Dear Katie… I’ve got a fussy eater
Our Dachshund has become very picky when it comes to her food. We’ve tried several brands, but she shies away from her bowl after a few days of eating well. We have a behaviourist to help us as she is also a very anxious little dog. Can you help her enjoy food again?
Firstly, it’s really important to make sure she isn’t off her food because she is unwell or in pain. Your vet will be able to establish this for you by giving her a check over. Now let’s dive a little deeper…
It’s interesting to hear she’s an anxious dog, because fussy eaters often have anxiety issues, and the two are not unrelated. The mind and the digestive system are very much connected, which is why we feel butterflies when we’re nervous or excited.
There are several factors to think about when trying to reignite her interest in food – and combat stress. Just like us, each canine is unique, so sorting the right food for fussy dogs requires time and patience.
Here’s a good place to start:
Food for fussy dogs: the where, how, what & who approach
Where is she fed?
Many dogs prefer to eat away from other household members (humans and animals alike) if given a choice. Fear of their food being stolen can lead some pooches to retreat to a quieter (and perhaps darker) place to enjoy their meal. As a result, bowl positioning is a crucial element to consider when putting down food for fussy dogs. Be mindful of where you serve your Dachshund’s meals, and try to pick a secluded, peaceful spot away from household traffic.
How is she fed?
A large bowl of food can feel overwhelming to anxious dogs. Try small meals – even a teaspoon of food – to begin with. Move away from the meal mentality and think of unusual ways to nourish your dog.
This could include:
- Using food as treats to reward good behaviour at home and on walks.
- Sometimes making her work for food by carrying out simple commands such as sit and stay – this helps build a sense of excitement around rewards as pooches love to please.
- Some dogs enjoy chewing food so you could try using a Kong or a raw meaty bone as an additional substitute.
- Hiding food around the garden or on a local walk that they ‘incidentally’ discover! This is a sneaky way to get in some extra calories.
You’d be surprised how much of the day’s food allowance can be given using the tactics above.
What are you feeding?
As well as flavour, think about texture and temperature when sorting out food for fussy dogs. Just like us, every dog is different, with different tastes. Some prefer chunky food over minced meals; some opt for dry food over wet. Although we know it’s essential to feed a balanced diet, remember that dogs are mammals who have evolved to eat a variety of foods as the seasons change.
In fact, you can happily feed a variety of complete meals – there’s no need to stick to one go-to recipe. Purchasing small amounts of one flavour or type of food helps you avoid waste, and helps your hound avoid mealtime frustration: this is one of the reasons we offer a variety of recipes, from cold pressed to raw, and our raw food can be served as is or safely cooked.
Who is around at feeding time?
Canine behaviour can be very subtle, so it’s useful to put yourself in her paws and think like a dog for a moment. Our own anxieties around dinnertime can inadvertently exasperate dogs’ picky eating habits. Pups may view your behaviour (or that of another resident cat or dog) as an act of intimidation, and, subsequently, their desire to tuck into a meal can significantly deplete.
One of these behaviours involves looking directly at your dog. Canines see this as predatory behaviour and, if they’re submissive by nature, this can put them right off their food. Try to leave your dog alone when you offer her food, or try changing who is in the room; remove other dogs or bring them in, as sometimes the competition spurs them on to join in and eat.
Food for fussy dogs: an individual issue
The food for fussy dogs dilemma is highly dependent on the pup in question – their unique needs, their personality, their tastes, and more. Getting to the root cause is a case of trial and error, one you can start tackling with some of my suggestions.
A good behaviourist will be able to help as well, and there are some excellent anxiety-busting products in our range, such as our Calming Blend.
I hope this advice helps and she finds her joy for food again soon.