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At mealtimes, don’t let puppy train you

Sometimes your mischievious pet needs a bit of tough love (Photograph by Stephanie Hardy)

I had a conversation this morning with a lovely lady who had a seven-month-old French bulldog. She was having trouble getting her to eat the highly nutritious and healthy kibble she had purchased and wanted some advice.

She had all the best intentions for her pup’s diet but was making a few common mistakes which prompted me to write about it.

Getting dogs to eat what you want them to eat can be a tricky business. After all, these are smart creatures with needs, wants and opinions of their own, and they are not averse to training their owners just as much as their owners train them.

There are some very good diets on the market currently, which have been carefully balanced by veterinary nutritionists to meet your pets needs at every life stage. However, there is no regulation on pet food currently so it’s difficult for owners to really know the good from the bad. And believe me, there is a lot of bad out there, and a lot of misinformation on the internet. Always speak to your vet about the most up to date information on good nutrition. It’s our job to be a knowledgeable and current resource for you.

This lovely lady was offering her dog an excellent dog food, which was age appropriate and full of nutrition. But she decided the dog might get bored with the kibble alone, so added a little chicken to the top. Her dog cleared the bowl.

A few days after that she switched from adding chicken to adding salmon for a little variety. Her dog was thrilled with this new high value topper and ate it readily, leaving the kibble in the bowl. The well-meaning owner felt that the dog was now not getting enough to eat as she wasn’t eating her kibble so offered more salmon. Happy dog. In between meals she would give her treats which were high in salt and fat and therefore highly palatable, much like French fries are to us. The dog happily ate these but again turned her nose up at the kibble. It’s not that she didn’t like the kibble, she just preferred the other options.

What was happening in this case was that the owner was inadvertently being trained by the clever pup to only feed her high value meals. My two children try to pull the same tricks on me almost daily. If I asked them what they want for dinner the universal reply would be burgers, pizza and fries topped off with ice cream. If I fed them what they wanted every day, they would be very happy but terribly unhealthy, which is exactly where we were with this dog.

It’s up to us, as responsible pet owners, to feed our families healthy and nutritious meals, allowing our pets to thrive and be more active and healthier as a result. I’m certainly not saying you cannot ever treat your dog to a nice, high value snack, but as with most things in life, all in moderation.

The solution to this lovely client’s problem was a bit of tough love. She had to be strict with her pup and offer only the well-balanced kibble until she was back on track and eating it readily. Healthy dogs will not starve themselves, but they can be quite determined when they think they can get their own way. It’s a bit of a battle of wills and I completely understand why owners cave in, but persistence pays off and your dog’s health depends on it.

One last comment on this topic, which may be a bit unsavoury, but, welcome to my world, you can learn a lot from your dog’s poop. It should be firm, well-formed, and able to be picked up without leaving anything behind. If you’re pets diet is lacking, the poop may be the first place it shows. Sorry if I just put you off your meal.

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Published August 11, 2022 at 7:57 am (Updated August 11, 2022 at 7:57 am)

At mealtimes, don’t let puppy train you

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