Good nutrition right from the start is very important when it comes to the long term health of your dog. Of course you have to have a certain amount of cooperation from your puppy when it comes to meal time.
Some puppies adjust rather quickly to eating from a bowl instead of nursing with mom, other puppies do not adjust quite as easily.
It can be very frustrating to try to get your puppy to eat because most pet parents know how important nutrition is to the development of their puppy.
There is an element of worry that kicks in and makes it very upsetting. There are a few things you can do to get a reluctant pup to eat.
Get Medical Clearance
Before you embark on convincing your pup that they need to eat you should take them to the vet for a check-up. There may be a medical issue that is preventing the puppy from eating. Even something as common as worms can cause enough gastro upset that they will refuse food.
Unlike human’s dogs know when their body is out of whack and will avoid eating to keep from increasing their level of discomfort.
Take your puppy to the vet and discuss their appetite issues. The vet will be able to run a battery of diagnostic testing that will be able to clear your puppy of any known ailments that may prevent eating.
Provide Nutritious Foods
Once you have the health clearance from the vet you will want to be sure that you are offering high quality nutritious food. Cheap dog food typically is not the best option for puppies (or dogs for that matter). Puppies have a lot of energy so they need high protein food that is palatable.
Here are some good options:
Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Chicken Meal Puppy Food
Grain free is ideal for puppies because it starts them off with plenty of high quality protein. Grain free is something you will see a lot of in puppy food advertising because it is the better choice for all dogs. Many preparations (cheaper) are mostly grain, but grain is not really a part of a dogs natural diet which can mean an uphill battle at feeding time because you are fighting against their natural instinct. This food is a good option because it plays to their natural instinct.
Taste of the Wild Dry Dog Food
Great option, high protein, all natural and quite tasty. Many puppy foods are chock full of grains which is not really a natural food source for dogs. This option has a meaty taste and plays to the puppies instinctual needs for meaty foods. It is a great option that is not chock full of useless fillers.
IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Smart Puppy Large Breed Dry Puppy Food
Great option for large breed dogs because it offers the high density calories that they need for healthy growth. IAMS has long been held as an expert in dog nutrition. It is a little more expensive than your other mass produced options but it is well-worth the investment for the health of your puppy!
This option offers balanced omega fatty acids for a complete meal. One of the key benefits of this brand is that it offers the added high energy mix that larger breeds need to grow. It is a “large breed” formula so it is not well-suited for smaller breeds. Larger breeds grow at amazing rates and they need that extra energy, smaller breeds do not and that extra protein can fill them up to quickly and make them NOT want to eat!
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Small Breed Dry Dog Food
This is ideal for small breed puppies because the kibble is made especially for small breed sizes. Of course larger breeds may actually find this “small breed” special formula too small for comfort for their larger mouths and may not find the mixture satisfying but for small breeds it is hard to beat this balanced brand!
There are other great trusted brands on the market that can easily provide your pup with the nutrition that they need to get a good start on their road to health.
Offering high quality dog food maybe all you need to do to get your pup to eat. Try one of the brands listed here to see if it is just the dog food that they do not like.
A key mistake that many dog owners make at the beginning of their relationship with their dogs is to supply them with “special” foods like adding chicken broth to their dog food or using table scrapes mixed with the dog food to entice their pup to dinner.
Consider this before you take any extraordinary measures when it comes to food:
- You are setting the pace
- How often do you want to have to take extra steps preparing their meal?
- Are you being manipulated?
Before you start adding things to your puppies food remember that you are setting the pace for their life long eating habits. Most puppies/dogs do not want to go back to regular dog food when they have been treated to gourmet combinations of dog food, table scrapes and other combos.
What you feed your puppy now and how you feed your puppy will train them what to expect in the future.
Do you really want to have to cook/mix and serve a finicky eater for the next 12-15 years? If you answered no than avoid one of the biggest no-no’s in trying to get your puppy to eat. It is far better to use the tips below to try to set up your puppy’s eating habits.
Once you have been to the vet and have sourced some high quality food the next step is to work on the behavior to get your puppy to eat. There are primarily two feeding styles:
- On demand
- Serving portions
You can leave the dog food in a bowl that your puppy has access to so that they can graze through-out the day or eat when they are hungry. This on demand method sometimes works really well with finicky puppies.
Some puppies actually display shy behavior and will wait until you are out of eye shot to eat. Offering food on demand is a good solution if your puppy is timid.
Serving portions of food is a little trickier in one way but much more convenient in another. If you set a feeding schedule and stick to it, this will help your puppy to understand what is expected at certain times. You can use a bell as a cue to indicate that the food is ready. Setting up a routine may help to get your puppy on board with meal times.
When You Suspect the Puppy Was Weaned Too Soon
Most puppies are weaned between 6-8 weeks but for an immature puppy that was weaned closer to the 6-week mark than the 8-week mark eating can be a very scary endeavor.
In this case you will want to start out with a good quality “soft” dog food and may have to spend a little time hand feeding the puppy until they get the idea that the food goes in the bowl and that is where they eat.
After about a week or two of hand feeding you can start cutting back on the soft and adding in more kibble to the mix with each feeding so that after a week you eliminate the soft all together.
Some puppies that are weaned too soon go on to thrive and love their food others take a little more time to get into the groove of being away from mom.
Patience is the Key
In absence of a medical condition, most all puppies will eat when they are hungry enough. They may not eat on the schedule that you want but they will eat. Consider the hours of the day when you are hungry like when you first wake up or after a bout of exercise that is when your puppy will be hungry as well.
Try feeding first thing in the morning than after an afternoon walk. Watch your puppy for signs that they are hungry and offer food when you can see that their body language is indicating that they are looking for food.
Patience is a very important aspect of training your puppy to eat well as it is with every aspect of puppy relationships. If you give them enough time they will learn to eat when it is offered.