The Dogcharmer: Hates to eat!

A rescue pup has a rare issue.

Pearl can learn to eat regularly if food is presented to her in new ways. — Courtesy Tom Shelby

Good morning, Tom! I have a 10.2-pound rescue pup who does not enjoy eating! I was hoping you could help me out with this problem. I’ve tried all sorts of methods, and each eating period is a struggle. I’ll put the food down for half an hour, then pick it up, and then I wait for the next feeding time. She’ll eat a little at that point, but not enough. Even then, I have to bring her into a quiet, separate room (I stay with her), because she is so easily distracted. I’ve tried all different kinds of food (right now she eats Farmers Dog). I need help, and little Pearl really needs help. Thank you for your time. Would love to make an appointment with you to discuss this further.


Dear Joann,

Thank you for being a dog rescuer. The great majority of times “dog-food issues” have to do with the dog eating too fast, stealing your food when you turn around or walk out of the room for a minute, or trying to grab it right out of your hands. With about 800 training lessons year after year, I doubt I had more than four or five “refusing to eat” situations.

Assuming Pearl’s behavior is that of a normal, happy dog, the first order of business is a thorough doctor’s visit, including checking for allergies. She may be allergic to something in the foods you’ve tried, and somehow has an awareness that turns her off. I feed my dog Forza10 Dermo from Chewy (cheaper than through a vet) because of her allergies.

Years ago I was asked by the Bear Mountain Zoo if I might have some suggestions to help with caged coyotes that were not eating. Dead crickets were part of their diet, and coyotes being serious hunters, I told the caretakers to give them live crickets in some kind of bag they can tear open and then go after (hunt) the crickets, and to do something similar with other parts of their diet. I received a thank-you from the zoo, telling me things were better.

Joann, remembering the coyotes, I thought you should try getting some interactive toys that release food pellets as Pearl knocks them around. Also, try leaving the food dish down for 15 or 20 minutes instead of 30. If she doesn’t eat, she misses the meal. Joann, I understand this may be harder on you than on Pearl, but letting her get hungry may change her attitude. 

Longer exercise walks may also contribute to increasing her appetite. Finally, consider trying the raw-meat food diet. One of my daughters has been feeding Nyoki, her Cavalier King Charles, nothing but that, and he’s now five years past the average lifespan of Cavs, and going strong.

One last thing — don’t underestimate a dog’s ability to learn and manipulate. You may only have to let Pearl eat chicken out of your hand once, and she may hold out till you can’t stand it anymore, and continue to cooperate. I can’t tell you how many people I meet who were well-trained by their dogs!

Best of luck,

Dogcharmer Tom

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