You may be a first time pet parent and you do not know much about dog parenting yet. But this doesn’t stop you from becoming one because you have always wanted a dog — and why not? Dogs are, after all, man’s best friend. So after much thinking and reasoning, you finally choose a puppy and bring her home.
Being a first time pet owner, you feel the excitement of having to care for a puppy. Shopping for pet food, treats, toys, and accessories proves to be fun and thrilling, what with the plentiful choices to pick from.
As the days pass, however, when all the emotions from having a new pet begins to settle down, you start to notice something about your furry friend’s eating and sleeping habits.
For those who are used to caring for different types of dogs, dealing with picky eaters may no longer be a problem. But for first time pet owners like you, the issue may be quite bothersome. How do you know when it’s time to bring your puppy to the vet? How would you know if you are giving the right food?
An active and cheerful puppy is a good indication that all’s well, health-wise — perhaps she is just picky. But if your pet suddenly refuses to eat and you notice an unusual change in her behavior, it means that something is wrong. Bring your pet to the veterinarian immediately.
What influences a dog’s food preferences?
Like humans, a dog’s food preferences are formed early in their lives. Puppies are influenced by their first experiences; the more varied diet they have when they are still little, the more extensive their inclinations for food will be when they become adults.
When you feed your puppy a variety of foods from the start, there are fewer chances of her becoming finicky. The availability of different kinds of food also helps reduce the chances of developing food allergies.
Why is my puppy a picky eater?
1. You are feeding your furry friend table scraps
You may think that feeding your puppy table scraps after you eat is the right thing to do, especially when you see those big, sad eyes begging for food. However, feeding her even just a few table scraps is not recommended.
It doesn’t give your pet the balanced nutrition it needs and it often leads to obesity and dogs becoming picky with the food they eat. There are also other different reasons why table scraps are not recommended for dogs.
2. You give too many treats
Getting excessive treats during the day can cause a dog to develop a finicky appetite. Treats are usually tastier and more interesting than their normal food, so when your puppy gets a lot of treats throughout the day, she loses her appetite for her regular food.
Hold off on the treats until she has eaten her meal and limit the number of times she gets to have them in a day. It doesn’t give her the balanced nutrition she needs, so use the treats instead when training your puppy to follow commands or do tricks.
3. You have changed brands or tried out new ones
Change can be a big deal to your pet, especially if she has gotten used to the same brand or formula she has been eating since she was young. On the other hand, constantly trying out different formulas may also upset your pet’s digestive system, causing her to refuse to eat.
If you want to try out another dog food brand, do it gradually by mixing her old food with the new one, and increasing the amount of the new food slowly, to help her adapt to the new taste.
4. You may not notice it, but your pet may be stressed
Stress causes loss of appetite not only in humans, but in pets, too. When there are a lot of people coming around the house, when you’re always moving to a new place, when someone leaves, or when there is a big change in the household’s daily schedule, all of these can cause stress to your pet friend. Calm your dog by cuddling her often and reassuringly, or giving her a time-out.
How to deal with picky eaters?
- When dealing with a picky eater, you should be consistent and firm. Do not give in when your pup comes running to you begging for treats, when she hasn’t eaten her meal yet.
- Set up a regular feeding schedule and stick to it so she learns to anticipate food at those times. Give her 20-30 minutes to eat, and if it isn’t eaten, take it away. Offer the same food at the next mealtime.
- Do not allow free feeding or 24/7 snacking. This may seem convenient for both the pet owner and pet, but it actually rewards dogs with low appetite, turning them into picky eaters.
- Give them a comfortable feeding area, away from heavy foot traffic or many people. A lot of people and a lot of noise may cause anxiety, which leads to a loss in appetite. When you have visitors, feed your pet in a quiet and comfortable place.
Hunger is considered a great appetite stimulant, but starving them in order to eat is not advisable. It takes patience and flair to get a fussy dog to eat, but it is not at all impossible.
Farah Al-Khojai is the Managing Partner of Pet’s Delight, a leading supplier of pet accessories and dog food in Dubai. A passionate entrepreneur, Farah holds a Bsc in Government from the London School of Economics. She is always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow the pet and equestrian retail and wholesale market in the UAE and beyond, and is proud to be at the helm of the first and the largest pet care provider in the market representing world-class brands including Origen, Applaws, Hunter, Savic, Flamingo, Ruffwear and Rogz.