|Django, taking a seat at the kitchen table, thinking those sad eyes will elicit her own plate.|
When we adopted our black Lab mix, Django as an eight-week-old puppy, she was a typical growing and starving pup. As soon as I placed her puppy food in the bowl, she would basically inhale it. Literally, she ingested her entire meal in less than 10 seconds. I waited for her to bring it all back up the first couple of times, wondering how any lil dog could eat that fast, but she never did.
Back then, she was eating three times a day and did this same ritualistic scarfing every single time. Could she have worms? Why was she always so hungry?
On a trip to the vet for shots, I related this story to our vet.
“Then she’ll inhale her food in 10 seconds. Is this normal?” I asked. “And how can I teach her to not eat so much and so fast?”
“She’s a growing puppy,” Dr. Montella explained, “Feed her more.”
If I fed her more, I feared I might go through a whole bag of food by 10 am. But that wouldn’t happened, Dr. Montella assured me. Once she was full, she’d eventually stop. She just needs a little more food now that she is growing so quickly, he said.
Since I trusted him, I did what he suggested. Lo and behold, a few weeks later, Django had calmed down her eating habits and began eating more slowly and a little less.
Given her puppy appetite, I would have never imagined that by age 2, she’d be a picky eater, but that is exactly what she has become. I’ll feed her in the morning (she only eats twice a day now) and her food will stay in her bowl all day long. By the time dinner rolls around, I’ll go to fill up her bowl and find that it has not been touched. Throughout the day, she’ll sit or lay down next to me and I’ll hear her stomach growl, even loudly over the TV sometimes. Why wouldn’t she eat? Hadn’t I been supplying her with the best dog food? I thought I had and was sure paying premium bucks thinking I was doing so.
This went on for weeks and I tried a lot of different dog food brands. I noticed that she would immediately eat anything from the table so she wasn’t sick. But what was the deal with the self imposed doggierexia?
After a few months, I was at my wit’s end, desperately wanting her to enjoy hearty meals again, not just a taste of table food here and there. Although she would eat anything we’d hand her of our own food, I didn’t want her to get into the habit of giving her table food. I wanted to find the best brand of dog food that she actually enjoyed. The problem was that, like people food, some of the junkier dog foods were not healthy.
It was through trial and error, I learned her picky preferences. After buying nearly every dog food brand in the store, she finally settled on two brands. The rest of the brands that Django disapproved of ended up being devoured by our Chihuahua, Hayley. If allowed to eat indiscriminately, Hayley would probably never stop. In fact, if you remember the story of Obie the obese Dachshund, you’d recognize Hayley’s eating potential.
Here are some tips for the even the pickiest pup:
Remember that raising a picky dog is a lot like raising a picky child. With both, you must keep serving the nutritious food they need because it takes a few times eating something before a preference for it grows.
Resist the urge to just hand out table food, unless you want to do that forever which is not a good idea because it will not be a balanced diet for your dog.
Serve a few different dog food brands with varying textures, both canned and dry. Many dogs enjoy a mix of both.
Have patience. Finding the right food that your picky dog will eat might not happen overnight. But when your patience pays off in the form of a healthy and happy dog, it will be worth it all.
Writer, dog lover, music fan, realistic but always a dreamer