Does your dog’s food get wolfed down one day and ignored the next, with no change to what you’re giving them? Don’t worry, this happens….and it is rarely the food that’s the issue!
One would hope that when they set up a dog food brand — and appoint their dogs as brand ambassadors! — that there would be no hesitation when it came to mealtime. But, Nacho & Nala are rescue pups, just like any others, and have their fussy days – less so now, but we’ll get to that.
Thinking back to January, we had not changed their mealtimes (twice a day, morning and 5 pm) or anything in their diet (Buddy Bites Duck recipe). But as if a switch had been flipped, they both started hesitating with their food one morning, leaving it to sit there rather than inhaling it (their usual eating speed of choice). If it had just been one of them, we’d have assumed an upset tummy or similar, but for both to do the same we were a little bit stumped.
We chatted to a few friends of ours and one recommended a dog trainer named Charlie based in the UK (her Instagram is @kit4dogs and she is definitely worth looking up). He said Charlie had helped him with the same issue.
Her (simplified) message was this:
“Dogs need to know that they depend on you for food. They need to know that when you put their bowl down for them, they need to eat this as it is all they can expect until hours later. If they are turning their nose up at their food, they are in control. They are saying, ‘I want something better and if you ignore this for long enough, you’ll go and get it for me’.”
Charlie: Have you been giving them food off your plate recently?
Us: Yes, quite a lot over Christmas
Charlie: What do you do if they leave their food?
Us: Leave it out for them all day when we go to work
Charlie: Anything else?
Us: Probably add more human food/wet food to it, to see if it’s more appealing
When you hear yourself answering these questions and you say it out loud, you immediately feel a bit silly. We had put them completely in the driving seat and needed to take back control!
The first thing we did was stop giving them food off our plate and adding other treats to their diet. We made sure that when we put their food down for them, if they had not eaten it within 10 minutes, we picked it up and took it away, returning it to them at the next meal time……if they still didn’t eat it within ten minutes, take it away again and they get another go the next morning….until they realise that their canine mind games are no longer working!!
This may seem a little harsh, but we were reminded that dogs can likely go 3-4 days without food (as plenty do, sadly) and there is no risk of them starving, they are being given the opportunity to eat after all, so it’s up to them. Low and behold, the next morning both Nacho & Nala finished their bowls within 20 seconds and we have not had the same issue since.
Everyone loves to spoil their dogs – and quite rightly too! But as with all elements of training, sometimes you have to ‘press reset’ and reinforce the chain of command. An easy assumption when these things happen is that they have gone off the kibble and it needs changing. More often than not, the same thing will happen with the next kibble and the next and the next….because it is not a food issue, it’s a behavioural issue. You’ll also likely see some tummy issues from changing their diet over and over, as you try to find ‘the right kibble’.
We continue to spoil our two and use treats to train them, so the above was a temporary measure to get things back on track. It is so much better leaving for work, knowing that both are fed and happy.
These little changes have been a massive help to us — we hope that they can help you too!