What is picky eating behaviour in dogs?
When you go to a dog park, you commonly hear owners talk about how their dogs “inhale their food” or “don’t take any time to chew” before gobbling down meals. Unfortunately, some owners have the opposite problem: They have a picky dog not eating their meals no matter how nutritious it is or how many new dog food brands they try.
What are some other behaviours that could establish your dog as a picky eater?
One behaviour to measure is how long your dog takes to eat a normal meal. Chief Veterinary Officer of the American Kennel Club, Dr. Klein states “Dogs that don’t empty their food bowls within a certain amount of time, usually about 20 minutes, are more likely to be considered picky eaters”.
Another sign of a picky eater is if your dog happily eats dog treats or scraps of the table, but won’t touch his food. This could be a sign that your dog believes that he can wait to get better options; therefore, he doesn’t want to touch his “boring” dry food.
Some eating habits are actually linked to genetics, as specific breeds are known for being fussy about their food (We’ll talk about this more soon). However, the most important factors in creating a picky eater are often found in the environment.
The most critical thing to watch out for is if their behaviour towards food changes. If your dog loved all his meals and ate it with no issue before but then suddenly becomes pickier, this may be a sign of an underlying health issue. It is time for a vet visit, especially if other symptoms are present as well, such as recent weight loss, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Dog breeds that are picky eaters
There are quite a few smaller dog breeds that are known to be picky eaters. This includes breeds like the Maltese, Bichon Frise, and Pekingese. Although many smaller breeds come to mind first, there are also a few larger breeds that should be mentioned as well!
The Maltese is so well-known for having a finicky appetite that there are Reddit threads about the topic and specific diets formulated for the breed. The diets that have the best results usually focus on tempting aromas and textures. It's also important to ensure that the proper nutritional components are included to meet their health needs.
Bichon Frises’ fussy eating is often attributed to the fact that they are prone to allergies. Even though they love lean meat, owners need to provide variety in their diets, which often doesn’t go over well with these picky eaters.
The Pekingese loves treats so much that it tricks its owners and notoriously turns its nose up at regular meals. Owners can fall for this trap easily, but it’s not good for the dog's health. Treats are not formulated to be nutritionally balanced and large quantities of treats can lead to obesity.
Like the Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers are known to be picky eaters when it comes to texture or taste. Owners who change up their diet often run into issues as the little pup will be reluctant to eat or pick only specific ingredients to munch on. It is important that you transition food slowly for this small dog!
It’s hard to imagine a large, athletic breed like German Shepherds picking at their food. However, their dietary needs require them to have more protein and animal fat than other breeds. If their food doesn’t have the correct balance of these, then it is likely they won’t be enthusiastic about their food.
The Siberian Husky is considered one of the breeds that is still closely related to wolves. One of the wolf-like instincts they’ve retained is to quickly decide whether a certain food is good to eat or not. Many husky owners run into the issue of their dog immediately turning away from a new food or ingredient. Even after finding them a great food option, they can eventually decide they don’t want to eat that either, and the search for new food starts again!
What are some reasons my dog may be a picky eater?
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Mason Romero says “Rarely will a pet just refuse to eat just to refuse”. There are so many possibilities when trying to pinpoint the reason your dog is a picky eater, including numerous health issues, boredom, or feeding habits (like receiving too many treats).
We go into more detail about picky eaters in our article: “When your dog is a picky eater: How to get your fussy canine to gobble up their food!”
How to encourage a fussy dog to eat
Meal time is frustratingly hard on both the dogs who are picky eaters and owners who try different ways to encourage them to eat. There are many suggestions on how to deal with a finicky dog, so if you’ve tried one, here are a few more to consider.
Stick to a plan
Dogs love routine. This is true of meal time as well so try making meal time the same time every day. Furthermore, sticking to a plan about what they’re eating is important as well. Sometimes too much variety can actually make a dog pickier.
Reduce the treats
Feeding your dog treats in any form can deter them from wanting their regular meal. This includes feeding them table scraps, training treats, or dog chew (ex. Bully sticks or pig ears). Not only can this cause obesity, but it also encourages picky eating behaviour. Your dog is going to try and wait for something that is more appetizing than what he’s getting normally. Make sure to limit treats until your dog is eating his regular food with more enthusiasm.
Set a deadline
If your dog isn’t eating, you should try giving him his food for only 20 - 30 minutes. Take the food away whether he has only eaten a bit or hasn’t touched it at all. Do not feed him until his next scheduled meal. By doing this, you’re sending a message that he needs to eat the food given to him otherwise there is no food!
The best dog food for picky eaters in 2020
It’s 2020 pet owners… Why are we still stuck feeding our pets the industry-standard dry kibble? A new decade means it’s time to upgrade the way we’re feeding our pets!
Cooking simple foods at home can often increase a dog's appetite. Ingredients such as chicken or rice are commonly used and are okay as a short-term solution. If you decide homemade meals are the way you want to feed your dog in the long-term, you will need to add more ingredients to their diet. Research has shown that many of the dog food recipes that are found online or in books aren’t actually nutritionally balanced. Therefore, you should definitely consult your vet when building your dog’s food plan!
However, you may not have the time to cook fresh meals for your pet constantly. And kibble is so 2000! It’s really a mediocre option as most brands’ food is highly processed and made using extremely harsh cooking methods. Unfortunately, the most common way dry food is produced actually removes most of the nutrients of the whole ingredients. It is further dehydrated and sprayed with preservatives to make it shelf-stable for longer.
So how do you get all the benefits of fresh, homemade dog food, without the hassle? To ensure you aren’t guessing at your dog’s nutrition and to save you valuable time, professionally formulated fresh pet food is something you should consider.
Fresh dog food toppers for picky eaters
Adding any wet food topper to your dog’s meals is a great option for picky eaters. There are so many options at the pet store that it’s overwhelming!
Remember, we mentioned that fresh pet food is a great alternative. Choosing toppers that are made from fresh, whole ingredients also has many benefits. Fresh pet food toppers allow you to avoid feeding your dog harmful preservatives and badly sourced ingredients. Not only is it more tasty and aromatic, it will also provide a lot of health benefits for your furry friend.
All of Kafka’s Organic’s recipes are formulated to be balanced, full meals approved by board-certified vet nutritionists and meet AAFCO standards. However, they also make awesome toppers and can be delivered right to your front door in Vancouver and surrounding areas. To ensure you’re feeding your dog the right portions, we have a feeding calculator that will give you valuable information and help you explore some of our flavours. We have our signature recipes, but we’re always growing and working on new products, including our upcoming fall/winter specials!
Turkey Delight: Made with Lean Turkey to provide clean, wholesome nutrition with tons of flavour. Finished with bone broth and crunchy raw carrot bites, this recipe is a true delight for picky eaters.
Ocean Fish Feast: Our Ocean Fish Feast recipe is packed with Omega 3-rich Pacific Wild Salmon, BC Rockfish & Cod to create a delicious feast.
We’re pet owners too so we know the struggles (and immense joys) that come with owning a pet. Not only do we like to provide convenience and health benefits, we also make sure our meals are picky eater approved. Just ask local blogger and cat-owner Hermione Flavia. She was kind enough to talk about her customer experience in a blog post and rave about our food, saying:
“As I was trying to take photos, Grim was all over the packaging, trying to get involved and chew it open. Grim is a little bit of a fussy eater, but he was really into this.”
Our mission at Kafka’s Organic is to reimagine the pet food industry by providing a healthy, natural option to local pet owners. Our fresh pet meals are made in Vancouver in our human-grade kitchen with ingredients we source locally whenever possible. We believe in locally-made, ethically-sourced, sustainable products that your pets love and are good for their health. Help us change the pet food industry because you eat healthy and so should your pet.
Find the perfect food topper by using our feeding calculator and discovering Kafka’s Organic!