How to Get a Fussy Dog to Eat Properly

Do you have a dog that can be fussy with its food? Here are some ideas that will help you.

Many people have to deal with a dog or puppy that is fussy with its food. It can in fact be quite stressful thinking that your dog is not receiving adequate nutrition because it doesn’t appear to be eating properly. Apart from the stress it can also be frustrating, not to mention costly – you may have a cupboard full of opened bags of dog food that your pet has refused to eat!
The first thing to realize is that dogs are not naturally fussy. A dog will eat virtually anything (unlike cats). So if your dog is turning its nose up at food it points to different issues which are largely behavioral. The worst thing you can do is also base your buying decisions on what the dog appears to want to eat; it may not be the best option as far as nutrition goes. After all, we don’t do this with our children – if we only fed them ice cream and fries it would not be good for their health.

Golden Retriever 12 weeks - Courtesy of Beatrice Milek/
Golden Retriever 12 weeks - Courtesy of Beatrice Milek/

So when addressing a fussy dog, of course the first thing to make sure is that you are feeding a decent food, with quality ingredients. Many low quality supermarket foods are filled with cereals and fillers that aren’t very appealing. Some even contain sugars and flavorings that are designed to make the dog want to eat it but they certainly aren’t healthy.

Assuming you are trying a quality food there really shouldn’t be a reason your dog won’t like it. But if it is being picky or refusing to eat at all it may well be the approach you are using to feeding it. If a dog believes it has a choice over when or what it eats, it will develop the mindset that it is in charge. It will think that it is the leader of the pack and by being fussy it is showing you that it is doing its job, which is to be in charge of the food.

However, in reality a dog does not like to be in charge – it would much rather that you were. So you must start making the decisions for your dog. Ironically, once you let the dog know you are in charge it will actually be much happier. It will no longer have the stress of having to make decisions and you may well find its behavior improves in other areas as well.

Therefore, begin to instruct the dog when and what to eat. Put the food down at mealtime and don’t allow it to start eating until you say so. If it does not start eating immediately don’t get stressed and make a fuss. Leave the food for a while and if has not been eaten, remove the bowl until the next mealtime.

Don’t feed your dog scraps from the table or allow it to beg. This again is showing that you are giving in to your dog’s demands and it will encourage it to be fussy.

With perseverance for only a short period of time you may well find that what you thought was a fussy dog is now eating perfectly normally.

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