So must of us will experience a fussy eater at some point in time. They could refuse something they have eaten for months, or turn their nose up at something the first time it’s offered, which means we usually don’t offer it again. Perhaps they’ve gone off food after being poorly, or what about a classic case of visiting a friend’s house who feeds kibble and your dog snaffles it all up, but once they’re home, they’re refusing their raw food?
Let’s work through these situations one by one. I’ll help you understand why your dog is doing this, and offer solutions. Firstly, and it’s important to remember this in every situation, ask yourself ‘am I over-feeding?’. This is probably the most common reason for refusing food. We can all get a little carried away, especially if we weigh by eye. It’s easy to overfeed like this, even that extra 20g can make the difference.
When we have a dog that can self-regulate, it’s important to listen to them. Some dogs are just plain piglets! No matter how much you feed them, they wont ever refuse it. If you own a four-legged friend like this, you probably can’t believe there’s dogs out there that would refuse when full or when they don’t need anymore energy!
I’ve owned both. In some ways, it’s a blessing when you own a piglet, although it can be a royal pain in the butt too. They usually gain weight more easily. Pups that self-regulate are usually better at self-managing their weight. After all, they are listening to their own bodies and to the energy they need. Some people choose to feed 6 out of 7 days, or have a rest day once a month. There’s lots of benefits to these rest days.
I personally like rest days. I don’t set my clock for them; they’re usually when I forget to get food out so I call it a rest day. It stimulates appetite, helps to heal the gut and allows the organs to rest, because processing food is hard work. I’ve even read it can help fight certain types of cancer, and can improve memory. Crazy, I know. Now I’ve had many a conversation about why some people can’t offer rest days, but even just feeding bone broth for one meal as a meal replacement will do a similar job.
So how much should you feed? Go on any raw feeding Facebook page or group and you will see it’s usually between 2-3% of their ideal body weight. Now I hear myself saying that to people too; it’s an easy option for working it out. But there’s also another way. It’s a fairly new concept in the raw feeding world, although it’s been around for donkey’s years and it’s how everyone calculates their own food intake – by calories. If you hate maths, don’t worry, I’ve tagged a website that will work it out for you. https://www.pfma.org.uk/dog-calorie-calculator-nrc-method This is just a guide and is formulated using NRC, but it’s a good place to start.
Each protein has its own unique genetic make-up, and that’s why The Pet Food Manufacturing Association (PFMA) calorie calculator is a really good tool to use because you can work out the required amount of calories based on the specific protein you’re feeding. Some manufacturers also use this and the information is available on their website, Kiezebrink for example. Not all manufacturers do this but it’s easy to work out using the link.
So have a go; you’ll be surprised how much the results vary between proteins, especially when you’d usually just feed say 2.5% of their body weight. Let’s say, for example, that’s 250g per day, but when you’ve used the calorie counter, it shows your dog only needs 220g when feeding a certain protein but 275g when feeding another. Now this ‘may’ work out for those offering a rest day, although more commonly, we end up over-feeding.
At around 6-9 months old (although it can be up to 18 months in larger breeds), puppies are turning into adolescents. If I had a penny for every time a puppy went off their food at this age, I would be able to afford another dachshund. It’s completely normal and nothing to panic about. It can be a super stressful time as their bodies are going though many changes. And It’s always around the same time as when you think you have everything sussed and they go and test every boundary possible!
Keep up with routines and the best advice I can give you is, for the first 24 hours, do a ‘rest day’. Make sure fresh water is available all day. Keep the treats to a minimum (if you can resist). On day 2, start with 1/4 of the normal portions. Divide this into two for breakfast and tea. Feed after exercise. It’s a bit like us, sometimes we need to work up an appetite. Resist adding tasty toppers as you are just making a rod for your own back.
Usually a change in brand is useful too. Texture and temperature play a role in how appealing something is. Some like it straight from the freezer, although we really don’t recommend that (with the exception of snow breeds). Personally I don’t know enough about that and would recommend you contact a breed specialist (we can put you in touch, if needs be).
So why don’t we recommend feeding straight from the freezer or fridge? It’s actually the total opposite temperature to how they would eat it in the wild. If a dingo, wolf or domestic dog was hunting, they would kill and eat their prey immediately. In cats I often say mouse temperature as it’s a lot more appealing for them. Now I’m not for one second suggesting you let them loose to hunt each meal, but simply leave on the side for 1/2 hour – 1 hour before serving.
Textures can be so important. I’ve seen it time and time again where dogs have lost their food lust yet when offered chunks and a bone they eat it with such enjoyment like it’s their first meal. I know a lot of the time actual DIY chunks are not just scary but unpractical. There are a couple of chunky minces which are great but there’s also Utterly Rawsome, an 80-10-10 in a chunks and bone format. Ready made. Bingo! A lot of people have tried this and within a few meals, with some added variety, their dogs go back to eating everything.
“Tried it, they left it, so wont feed it again”. I hear this a lot with fish or veggies, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t give up. There’s a couple of things to remember (which makes this difficult): your dogs are so in tune with their needs so don’t EVER force anything. They still have the ability to self-select which is why hiding things in nice things is a big no no. This subject alone is MASSIVE, and I would direct you to people like Dr Isla Fishburn or Caroline Ingraham.
Fish is a good example of something that a lot of dogs turn their nose up to. I would suggest starting off with canned sardines in oil, never in brine. Sometimes it’s about looking outside the box for the solution. They can be like children and want fast food, rather than that salad.
Poorly dogs can often be the most difficult to transition back, especially when they have the association of the food making them poorly (even if it’s nothing to do with that). Firstly, I would introduce some bone broth which will help heal that gut. You can also supercharge the broth by adding some real healing veggies, herbs and spices. You can then offer some light, white meat protein in the broth. Trim the fat and gently poach in the broth. You can add warm broth onto the raw food. This will help to stimulate your dog’s appetite and make the actual food more appealing.
Remember, a poorly puppy always does better with a 24-48 hour break from food. Fresh clean water must be available at all times. After this time, they wont be ready to eat full portions but would probably nibble on smaller portions throughout the day. If you remember back to when you felt poorly, the last thing you’ll have wanted was a full dinner and a pudding! So go easy; slow and steady wins this race.
Now what about if you visit a friend or a family member but they kibble feed, your sneaky pup gets in that bowl and has a field day and when you get home they no longer want what’s on offer? This is classic spoilt brat syndrome. It’s a real thing! Don’t worry too much, and before you rush out and buy something else, cut back on normal portions.
I’ve even been known to make a meatball; roll the meat up into a ball and hey presto. Keep it interesting. My dogs love it when I offer some mental stimulation when it comes to dinner times. Don’t rush out and buy everything, but a Kong is certainly something we recommend in every home. Mine also love it when I throw it out in the garden and they can hunt for it. Sounds daft but they love working for it. Don’t forget you can also use all the hints, tips and tricks from all of the above.
If at any stage you are really struggling, why not try Different Dog? Different Dog is a lightly cooked alternative to raw. We stock it as it’s really special. It’s all hand cooked and is completely balanced to FEDIAF. It’s just like you have cooked it at home. We’ve found that because you can warm it, it makes it super appealing even to the fussiest of eaters. There’s always something for everyone. So don’t give up, shake it up.
There’s one more thing I want to say before signing off; I haven’t talked about digestive enzymes and that gut feeling. It’s not coincidence that it’s called a gut feeling. We are lucky now that we are learning so much on a daily basis, and studies show that the brain and gut are linked. The gut-brain axis refers to the physical and chemical connections between your gut and brain. But that’s a post in itself so keep your eyes peeled as that one is so interesting…