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Fussy Eating in Dogs: How to Get Your Dog Eating Again!

Updated: Apr 24

Is your dog showing signs of being a fussy eater? It's time to leave behind the worry and frustration and get your dog eating again. In this blog, we explore the world of picky eating in dogs and uncover effective strategies to reignite their appetite. Say goodbye to your fussy eater with our expert tips and tricks.


There are a few different reasons why your dog may be picky with their food. Let's dig into them:


1. Tummy upset


A sore belly can stop your dog's appetite in its tracks. If you think about a time when you've felt bloated or had a tummy bug, you probably didn't want to eat much, either!



Fussy eating in dogs can be caused by an upset tummy
A sore belly can stop your dog's appetite in its tracks.


Typical signs of a sore belly include constipation, diarrhoea, vomiting, scratching at or licking their belly, salivating more than usual, and chewing themselves or other objects more than usual.


If you think your dog has a tummy upset, it's time to call your vets and get them checked out.


2. General pain/discomfort


Lots of dogs go off their food when they're feeling uncomfortable physically. This is typically when your dog is feeling sore in their joints or muscles, but can also happen with other uncomfortable things, such as itchy or sore skin.


If your dog has also changed how they walk, started limping, or started to not like being touched on part of their body, they're likely to be in pain. Remember, though, many vets can struggle to detect pain effectively in an appointment, so make sure to take videos of your dog walking and running to show them. You can get a checklist of what videos to show them as part of our free mini-course, 7 Steps To CALM.


3. Boredom with meal times


Sometimes, a fussy dog is being picky purely because they're bored. Many animals, including humans, get bored when things are too easy (a phenomenon known as contrafreeloading), but introducing a new challenge can bring the spark back! In these situations, it can be a great idea to try out some more enriching ways to deliver your dog's food.



Fussy eating in dogs can be caused by boredom - stop your dog being a picky eater using puzzle feeders
Puzzle feeders can be a great way to boost your dog's engagement with their meals


Instead of using a bowl for their meals, why not try a puzzle feeder? KONG and Nina Ottosson sell some great options, but you can also make your own versions using household items, like toilet roll innards and old towels. If you want an even easier option, try scattering their food in some grass and let them forage!


4. Boredom with flavours


Ever heard the phrase 'variety is the spice of life'? Well, it applies to our dog's dinners, too! Eating the same flavour, in the same format, day in, day out, can get pretty dull. And a lot of dogs will get so sick of it that they will stop eating altogether out of protest.


The best way to remedy this is to regularly offer your dog new foods to try, or to have a handful of staples that you rotate between. You don't have to stay to the same brand or food format, either, you can get creative! Just remember to always feed your dog a complete and balanced diet, so they get all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.


5. Meal times are poisoned

No, I don't mean you're accidentally putting toxic or poisonous foods in your dog's dinner: this is more of a behavioural phrase.


If you regularly follow a good thing with a bad thing, that good thing can become 'poisoned' in your dog's mind, and they will no longer enjoy that good thing. For example, if you always leave for work whilst your dog is eating their breakfast, they're not likely to want breakfast anymore - because eating it means you go away! This is also why your timing is vital when training your reactive dog - you want to be rewarding them after they see their trigger, not before. Otherwise, their most favourite treat becomes scary for them!



Picky eating in dogs can happen if they think something bad will follow - get your dog eating again by removing this possibility
Treats should always be used AFTER the trigger has been seen, just like meals should be given separately from any scary or negative thing.


If you think this has happened with your dog, the best thing to do is break the routine - feed a new food, in a new way, in a different place, at a different time. You may also need to rebuild their trust in you and in mealtimes, which can take time.


6. They don't feel safe


This one is far more common than you may realise, and a dog needs to feel safe when they're eating. Eating a meal puts a dog in a vulnerable position, and it's hard-wired into them that they need to eat in a safe place, around others they trust or completely alone.


Dogs can feel particularly vulnerable eating with their heads in corners, where their body is exposed to the rest of the room, or if they have to eat in the thoroughfare of the house, where there's a lot of activity.


If you think this may apply to your dog, try feeding them in a quiet room, with the bowl in the middle of the room so they can move around it. Alternatively, try feeding them in a covered crate, where they can be confident no one can get to them whilst they eat.


Still Struggling With Your Fussy Dog?


If you've tried all these and are still having problems with your dog not eating, book a free advice call with Alyssa, our expert behaviourist and nutritionist, here.

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