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How to deal with “fussy eating” in puppies

Is your puppy poo-pooing their food? Learn why and what to do about it.

Written by Paws

April 3, 2019

We are a nation of food lovers. We love eating food, we love making food, and we love using food to bond with others, including our pets.

Seeing our dogs devour the food we feed them not only fills us with a sweet sense of gratification, it also plays a big role in strengthening the emotional connection between pet and parent.

Which is why, when our pups turn their nose up at the food we offer, we begin to worry, and panic, and jump to the nearest, easiest, possible explanation. This being that our dog *wistful sigh* is a fussy eater.

Truth bomb time! The real reason your puppy isn’t eating their food.

If your pup's refusing to eat, it's not because he or she is a fussy eater. In fact, when it comes to dogs, there's no such thing as a "fussy eater." 

There are, however, opportunistic dogs. Not that we can blame 'em. When faced with a choice between a garden salad and triple cooked chips, we all know what we're having.

Chopping and changing your dog’s food every time they turn up their nose, or worse, defaulting to feeding them human food, will quickly result in your pup doubling down on their behaviour, and thus the cycle of "fussy eating" begins.

It’s a common trap, and one that nearly every new pet parent falls into. But the good news is, it’s totally correctable. With a little teeth-gritting willpower and some help from the tips below, you’ll be able to get your pup back on track with their eating in no time.

Top 7 tips from Paws vet Steph to encourage eating

1. Puppy treats, like human treats, are best served after a meal. Where possible, try to hold off on giving your pup any bite-size delicacies until every inch of their bowl has been licked clean.

2. If your puppy refuses to touch any of their food, take it away after 30 minutes then feed them as normal at their next meal time. This tough love approach will be, well, tough. But as Paws vet Steph says, “It is easier to prevent bad habits forming at the beginning, rather than having to deal with an up-hill struggle later on. As long as your puppy isn’t going for more than one day without food, there is no reason for concern.”

3. We know this one’s really REALLY hard, but try not to give in to those puppy dog eyes. Dogs aren’t just cute. They’re smart. And if they smell table scraps coming their way, they’ll hold out for them. The golden rule: never give in. Doing so will only unravel all that hard work you’ve been putting in.

4. We all know variety is the spice of life. So every 4-6 months, try to switch up your puppy’s food flavours. Not only will this keep their tail wagging, but it might help reduce food allergies. (While food allergies in dogs are rare, repeated exposure to the same allergens - which are commonly proteins - can lead to your pup’s body mounting an inappropriate response to them over time).

5. Keep in mind the role that weather can play in meddling with our appetites. When temps soar, your puppy may be inclined to go off his or her food. This isn’t anything to be too worried about. Just try to keep you pup cool and well-hydrated.

6. You may find that your puppy develops a preference for one particular food flavour over another. This is absolutely fine. However, do try to ride out the bag you’re currently on, as switching foods too frequently might give your pup unrealistic expectations about how much is on the menu!

7. Most importantly, make sure all the humans in the house know these rules and are on the same page when it comes to enforcing them. A united front = a happy family. 

The takeaway

Distressing as it is to see your pup poo-poo their food, the reason for them doing so is rarely cause for alarm. In most instances, the culprit is just a case of A-grade FOMOODF - fear of missing out on delicious food.

If, however, you ever notice your puppy struggling to chew or swallow their food, or if they go more than 24 hours without eating, then be sure to contact your vet for personalised advice as soon as possible.

Sources:

  • Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association Grain Free Fact Sheet

  • Canine and Feline Nutrition 3rd ed. (2011) by Case Hayek, Daristotle, & Raasch

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