When rescue pups Arbre and Fluer came into our lives, being riddled with worms, fleas and scabies, being fussy eaters was the first issue we knew we had to address. We were determined to ensure that they not only did they have the best nutrition, but that they were as flexible as possible when it came to what they would eat.
So what is the best dog food for fussy eaters? A biologically appropriate raw diet (BARF) is the best and simplest way you can restore the enthusiasm your dog has for food – however fussy an eater he seems to be.
Having a picky pooch can be extremely frustrating as well as lead to health and behavioural issues. That’s why we’ve chosen to feed them a raw diet and why we think this is the answer to solving the problem of almost every fussy eater.
What is a Fussy Eater?
Do you think your dog is fussy? What does that actually mean? Does it mean that he won’t eat broccoli or breakfast or the green kibbles (but he’s fine with the brown ones)? Is he on hunger strike or have you overdone it on the treats so now a nutritionally balanced dinner seems somewhat unappealing? He’s not stupid and neither are you – many of the traits exhibited by dogs labelled as finickity eaters are simply a symptom of loving owners, trying too hard. Labelling you dog a fussy eater often results in owners providing too many options and unintentionally exacerbating the problem. Does this sound familiar?
What seems fussy to one person might just be that your dog isn’t into breakfast or that his bowl makes a loud noise that he doesn’t like or that his genetic requirement differs from what you are giving him!
So let’s assume that you’ve done everything right – you’re feeding the right quantity of dog food; removing unfinished food after 30 minutes; and you’re not going crazy on the pre-dinner snacks! Your dog simply isn’t interested in eating the food you would like them to eat – perhaps favouring something like premium cured ham slices wrapped around French cheese with a puppychino to wash it all down?
This is of course a joke, but the anxiety you feel as a dog owner whose best friend refuses to eat often leads to some crazy choices and nobody will criticise you for that. So let’s get to the root of the problem and how you can turn your dog from a fussy eater to a satisfied diner!
Ask the Question, Is Your Dog Really a Fussy Eater?
You need to rule out any medical cause for your dog being picky about his food. Get him checked out just in case there is something going on that’s affecting his appetite. Depending on how progressive your vet is they might be keen to conduct some more in-depth allergy tests if nothing obvious comes up under examination.
So you’ve got the all clear from the vet and you’re still looking for answers. Much like humans, if something is making your dog feel unwell, they are probably going to avoid it. Their tolerances for truly disgusting snacks is higher than any bush-tucker-trial contestant, and this is in their genetics, however, if something they’re eating is irritating them on a daily basis, they might show you by simply staging a protest against it – refusing to eat.
My Dog is Healthy But Choosy
Just like you, individual dogs like some things better than others and not all of those things are biologically appropriate. Take Haribo for example. Nutritionally negative in every way, but yummy. There are however a number of things that manifest, as fussiness and here are a few of the common ones.
Some breeds are simply more picky than others – whether this is down to the way in which they’ve evolved, or the age old argument of ‘overbreeding’, the reality is that highly modified designer breeds tend to have more particular tastes than the older, less engineered breeds. Labradors – well known for their moreish appetite rarely exhibit anything that could be characterised as fussy, whereas French Bulldogs, bred intensively for coat colour and stature are renowned for their discerning tastes!
Let’s talk about kibble. The vast majority of pet dog owners in the developed world feed their dogs kibble (or biscuits as some know it as). Without going into a scathing anti-kibble rant, we would encourage anyone doing so to watch the acclaimed documentary ‘Pet Fooled’ (available to buy on Google Play, YouTube and also to view on Netflix) if they want to have a better understanding of what their dog eats.
Kibble is a highly processed, convenient solution to manufacturing dog food. It has a shelf life that makes spam seem fresh – in the name of human convenience. To achieve this longevity, it is crammed full of additives, synthetic and natural – all marketed in such a way to convince you that you are doing the right thing in terms of your dog’s diet. Many of these preservatives and additives are not biologically appropriate and can affect your dog’s health – and in some cases, make your dog reluctant to devour these dried nuggets that swell in their tummies.
I hate slimy food. I hate kidney and I hate Marmite. Arbre won’t eat turkey and Fleur won’t eat furry lamb’s ears. Because we anthropomorphise them, we assume this to be texture related. And also because they make the same faces as kids make when forces to eat tapioca pudding!
The temperature of a food can influence your dog’s willingness to tuck into their dinner. We have spent months testing this theory and it’s clear that they prefer their food served at room temperature or above – something that many owners of fussy eaters misread. They add warm water to the food to make it softer but actually, it’s the raising of the temperature that makes it more palatable.
Why Is a Raw Diet the Best For Fussy Eaters?
The commonly used term ‘wolf it down’ could not be more appropriate. Many raw feeders see an instant change in their dog’s eating behaviours when they switch to nurishing their dogs with a raw diet. We were just these people. Having rescued our puppies in France, we were already aware of the raw feeding movement – something more commonplace in France than here in the UK where we are currently based. Every major supermarket from the Spanish boarder to the northern Alps makes shelf space for a wide variety of meats, bones and offal, specifically sold as dog food. Butchers and abattoirs have their dog foods on display, not ‘out back’ as we see in north America and the UK and this exposure set us on a mission to educate ourselves as best we could.
With two young puppies, sick and weak from infestations, our vet was fully supportive of our suggestion that we should switch to a raw diet, encouraging and advising us of how to make the transition and insistent that we would see significant health benefits almost overnight. To that point both our dogs were reluctant eaters, no matter what we tried – from extremely expensive hypoallergenic grain free foods to lacing their breakfast with coconut oil and dinners with gravy, we could not persuade them to eat any more than they absolutely had to – deeply worrying during such an important phase of their development. With their health in tatters and their coats limp and patchy, we made the switch.
Having seen the benefits of raw feeding for ourselves, we consider the following to be the top reasons why a raw diet is the very best to feed fussy eaters:
- They will eat it all in one go
The biggest problem most raw feeders have is that they have to find ways to slow down their dog! If you have calculated correctly, you will know that your dog is getting exactly what they require each meal.
- They will be excited!
Arbre is so excited for his meals that he shouts the house down. Harnessing this enthusiasm, we use every mealtime as a training opportunity – encouraging him to exercise some self-restraint which has given him better life skills when it comes to controlling is impulses.
- They are lean
When fed correctly, raw dogs will have a leaner physique than their peers. With their diet focused on everything they do need and nothing they don’t, their tummies are noticeably trimmer and their true form is obvious. You can of course over and under feed on a raw diet – we have recently increased Fleur’s meals and you too will find yourself feeding more to the individual than the ‘standard’ chart on the back of your kibble sack.
- You can cater for tastes
So your dog doesn’t like venison, he’s bone-shy or he won’t crack an egg? No problem! Try mackerel and lam ribs, kidney and pork mince! The options are endless and what’s more, you’ll feel a heck of a lot better placing a colourful, textured Budda bowl of delights in front of him rather than a beige pile of dry pellets.
- Seasonality and simplicity
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, you can see exactly what goes into your dog’s dinner. With many suppliers providing significantly more nutritional data on each pack than their ‘cooked’ pet food counterparts, reputable manufacturers keep things simple and often seasonal with game in abundance in autumn and winter and lamb featuring more prominently in spring.
Can I feed my dog a mix of raw and kibble? There are differing opinions as to whether this is advisable but generally, people only feed their dogs a mix during the transition to a fully raw diet. It is however universally agreed that combining to two in one meal is unwise as there are significantly different digestions rates which can cause bloating and discomfort for your dog.
Where can I get raw dog food?This is a fast growing industry and for your convenience, there are many suppliers all over the world supplying customers with ‘complete’ frozen dog foods which is where we would advise you start – you may even find your local pet store has a selection of different brands you can try your dog with. If you’re in the UK www.RawReviews.co.ukhas a comprehensive directory of raw dog food suppliers.
Is raw dog food safe for my dog to eat? Yes – manufacturer supplied dog foods in the US and UK are regulated by their respective agricultural authorities, the FDA and DEFRA. They are subject to continuous testing for contaminants and parasites and your canine friend is genetically set up to process raw food without suffering sickness as we would.