Picky Pup? How to Recognize Distracted Eating
Does your dog seem uninterested in her food? Does he take a few bites of his dinner and wander away, leaving the remainder of his meal untouched? Dogs who seem less than enthused about their meals can worry their parents, especially if the vet has mentioned that the pup is looking a bit too thin. This seeming apathy toward a meal is often described as “distracted eating,” and while the problem can seem worrying at first, it’s not impossible to solve.
So how do you know if your dog is a distracted eater? It’s easy to recognize. If your dog seems generally indifferent to her food and will get distracted by normal activity in the house during mealtimes, that’s a pretty good sign you’re dealing with a distracted eater. Other symptoms can include eating a few bites at a time separated by long breaks or sniffing the food and walking away without eating any of it.
Keep in mind that dogs who aren’t distracted eaters often need to be slowed down to prevent eating too fast and are nearly impossible to disturb while they’re chowing down. A distracted eater will behave in pretty much the opposite manner.
This can be frustrating, but the good news is that it’s not always related to an actual medical condition or serious problem. Sometimes dogs just don’t like the food they’re being served and are holding out for something better. In this case, that’s an easy problem to solve.
A Culinary Solution
Because distracted eating is often just a matter of food quality and taste, picky pooches can do a dinner 180 when introduced to a tastier food. It can take some trial and error, but once they find the right match, many dog moms and dads find that their seemingly food-averse pets come around to adoring dinner time.
You may want to try a top-rated dog food that’s more aromatic and enticing for distracted doggies. Natural foods tend to be the most appealing because they smell great and don’t contain a lot of boring, unappetizing fillers. That’s what Freshpet’s refrigerated dog food recipes such a fantastic choice for distracted eaters. You may also want to give grain-free dog food a try if your pup is generally food motivated but seems to be developing distracted eating habits and is having some digestive issues. Gradually transition your dog to the new food to avoid causing any stomach upset, and give it a few days to see whether feeding behavior is changing before changing to a different dog food flavor or format option.
If trying a new food doesn’t work, though, consult with your vet. There could be another issue at play, especially if your dog is displaying distracted eating behaviors out of the blue. Everything from dental issues to illness-induced nausea can cause appetite loss in dogs.
A dog who doesn’t eat might feel too insecure to do so. Food anxiety with dogs typically manifests with aggressive or hyper behavior, but dogs are complex animals, and they don’t always behave in the ways we expect them to. If there are other dogs in the house who are a bit competitive about food or if your dog is a rescue pup with an uncertain past, the problem can be related to real or perceived traumas around food rather than the quality of the food itself.
In this case, it is often best to feed your dog in a quiet, safe place where she feels comfortable. If she’s crate trained and often goes into her crate voluntarily, let her eat there; that’s her territory, and she may get the security she needs to eat in that space. If there’s some other specific spot in the house where she tends to hang out and relax, try putting her food there at mealtimes. No matter where you feed her, keep other pets and human family members away from the distracted dog while she’s eating to minimize distractions and threats. Make sure she’s comfortable and relaxed before you set her food down, then clear out and give her some space to chow down in peace.