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Learn : Picky Eater

Tips for Getting Your Picky Dog to Eat

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For the parents of picky eaters, Nom Nom has heard your plea. We've taken a clinical and behavioral approach to get your best friend the right training to end mealtime nightmares. Our Veterinary Nutritionist, Justin Shmalberg DVM, has designed a training program to teach fussy eaters to eat the food you give them.

As pet parents, we fawn over our pets and provide them with all the sustenance and love they need for survival and happiness. However, there is a fine line between nurturing and spoiling. Just as parents do with kids, pet parents must take responsibility to properly train their dogs.

There is no such thing as an inherently picky eater. In this article, Nom Nom walks you through a day over day transition plan with additional tips and tricks on how to get your finicky pup eating and happy.

Transition Formula: Creating a routine for you and you dog(s)

You should be feeding your dog two times per day; once in the morning and once in the evening. Execute the below formula in the exact order outlined day by day for as many days as it takes to get through this entire process without a whine or whimper.

MORNING:

  1. Set an alarm for the same time every morning.

  2. Fill the bowl with food and set it in a location that you know is away from distractions and use it everyday.

  3. Signal your dog to wait once you have placed the food in the bowl. Do not allow them to eat the food until you have given them permission.

  4. Wait 2-3 seconds and then signal them to approach the bowl of food. Stand for another 5-10 seconds out of view and observe their interaction with the food.

  5. If they immediately reject the food (barks, moves away from the food bowl, sniffs the food and walks away, follows you without even looking at the food), don't try to re-enlist their attention, but walk away for 10 minutes and ignore them. 

  6. After 10 minutes, if they haven't eaten the food, call them back to the feeding location and repeat #3-4 for 2 minutes.

  7. If they still aren't eating the food; pick up the bowl and put away the food.

  8. They do not get food that morning. Ensure they have plenty of water.

AFTERNOON:

(optional - only if Morning and Evening do not work in the first two days)

If you live close to work and are able to come home for a break OR if you are able to have a dog walker, do the following to help increase metabolism and therefore increase appetite:

  1. Grab some of the meal and use as a treat to train your dog for tricks that help you get through the food transition process (i.e. sit, wait, go, etc.). Do this for 15-20 minutes.

  2. Once treat training time is over, take them for a walk, run or play fetch for another 20-30 minutes.

  3. Ensure they have plenty of water and take your leave.

EVENING:

  1. Set an alarm for the same time in the evening.

  2. Grab some of the meal and use as a treat to train your dog for tricks that help you through the food transition process (i.e. sit, wait, go, etc.). Do this for 15-20 minutes.

  3. Once treat training time is over, take them for a walk, run or play fetch for another 20-30 minutes.

  4. When back, fill the bowl with food and set it in a location away from distractions. 

  5. Signal them to wait once you have placed the food in the bowl. Do not allow them to eat the food until you have given them permission.

  6. Wait 2-3 seconds and then signal them to approach the bowl of food. Stand for another 5-10 seconds out of view and observe their interaction with the food.

  7. If they immediately reject the food (barks, moves away from the food bowl, sniffs the food and walks away, follows you without even looking at the food), don't try to re-enlist their attention, but walk away for 10 minutes and ignore them. 

  8. After 10 minutes, if they still haven't eaten the food, call them back to the feeding location and repeat #5-6 for two minutes.

  9. If they still aren't eating the food; pick up the bowl and put away the food.

  10. They don't get food that evening. Ensure they have plenty of water.

While this formula may seem aggressive, we can assure you that this is the best technique in getting your dog to transition quickly and effectively, while building your authority and rapport in your relationship. Normal healthy dogs will test your will, and remember that dogs are built to sustain themselves through starvation. Their wild cousins will go up to a week without eating and domesticated dogs today retain that ability. As a result, it may take 4-5 days until they are hungry enough to eat without a fuss.

Of course, remember to talk to your vet and get clearance that they're healthy for this bootcamp and don't have any underlying medical condition causing them to have reduced appetite or to be averse to food.


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