Most dogs are interested in eating. The owner buys the food they feel the dog should eat, puts the food in the bowl and the dog gobbles it down. Dogs that do not greedily gobble down food, are a bit fussy about the type of food they eat or just are not big eaters present owners with training challenges when it comes to training the dog with food rewards. Ideally, training at home without distractions is best accomplished with the measured portion of the dog’s meal and treats are saved for more difficult environments or situations (in class, on walks, at the vet office, in stores etc.) Although food is not the only resource available to owners when it comes to training their dog, it certainly does give the owner more options and ease of training. If a dog does not finish its complete meal within 15 minutes, getting the dog to eat better is the first goal to achieve during the training process.
Before a person can get their dog to eat better or have a greater interest in their food the owner needs to evaluate the possible causes to this problem. The most common reasons for a dog to not eat well are a medical problem, stress, or the owner offering the more food than the dog needs.
A qualified veterinarian is the only person who can determine if your dog has a medical problem affecting its ability to eat. If your veterinarian determines your dog is of good health and not overweight, then this problem can be addressed from a training standpoint.
If the problem is stress most likely there are other symptoms as well. It could be your dog is a bit shut down and not very active or you could have the opposite where your dog appears to be overly active or reactive to things in its environment. It might be you see times in which the dog pants excessively, yawns but is not tired or licks it lips excessively etc. These are all signs of stress. Ideally you can identify what elements of your dog’s life are stressful and eliminate stressful events from your dog’s life or address them through training. You most likely will need the help of a professional trainer to address behavior problems caused by stress but you can also reduce stress by exercising your dog twice a day, giving it adequate time for quality rest, quality time with you everyday, and the best quality food you can afford.
If Your Dog Is Overweight but otherwise healthy
If your dog is overweight (you can not feel a ripple of ribs when your run your hands down the side of your dog and you are not pushing in) but otherwise healthy, then you may need to reduce the amount of food you are feeding your dog. You should be able to reduce by somewhere between 1/8 to ¼ of the volume without causing problems. Keep the dog at this reduced amount of food for at least 2 weeks and then evaluate the dog again.
Maybe You Are Just Offering The Dog To Much Food
If your veterinarian determines your dog does not have a medical problem, it is of an appropriate weight and your dog does not appear to be stressed, then it may be you are offering your dog more food than it can eat. Your dog is not underweight, so it is getting proper amount of calories. Any food your dog is not eating is extra that it does not want.
- Before you make any changes find out exactly how much your dog weighs.
- Then measure each meal in a measuring cup.
- Give the dog 15 minutes to eat the food and measure how much food is left.
- Figure out exactly how much food the dog did eat and jot the amount down on a piece of paper.
- Do not offer the dog any food or treats until the next scheduled mealtime.
- Repeat for 3-5 days and then average out the amount of food your dog did eat per meal.
- Reduce the amount you are feed each day to this amount or just a little bit less.
Make sure you weigh your dog periodically to ensure it is not gaining or loosing weight because your veterinarian has already determined your dog is of a correct weight.
If these procedures do not change your dog’s eating behavior, then speak again with your veterinarian and trainer.
Now training the dog with food rewards especially its meals will be effective if there are not distractions. In addition, any food you do not feed through training can be put into a food interactive toy instead of a bowl as way of reducing behavior problems and providing your dog with some much needed entertainment.