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Learn : Picky Eater

Is Your Dog a Picky Eater? Training Guide to Help Them Eat

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For the parents of picky eaters, NomNomNow 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, NomNomNow's Picky Eater Coaching Guide 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 good 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.

Here are some additional 'Need To Knows' that can help with finicky eaters.

Dog Training Basics

Providing the pets with whom we share our home with, a solid training foundation is one of the most important things we can do.  This training can establish the relationship that will define both our own interactions with our pets and their interactions with other humans and fellow pets.  

Feeding Training Consistency

A daily routine helps to give your dog a baseline for what to expect in their daily life, as well as to establish you in their eyes as their fair and gentle pack leader. Over time, following a consistent daily routine allows your dog to trust you and respect you.

Owner Behavior Consistency

Many people hear the word “alpha” and immediately think of harsh or dominating tactics to get a dog to behave or submit. This is definitely not the goal you want to keep in mind when working with your dog and becoming the alpha in their life.

Myths About Dog Starvation

It is perfectly natural for some dogs to skip meals on occasion. This behavior is rooted in nature and in the way dogs have evolved from their wolfy predecessors. It is simply something that happens from time to time, and it can sometimes even be a good thing.

The Truth About Treats

When it comes right down to it, it isn't the act of giving treats that encourages us to do it, but the reactions from our pets that make it all worthwhile. We as humans enjoy the ability to give and provide for our pets, and we are rewarded by the positive relationship we gain in return. In this, the veterinary community cautions that while treat giving is an excellent path to forming a bond, a higher frequency and amount can lead to obesity.

Did You Forget About Exercise?

Exercising a dog means more than just a daily walk, especially for working breeds, but also for dogs who prefer to be couch potatoes. When it comes to exercising dogs, the breed and size will have an impact on their willingness to engage in rigorous activity.

Is It Behavior Or Is It Medical?

It may be tempting to call the vet the second your pooch refuses dinner, but it’s perfectly natural and ordinary for some dogs to skip a meal or two on occasion. They may have simply filled up on too many treats that day, or they might be feeling a bit bored with their kibble.

Myths About Dogs Getting Tired Of Food

Many pet parents end up being manipulated into buying several different types of food for their dogs in an attempt to satisfy their pup’s apparent craving for new and interesting food. However, most of the time, this unwanted behavior can be cleared up by simply having a strict feeding schedule and enforcing regular mealtimes.

Why Did My Dog Destroy My House?

Although some research shows that dogs may have a rudimentary concept of morality, they generally do not go out of their way to do “bad” things on purpose. Since dogs have relatively limited ways to communicate with their human family, engaging in bad things is typically a sign that they need something from their pet parent.

Feeding Multiple Dogs At The Same Time

Many families share their hearts and homes with multiple dogs. While this makes playtime and cuddling even more fun, mealtime can bring its own unique issues. Resource guarding is exactly what it sounds like: a dog feels compelled to protect his food, and displays of aggression usually accompany this impulse.


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