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What to do with a finicky eater

You feed tasty and nutritious dog food, and yet your dog only sniffs and licks at it. It's time for the next meal but the last one still isn't finished. Looks like you have a finicky dog!

You may think your little dog wants or needs variety. In truth, your pet will happily eat the same food every day for life, provided it is a tasty, nutritious meal. Your dog is descended from opportunistic hunters that are accustomed to getting what they can get when they can get it.

Frequently, the cause of finicky eating in dogs isn't a result of their own behavior. It's a result of ours. Feeding your dog table scraps or too many treats will not only raise the risk of obesity, but can also encourage finicky behavior. Your dog avoids eating in the hope of getting more exciting food than what's in the bowl. The best thing to do in this situation is to stop feeding your dog from the table and to cut back on treats.

When your small or toy breed dog was younger, if you tried offering several different foods to determine the right fit, you may have encouraged your dog to hold out for something better.  If you're opening multiple cans of food and trying to coax your dog into eating something every meal, then your dog has gotten you trained.

The most effective way of correcting this behavior is to help your dog understand that there aren't options. Put out your dog's food for half an hour. If it's not eaten, take it away. When it's time for your dog's next meal, put out food and again and take it away after half an hour. After a day or two your dog may start nosing around for extra treats. Stick to your strategy and don't give in! Your dog isn't starving. If hungry, your dog will eat. You may have to endure some complaining, but this technique is very effective in stopping finicky behavior.

If you're changing your dog's food formula, you should do it gradually. Start mixing in a bit of the new food with the old food, gradually increasing the amount of the new food as you reduce the amount of the old food. This will be very helpful in getting your dog used to the new food and avoiding a hunger strike. If you're switching from wet food to dry food, try mixing in a bit of warm water with the dry food. Don't leave out wet food for too long as it may spoil, especially in hot weather.

If your dog just suddenly becomes finicky after not previously displaying that kind of behavior, a medical disorder could be to blame. Watch out for vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or loss of weight and don't hesitate to take your dog to the veterinarian if you think there's a problem.

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