"Finicky eaters are made, not born." - Sue Ailsby
And that means there are steps we can take to create a food motivated dog. A food motivated dog will reduce your frustration and the dogs when teaching fitness and rehab exercises.
Try following these 3 EASY STEPS for improving your dog's eating habits and their willingness to work for food.
1 Set a time limit for eating. It may be difficult to change at first, but your dog will start to understand they have a meal time and it only lasts so long. Dogs often do not want to eat because they don't need the calories - they're already full. To help increase the value of food, it should not be available all the time. Set a limit - it could be 60 seconds or it could be 10 minutes. Stick to the limit!
If you feel like your dog is really going to miss the meal and that they did not know it was going to go away, you can re-present the meal a couple hours later, but DO NOT add anything "better" to get then to eat it.
2 Ditch the bowl! Turn food time into training time. Studies have shown that animals are contra-freeloaders. This means they would rather work for their food than get it for free. Instead of just giving your dog their food in a bowl, try making them do exercises for the food.
Ask them to do know behaviors to earn a food reinforcement. You can also use puzzle toys to work for food. _________________________________________________________
3 Teach your dog to eat. Eating is operant, meaning you can teach them to eat. For this option, it is okay to use a bowl. When your dog takes a lick or a bite of food, reward them with a treat in their bowl. For example, if your dog takes a small bite of kibble, say "Yes" and then put your dog's favorite treat in the bowl. As your dog keeps eating, keep telling them what a good dog they are and placing their favorite treat in the bowl. It's important the treat is placed in the bowl, not coming from your hand.
Avoid coaxing your dog to eat. It can often increase anxiety around food, which leads to more reluctance to eat. Your dog can learn that not eating immediately leads to "something yummier" being added to the meal. This is how a picky eater is created.
Unsure if this will work for you? Give it a try, then contact The Total Canine if you still need help.