What could be more natural for a dog than eating its meals? Not much you think… well think again. I have often been asked, “What can I do; my dog does not want to eat?” The first thing I recommend is that the owner check to be sure there is nothing physically wrong with the dog. After getting the all-clear by their veterinarian we talk about the normal feeding ritual at their house. I then ask my client to tell me step by step what is done every time the dog is fed. It usually sounds something like this:
- I feed my dog every day at 6:30 in the morning and 5:45 at night.
- I put her food in the dog bowl.
- When I pick up the bowl my dog dances her way to the alcove where she’s fed.
- I then stand there and wait until she’s done, which usually takes less than a minute, so I can pick up the bowl to clean it.
Like kids, dogs can thrive on routine. But it can come at a price. You want to be careful that your dog does not need to eat at the same time, out of the same bowl, in the same location in order to eat. Why? Well, here’s the story of what happened to one of my clients: While their house was being renovated the family was living in the back part of the house. There was no alcove for the dog to run to. As a matter of fact, everyone was eating off of paper plates while the kitchen was off limits. Their dog stopped eating. Clearly the dog was stressed by the upheaval in the home. In order to get the dog to eat the owner hand fed her every meal until the renovation was done. Yes, they kept the alcove area for the dog, and the dog went back to eating! What was it that actually kept the dog from eating? Stress! Things were different and that created stress in the dog’s life.
If you have a puppy that loves to eat–breakfast, lunch, dinner and any snack you care to throw her way–count your blessings! Puppies are smart and they also develop habits very quickly! You have probably seen it–you pick up her bowl and she races you to wherever she eats. To reduce the likelihood of your pup being stressed when she eats, we encourage new puppy owners to offer diverse eating experiences to their puppies. You want your puppy to eat any time and any where you offer her food. If she has to stay overnight at the vet’s office, at a kennel, or even a friend’s house, you want her to eat.
So how can you minimize stress relating to meals? Teach your puppy not to anticipate anything about mealtime. How can you do that? Take your puppy on a Puppy Picnic! Picnics are lots of fun and can be held anywhere! We suggest you pack your pup’s food and head out to the:
- Laundry room
- Deck off the kitchen
- Office (Take-Your-Dog-To-Work Day this year is Friday June 20, 2014)
- Front Lawn
- Little League Game
- Family BBQ
- Crate/Exercise Pen
In addition to feeding her in all of these places, be sure to have her eat her meals out of different containers. Some ideas for you would be her own bowl in a new location, then try a paper plate, a Tupperware container, an unbreakable glass bowl, off the ground or even a piece of tin foil (just be careful not to let her eat it) Be imaginative, but always think about safety!
While you are on your Puppy Picnic be sure to also have some fun with her. Spend some time playing with her, showing her all the new and exciting things that are happening around her. Taking the time to go on Puppy Picnics can reap huge rewards down the road!