treat and put it underneath her food. This gets her to eat her food so she has to get to the treat. After about the second chunk she just starts eating realizing she's hungry. And then the following few meals she has no issues eating the food normally. Then she gets stubborn again and the cycle continues. And I'm ok with that, because I know she's healthy as long as she still eats her bedtime treat. If she won't touch that, I schedule a vet appointment immediately as then I know something is wrong. That hasn't happened since she got HGE, if you want to know more about that check out my blog post all about that. Plus I never have to deal with her becoming overweight, but I do worry some days when she really won't touch food that she might dip into being underweight. But generally that never happens and she sticks in the healthy (for her) range of 19-21 pounds.

What do you do when you have a picky eater on your hands?

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