How to Deal With a Fussy Eater - Puppy Edition?

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When it’s mealtime and your puppy does not exhibit any signs of excitement (an eager gaze, wagging tail or drooling), something is surely up. But if they are only sniffing/licking their food, refusing meals, or worse—knocking their bowl over, their behaviour is a definite red flag. Generally, fussy eaters are put off by poor palatability of the food they are being served, a previous bad experience with a particular type of food or simply a fear of new foods. But it’s not always about the type of food! We hate to say it, but you could have a hand in this as well...

- Do you feed your pup too many snacks or treats in between meals?

- Do you treat them to table scraps every time you eat?

- Are you constantly changing their diet?

If you have answered yes to one or all of these questions, then you might have helped create a fussy eater! This is because some dogs may refuse or skip meals when they have consumed more energy than they require (treats and table scraps). Moreover, if your pup turns their nose up at their food but shows interest in yours, it could be due to the changing nature of their diet—they’ve grown fond of a certain food, but you’re feeding them another! So be mindful of how many treats you give them a day (check the feeding guidelines at the back of the pack), impose a strict ‘No Table Scraps’ policy and stick to one brand of dog food that is complete and balanced.

If you answered no, however, these tips could be useful:

Clean/change the feeding bowl

Nobody likes a dirty dish, and the same goes for your pup. Make sure to clean their feeding bowl thoroughly before serving them their meals. If it’s clean, maybe they just don’t like the bowl! So change the food bowl and check if this behaviour persists.

Try wet food

And we don’t mean the gravy meals you enjoy! Instead, treat your pooch to a gravy meal formulated especially for puppies, like Pedigree Puppy - Chicken Chunks In Gravy. Gravy meals have a tempting aroma, flavour and texture which even the fussiest pups cannot resist. It also helps improve water intake which is especially beneficial for pups that don’t drink enough water. However, if you do switch to wet meals, do so gradually. You’ll learn more about how to transition from one food to another further ahead in this article.

Try an enticing mix of wet and dry food

If your pet enjoyed a particular food before but has now lost interest in it, try mixing in enticing wet food flavours like Pedigree Puppy - Chicken & Liver Chunks In Gravy With Vegetables. Doing so will add a variety of flavours and textures to your pup’s meal that they are sure to lap up once served.

If your pup is a small breed try specialised food

In our experience, small breed dogs are generally the fussiest eaters. If yours is a small breed pup, try giving them food that is specifically designed for small breeds like Pedigree Small Dog Puppy - Lamb Flavour. Small dogs have small mouths and tightly packed teeth, which is why Pedigree Small Dog is formulated with small kibble to promote proper chewing and swallowing. It is also packed with essential nutrients vital to the healthy growth of your small breed pup.

Soak dry food in warm water or warm up wet food

The last trick you can try is to adjust the temperature of your dog’s meals. If you’re feeding them dry dog food, soak it in warm water or homemade bone broth. If you’re serving wet food, heat it gently before pouring it into their bowl.

Two important tips from our experts:

#1 Follow the 20-minute rule

Serve your pup food and leave the bowl down only for 20 minutes. Make sure to leave them alone at this time. If your pup does not eat after 20 minutes, pick up the food and let them watch you throw it away. Do not talk to your dog or fuss with them, simply ignore them (this is very important). If you do make a fuss of your dog at this stage, they will start associating not eating with getting attention, and you don’t want that! Do not offer any snacks or treats to compensate for the meal. After a few hours, repeat these steps without giving them any attention or alternatives. Repeat this process every few hours throughout the day. If by bedtime your pup still hasn't eaten, let them go to sleep on an empty stomach. We know it sounds cruel, but this is important if you want to get your pup to stop fussing. The following morning, repeat the same steps. Your hungry pup should start eating within the first 20 minutes from day two onwards. But if not, visit the vet immediately.

#2 Transition to new food gradually

A rapid change in diet will upset any dog’s stomach and a puppy’s tummy is extra sensitive to change. We recommend a gradual transition over the course of 7-10 days from one puppy food to another. For the first two days, let each meal contain about 75% of the existing meal they consume and 25% of the new food. If you notice any stomach issues, it just means that you should make the transition more gradual and reduce the amount of the new food you’re mixing in. However, if your puppy is like most, they’re likely to be fine, and you can mix the old food and new in an equal proportion by day 3 or 4. Feed them this 50/50 mix for a couple of days before changing the ratio to 75% new food and 25% of their old food. You will find this puppy feeding chart at the back of every Pedigree puppy food pack. Be careful and attentive during this transition period; if it looks like your pup is having a hard time adjusting at any stage, slow it down.

With all these tips, your pup should leave their fussy eating habits behind. However, a decrease or loss of appetite could also indicate illness. So as a rule of thumb, consult your vet if your pup experiences a drastic change in appetite that lasts longer than 12-24 hours.

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