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When your dog doesn't fancy their food

To some owners this will seem like a bizarre concept. A dog...? Not eating something in front of them…? It seems counterintuitive for some, whose hounds would hoover up every morsel, bowl and all. While your dog turning their nose up at their food can be confusing and even frustrating, there's often a simple reason behind their temporary aversion.


Our first port of call with a dog who won’t eat is to check their teeth. Dogs with dental issues which might be causing them pain or discomfort are likely to want to avoid that which makes the pain worse. Checking out your dog’s oral and dental health is an easy way to start which might flag up the issue quickly and clearly.

From an average of 2 months old onwards, our pups begin teething, and as their new teeth come through their gums can be sore as their teeth become loose and grow through again. Your puppy might struggle with bones and tough treats, so sticking with soft food (such as the Puppy Formula) is a great way to ensure they’re getting what they need and not feeling put off by the discomfort of eating. Serving your pup’s raw food fresh from the fridge can be soothing to enjoy a cold meal on sore gums.


If your dog is sighing at the sight of their full bowl, or is leaving food each mealtime, it’s very possible you are over feeding them. Despite many dogs being happy to munch away until their heart’s content, there comes a point where even the most voracious pup will reach their limit. Some dogs are able to self regulate what they need, leaving what they don’t behind. Check your dog’s portion size against their weight (or target weight if you are looking to loose some) and adjust their meals accordingly.


As female dogs come into season there are physiological changes as well as some potential behavioural changes. Raised temperature, swelling, and a whole host of hormones can sometimes cause girls to go off their food. If a dog is unwell, sometimes they might “self-fast” to cleanse and detox their system. In both cases it is important to keep your dog well hydrated, as it could be a sign of something going on physically with your dog that might not be visibly apparent.


Like many of us, our dogs can thrive with routine, and disruption to their daily schedule can also affect their eating habits. Moving house, loss or addition to the family (on both 2 and 4 legs), a house move and so on can unsettle a sensitive dog. Reestablishing routine, reassuring a nervous dog and patience are the key to reigniting their appetite.

Many people add a “topper” to their dog’s food in an attempt to entice them, which can often work. However, if your dog enjoys a raw diet, reverting to kibble or canned foods is NOT the answer. Kibble is a highly processed food filled with addictive additives and flavourings. Trying to tempt them with a kibble topper on their raw food will make the transition back to raw very difficult, as you’ll be asking them to give up their sugar and fat filled McDonalds for a leaner and healthier option. Similarly, if your dog will only eat their food when it’s heaped with something that they consider higher in value, then they will expect this every meal time, and this added concoction might be skewing the nutritional balance of their meal and leading to unnecessary weight gain over time.

Fussiness with eating is a learned behaviour, and parents who pander to every shunned bowl of food (ie. by adding something “tastier”, compensating with treats between meals, swapping food brands and types regularly, allowing a dog to pick and choose when they eat from a bowl that is left out all day) are also feeding the habit. Establishing that when the bowl goes down, that is their opportunity to eat, and removing an ignored bowl after 10 minutes until the next mealtime with no snacks in-between will soon kick start a healthy feeding routine.

If you are beginning to get frustrated at meal times, watching over your dog and getting anxious that they just eat something, then your dog will pick up on this, too. Sensitive to the way we feel and act, your dog might begin to associate meals with tension and stress. Allowing your dog to eat at their own pace, with their own space and in peace creates a much more relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere around meal times.


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