Picky Eaters (Dogs)

Many dogs show preferences for certain meats like pork, and rabbit, or parts like heads, feet, or liver. As I mentioned when writing about portioning, variety is an important factor of a healthy diet. It is not unusual to have to deal with some resistance from your pet when introducing something new.

Some dogs take right to it and are rather excited when you introduce something new. Some are more conservative. When it is easier to feed your dog something she likes, it may be difficult to find ways to include enough variety. Most of the challenges with a dog rejecting food items are usually encountered when they start out eating raw; however, there are exceptions.

Here are some reasons why dogs might be rejecting food and some tips on how to overcome the challenges:

  • Unusual texture. This will be a factor when introducing organ meat. Liver for instance has a slimy texture that might be a challenge for your dog, at first. Changing the texture may work:
    • Pan searing liver for a few seconds on each side and sprinkling it with Parmesan could be a great first introduction. I have seen picky eaters gobble it up. After the first introduction, skip the cheese and start cooking it a little less each time until your dog is ok with eating it raw.
    • Grinding it raw and mixing it in with other ground food can be an option, as well.
    • Feeding it frozen is my favorite way to introduce unusual textures, because you can continue feeding frozen for as long as you like. Since you are not cooking it, the meat still retains all of its nutrients.
  • Work factor. Whole meat that needs chewing and tearing. If your dog is notorious for chewing and destroying toys and other items, you likely won’t have a problem with this; crunching will be a rather enjoyable act for her. But if your dog rejects whole meat in favor of ground, here are a few steps you can take:
    • Inspect your dog’s mouth for cuts, broken teeth or fractures. If you have any of those present, the act of chewing might be causing her pain. Take care of the dental issues before reintroducing whole meats.
    • Remove the skin. Sometimes skin or fur on a prey animal can be challenging to get through.
    • Take a fork and make some tear in the meat to start.
    • Pulverize the meat, smashing its bones before handing it over to your dog. If your dog has been on kibble for a while, she might not understand what to do with the meat, and require some schooling. A mother dog might introduce pups to meat in a similar way when she starts weaning them off her milk.
    • If your dog rejects whole prey, open up the carcass like you would get a toddler started on opening a present!
  • “Funky” taste. This doesn’t refer to spoiled meat—spoiled meat is actually very attractive to your dog; whether or not you are comfortable feeding it is your personal preference. Rabbit, goat, deer or quail can have a “gamey” taste that can be challenging, if your dog is not used it. There are a couple of ways to deal with this:
    • Grind it up and mix with another protein that your dog enjoys.
    • Play “tough love”. If the dog doesn’t eat it, put it away and offer it for the next meal. Skip snacks and treats on those days to make your dog really hungry. Please do not use “tough love” on very small dogs or puppies under 6 months old, though. Fasting small dogs and pups or senior dogs can be cruel. Find other ways to entice these dogs to eat variety.

There are also two ways to deal with a picky eater that could be solution in all 3 cases: texture, taste, and work:

  • Reduce the portions you are feeding. Dogs can get naturally picky, if they are overfed. The portion size correlates with the amount of exercise, so feed less on the days when your dog doesn’t exercise and exercise your dog more often!
  • Playing “tough love” (as described above) is a universal tool that helps to overcome challenges with your pets. I will give you an example. I have a young excitable Wheaten Terrier who would rather inhale ground food and get back to chasing squirrels, than take his time to tear and chew his food. He is three and a half years old and has a superb metabolism. “Tough Love” works like a charm. When he refuses to eat something, I refuse to feed him anything else. Eventually he gets hungry and eats!

I hope you find these suggestions helpful. If you have any questions, please ask. Also, let me know if you have your own success stories dealing with picky eaters!

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