I believe many of us have faced this problem in our lives. Sometimes, our dogs are just not interested in what’s in their bowls. I have faced this issue too. Not with Junior, but with Casper. Casper had turned his nose up at his own food, but was always interested in what I was eating. This meant that he wasn’t ill, but had become a picky eater.
Let me tell you how it started and the ways I bid to make him start eating his own food without him throwing a tantrum.
Just like any other Labrador, Casper was a big time foodie. He would eat anything and everything that I would put in his bowl, along with some veggies that I gave him as snacks. He always maintained an ideal weight and was a very active dog. Unfortunately, he fell ill and was diagnosed with Tick Fever where his survival was nearly impossible. But, by the grace of God and expertise of the Vet, Casper not only lived, he thrived. Obviously it wasn’t easy. After some months of his treatment, and when Casper was absolutely normal and healthy, I noticed that he had started withdrawing from his food. Eventually, he stopped eating his kibble completely.
I was scared, because I thought he was relapsing. I spoke to the Vet and briefed him about Casper’s behavior. That’s when I came to know that Casper had turned into a fussy eater. Since this is not a medical problem or an illness, there is no medicine also to it. So I had to find a different way to make him start eating his own food. In the meantime, Casper happily ate Curd Rice and Vegetables. But that was not enough as he was not getting all his nutrients and vitamins which he would get from kibble. Being a vegetarian myself, I was hesitant to introduce him to meats and fish, even eggs. I would have done that eventually, had Casper not started eating the dog food. But that was Plan B. I was reflecting on a way to make Plan A work, i.e. make him eat his kibble happily.
Dogs are not picky. It’s an acquired trait. My biggest challenge was to find the core of his new behavior. Which I found! He had become finicky about his food because when he was recovering from Tick Fever, I had fed him chicken soups, eggs, curd, sugarcane juice, etc. Basically, he was off dog food for some time and he was relishing on the other stuff. Now, you must be thinking why sugarcane juice. It has so much sugar and sugar is poison for dogs. In India, if anyone has jaundice, we give them a lot of sugarcane juice. According to traditional Ayurveda, sugarcane juice is a boon to strengthen your liver and a proven remedy for jaundice. The antioxidants in sugarcane juice protect the liver against infection and maintain the bilirubin levels in control.
Alright, since I was aware of Casper’s core issue, my next step was to slowly make him like his kibble. Please remember, it’s not magic. It took time for him to get back to his schedule. So be consistent and patient. Do not scold your dog or scream at them. There will be a time of frustration, but that won’t solve anything.
I bought home a few samples of dog food from the vet and introduced them one by one to Casper. Some of them Casper sniffed and left, and some Casper ate a bite or two and left. So I discarded the ones which didn’t eat and narrowed down to one food brand which Casper ate the most. Now I had to work around only one food brand.
My next step was to make Casper eat more and more of it daily. I knew he wouldn’t start eating it at once, so I activated a little of my acting skills to make him eat atleast a handful of it. At the same time, I also reduced his intake of Curd Rice and Veggies. There were times when Casper skipped him meals completely. That’s ok for a dog skip a meal or two, since he didn’t have any medical issues at that time.
I stopped filling Casper’s bowl in front of him. I never hand-fed him or even bribed him. I would keep his food and if he didn’t eat till half n hour, I would take it and discard it. I would go in the kitchen, fill his bowl and then bring it outside to his eating place, so that he is not pre annoyed by the smell of the food and he gets to smell it only at the time of eating. Most of the times, he would eat a little and then leave it. So as I said I activated my acting skills, I would tell him that I am going out and start walking towards the door. Casper would immediately go to his bowl and complete his food. Different techniques work for different dogs. Since Casper always wanted me around, he ate his food thinking I would leave. But I couldn’t do this forever, right!
Then, I bought wet food of the same brand and started mixing it little with his dry food. That’s when I had to stop acting and Casper started finishing his bowl on his own. And eventually, after reducing the wet food gradually, one day came, when Casper for the first time in weeks ate his dry food completely on his own. And, that was the first time I rewarded him for completing his meal on his own. But always keep a check on them, as they may tend to get back to being picky again.
In all this process, under no circumstances fall weak and give them anything that they want like human food or table scraps. This will delay their process of getting back on schedule. Also, there can be various reasons why dogs suddenly become picky. They could be ill, or have some kind of anxiety, or maybe in pain, etc. So, rule out the medical causes first. There are also myths that fussy eaters cannot be fixed or changing the food often leads to fussy eating or they get bored of kibble after some times. These are nothing but MYTHS.
Like all responsible parents, we want our pets the always remain healthy and safe. And anything can be achieved with consistency, patience and lots of love.