Did Someone Say Picky Eater?
This weekend I was doing some research and I ran across an article titled, "The Cure for the Picky Eater." And I hate to say it but I felt as thought I was being properly scolded for a bad habit that we seem to have fallen into.
Let me back up a bit..
When we first got Dante the family who gave him up had him on really crappy food, I am not sure what brand but just imagine the X's and O's and you'll get my drift, full of fillers and artificial junk nothing that our growing boy of 1 year at the time needed.
Being that my husband and I eat healthy and exercise regularly we feel that our pets should also. This means that we research dog food brands and are picky about making sure they receive high quality food.
Things we look for in dog food:
- High quality protein sources
- No corn, wheat, soy
- No fillers
- No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
All of these things are not good for dogs and can lead to shorter lifespans and future health problems.
If possible I also like to support Made in the U.S.A brands being that you can count more on their quality.
We switched him over to Canidae Dog Food which is the diet we had our senior border collie on, this transition was a bit hard on his system at first resulting in super runny poo, but he eventually balanced out and began to put on some healthy weight and gain muscle definition with our regular workout routine. The way we chose to feed him was to offer him more than he could eat, give him time to eat his fill (he's a slow eater) and when he walked away to then remove the dish. If you have a properly balanced dog with no food issues they will typically only eat enough to fill up, this usually takes about 10 minutes.
This routine worked great, Dante isn't much of a food hound or treat rewards dog - instead he loves his toy which is a Kong that we attached to a rope for throwing and tug games.
Where it All Started.
Well our food routine became messed up last summer when Dante contracted Giardia in the beginning of the Fall of 2013 a month or two after we got him.
Giardia is a nasty parasite that attaches itself to the intestinal wall - this causes a very sudden and extremely foul diarrhea. "The stool may range from soft to watery, often has a greenish tinge to it, and occasionally contains blood. Infected dogs tend to have excess mucous in the feces, and vomiting can occur." The parasite then reproduces and their eggs are passed out through your dog when he/she poops.
Giardia is not something to mess with in humans it is often referred to as "Bever Fever" a result of drinking unclean water, it can cause extreme dehydration and must be cured though a veterinarian. If left untreated it can be fatal to your dog.
Giardia is also transmitted through contact with infected feces or where said feces have been as the eggs may remain behind.
This can be transmitted to humans too! Cleaning up the giant mess in my house led to my being infected as well - even though I was careful to wear gloves, and disinfect all of my wood floors (thank God I had wood floors for this mess!!).
While Dante was on antibiotics for treatment of his Giardia, we had to feed him a bland diet of cooked ground turkey and rice. We then slowly worked on switching him back once his system wasn't under attack any longer.
This led to the beginning of our food issues.
After being spoiled on the turkey and rice diet, Dante would regularly skip meals. This worried us because he lost a lot of weight from the parasite, we then began to baby him and coax him to eat his meals. We would add rice, and sometimes hot water to his food to get him to eat it so that he would put his weight back on and have the energy levels that he used to have. - The parasite also made him very lethargic. It took us a while but we finally were able to get him back on a routine, but our routine was never quite the same as he would occasionally skip meals. But he never skipped more than one meal usually, so we weren't concerned and we thus quite trying to bribe him.
In the Spring of 2014 Ziva then contracted Giardia. At this point we think that either their is an infected animal somewhere near where we live, or the parasite is living in the field we visit regularly. SCARY THOUGHT!
Poor Ziva got it way worse than Dante being only a pup at the time (I was only gone for 5 hours and when I came back her crate, my walls, drapes, were all covered in diarrhea), I had to take her into the Emergency Vet and borrow my neighbor to hold her in a towel because she was such a mess. I should mention I do not do well with smells...And cleaning up doggy diarrhea nearly kills me! The Emergency Vet was a terrible experience, we were there for about 4 hours no joke. Poor Ziva was going into shock, and she was so dehydrated that her whole mouth was dry.
I am a very calm person....but they tested my patience.
#1 - they did not handle my pup very well, and rushed a few procedures such as temperature taking and getting a stool swab sample. (Ick) Their lack of patience and not allowing her to be calm resulted in her panicking and biting me (thankfully not the nurse though as I had insisted on holding her) if they had waited for me to give them the "go ahead" I don't think this would have happened. This caused anxiety for future vet visits - I'll talk about this some other time though.
I understand that my behavior affects the moods of my dogs and my husband and I practice living a stress free lifestyle and using calm assertive behavior around our pups. We are pack leaders. Anyways - I tried hurrying them up because I wanted to get her home and we had been there for soo long! And they had the nerve to tell me that maybe I was affecting my puppy. After getting her home we were once again back on a turkey and rice diet, and of course Dante would not be left out of that meal!
After once again weaning them back onto dog food, Dante began skipping more meals regularly.
So We Switched Brands.We now have both dogs on Merrick. Our reasoning behind this was that maybe Dante just needed a change, he'd been on Canidae for a year and maybe he was bored with the flavor. At the beginning Dante loved Merrick's buffalo formula! (He has a chicken allergy so we have to stay away from chicken products)
Here We Go Again..
Then Ziva had her stick incident, you can read about it here. Back to soft foods for the sake of her throat, and Dante went back to skipping meals rather than eat his dog food.
The part that really bugged us it that we exercise both dogs regularly, I like to hike them, we play fetch and tug games, they chase round the yard, and my husband jores both dogs (this sport especially burns lots of calories for them!). And rather than skipping one meal Dante wouldn't eat for a full day at a time! We were worried about him losing all the nice weight that he had just put back on thanks to his new love of the Merrick food. We like his weight to be about 65 - 70lbs, anything less than 65 and he starts looking way too thin. Being bored with the Canidae he dropped down to 62lbs, four pounds heavier than when he'd been at his leanest (58lbs which didn't look at all healthy - he lost a lot of muscle tone) thanks to the Giardia incident.
The Part About Tough Love.
A hungry dog will eat. This weekend I researched picky eaters (he has no health issues we were just in to the vet), and I think I know the problem..Its us! We need to stop bribing him, no treats, no fuss, he either eats or goes hungry. As soon as he walks away we remove his bowl. "All that futzing, that adding of wet food, that cooking of chicken, that soaking in broth, that addition of an enticing morsel, that leaving of the bowl out all day so they can nibble at their leisure. All that. That behavior...It is enabling behavior. You are making your dog picky...Food is a resource. Heck, food is THE resource. (Some) dogs will guard food. (Most) dogs can be rewarded with food. Food is the ultimate resource. Which you control...Imagine, if you will, the lightbulb moment for a dog. When they realize that by NOT eating the plain old kibble, that kibble is whisked away to magically become kibble plus something awesome." (Excerpt from "The Cure for the Picky Eater")
So our new routine. We go back to our original routine: we offer food twice daily and give them plenty of time to eat. However if they walk away they are clearly no longer interested in eating. We then remove the bowl. Their will be no treats or snacks in between meals unless they are eating regularly (Dante is mostly the problem, Ziva is a good eater). When they are hungry they will eat, we will not interrupt our exercise routines just because we don't feel he has consumed enough calories. We will no longer cater to his demands.
I have some out of town trips coming up and planned on bringing both dogs for some hiking fun and over-nighting. They need to eat what they're given when it is given for this to work. I am not going to worry about heating up their food with hot water or mixing in cooked goodies just to get them to eat. It's highly inconvenient.
We'll get past this yet!
**Keep in mind, if your dog suddenly just stops eating it could be a health issue that you need to have checked out at your vets.**