Ask the Dogcharmer: Blue and his food

Picky, picky, picky.

Blue is a finicky eater.

Hi you guys,

Blue is so weird about food! Sometimes he is fine and just eats his food twice a day, no problem for weeks on end. We are giving him Wild Food, a non-grain high-quality food.

Then he suddenly seems afraid of his bowl and won’t go near it. Same food.

Then he seems to have no interest in food at all.

I can sometimes entice him with yogurt, but not always. He went three days without eating at one time about 10 days ago, when we changed his food to a slight variation on the same brand. We only got him back to the bowl with his old food with wet dog food, but now he doesn’t like the wet dog food anymore. He has also rejected most of the biscuits we have bought for him. Often he backs up and runs away from treats he doesn’t like.

Sometimes he takes a bite or two of his food and then walks away.

I have resorted to adding sausage, yogurt, and lamb lung to his bowl. I did that today to get him to eat his first meal at 5 pm. He has no stomach upset or any signs that he isn’t feeling well.

I guess my question is: Is it OK if he doesn’t eat for a few days? We don’t want to force him. Is this normal? Or should we try a totally different food?

Thanks so much. We just never had a dog who didn’t want to eat!


Dear Daisy,

I’ve often discussed the concept of the “Dog God” in regard to the critical importance of timing when training a dog to ignore or leave something alone. So if you want your dog, “Pilfer,” to stop grabbing your doughnut off the coffee table when you leave the room for a second to get your ringing phone, he needs to be introduced to the Dog God. Put the doughnut on the coffee table in a plastic container with a lot of holes in it, and step out of the room with an air horn. Then look in the mirror you set up that enables you to see the coffee table. Just as Pilfer’s nose is about to touch the doughnut-laden container, you blast the air horn and watch Pilfer leap five feet in startlement. The Dog God (in this case the air horn blast) taught Pilfer to leave your snacks alone whether you’re in the room or not. Since dogs basically live in the moment, the timing was perfect.

As regards Blue, there’s a real possibility that just as he was about to eat, something startled him, and he related his scare to the food bowl. It could have been anything, a passing truck backfiring, the glass jar that shattered in the other room when you dropped it, a bird hitting the window in the kitchen, whatever. So first things first. If you’re going to change his food, do it over several days. Give him 75 percent of his regular food and 25 percent of the new food, and keep adding more of the new and less of the old over the course of a a few days. Try changing the location of the bowl and the bowl itself, in the event he relates the bowl or its location to some kind of shock. I’d also suggest you go back to the original food (unless there were health issues with it) and stop trying to entice him with all kinds of other things. He gets 20 minutes to eat his regular food or he misses the meal! Period. The food bowl disappears till the next meal.

Also, get him a DAP (dog-appeasing pheromone) collar, which may help him relax. In addition to the DAP collar, get him a ThunderShirt, and put it on him just before you know he’s going to have a great play time. I’ve seen ThunderShirts and anxiety vests help dogs deal with insecurity, so put it on him when he goes to a park to play or for a run on the beach, therefore increasing the likelihood of a positive association with the shirt. Then have him wear the shirt for his meals, and take it off when he’s finished eating.

Do not make a big deal at feeding time; keep it casual and unemotional. After all this, if he goes three days without eating anything, it’s time for a visit to the vet.


Good luck,

The Dogcharmer


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