Ask The Hairy Dogfathers: Dog On A Hunger Strike
What do you do if your dog refuses to eat his food? The Hairy Dogfathers have a few suggestions that will have him licking the bottom of his empty bowl!
Dear Hairy Dogfathers,
I feel like an awful Mom! My little guy just will NOT eat! I put out his kibble, and when I come home, it’s still all there. I am worried he is going to make himself sick. I have started to change things up for him, mixing his food with wet food, but after a week he tires of that. So then I try another food. Things have gotten so bad that I have been dripping bacon fat on his kibble, but he is picking out only the greasy ones and leaving the rest.
Help my starving dog!
Dear Starving Dog,
When there is a major change in behaviour like this it’s important to consult your vet ASAP. Hopefully it’s nothing medical, but better to be safe than sorry. Assuming the vet gives you the all clear, the first thing I would suggest is stop free feeding your pup. By doing so you are really de-valuing his food, making it pretty boring. To start, leave it out for minutes, if he doesn’t go for it, put it away for a few hours, and repeat as necessary. If he doesn’t start to catch on after a few days, try doing some training with him by praising him like nuts when he goes near his bowl or eats a kibble. If you make food exciting for him again, he will get back on track quickly.
Dear Starving Dog,
Take a deep breath. Repeat after me: “I got this. I can handle this. This is under control.”
Now, take your dog to the vet, rule out any medical concerns that may be causing your dog to not eat. Assuming there is nothing medically wrong with the dog, it’s time to get serious here.
Stick to a routine, every day. Take 5 minutes each morning and do some training with your dog. Practice a new trick. Work on “Sit and Stay.” After you have put your dog through the paces, then he may have his food.
You may choose to feed about 1/3 of the dog’s food from your hand. The rest can come from the bowl. If your dog doesn’t eat, then put the food away. Try again later in the day. By being consistent, your dog will learn to anticipate when regular meal times are coming. He may miss a few meals in the beginning, but he will quickly learn when meal times are, and I bet within a few weeks he will be excited and ready for his meals!
Kevin Roberts and André Lavergne are the Hairy Dogfathers. The dog-crazy couple resides in Winnipeg, where they train, teach and offer support to pet parents. If you have a pressing pooch problem and are in need of some advice, the Hairy Dogfathers want to help. Drop them a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.