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Canine Behavior/Dog finicky about food


QUESTION: Hello Jill,

I believe I have written to you a few times before, asking various things about my dog.  She is a lab/shepherd mix, about 12 yrs old, weighs about 50 lbs.  Her name is Princess.  

A few years back I was feeding her Blue Buffalo dry food, after doing some research I learned that it was considered one of the highest quality foods and very nutrient rich.  But after awhile she seemed to lose interest in this food.  Sometimes she would leave it in her bowl for days at a time, and would only eat a few nibbles here and there, so I gave her treats, i.e. Pedigree Dentastix for her teeth and gums.  Since these are only given once daily she usually would gobble them down fast.  I started mixing Hill Science Diet Canned food in with her dry, hoping that would entice her to eat, which worked for awhile.  I also researched this and it was highly rated for canned food.  But after a week or so she got tired of that too.  

I decided to switch her dry food, so I researched again and found that Natural Balance came highly recommended as a nutritious alternative.  She liked it, and ate it every day without hesitation.  But that didn't last either.  She is now leaving her bowl alone for a day or two again.  I'm still mixing the Hills Science with it, so maybe that is the problem, I don't know.  I'm to the point where I don't know what I should do.  Should I try switching dry brands again?   Do dogs get tired of their food?  I guess I would get tired of the same old thing day after day too, but I didn't know if that applied to dogs as well.  

By the way, she has no bowel obstruction or problem with her digestion.  I have had her to the vet recently, to get her nails trimmed, and for a checkup.  Last time I wrote to AllExperts it was about her nails getting long.  I don't remember if that was you or not.  :)  I'm just worried about her!  

Thanks for being there!

ANSWER: Compare the dog's weight was upon her last veterinary examination vs: weight at prior exam.  A simple call to the Vet will tell you, they keep it in their records.

High quality does not mean huge expense.  I have tried very expensive foods with my present dog and she wouldn't touch them for days (and since she is 6.5 pounds, this is not safe or healthy).  The "ingredients" label of a good dry dog food should begin with the actual first thing: whole chicken, beef, lamb (not byproducts) and additives should be few and far between.  Protein levels for a 12 yo dog is important: not too high.  And fat level is important if the dog is obese or under weight.

Talk to the vet first.  Find out if there is significant weight change.  Then: ask for advice for a good quality dry food that the Vet DOES NOT SELL (don't "buy" into extra $) and just go into a pet supply store (like Petsmart) and read lots of labels. Find a food with the first ingredient actual chicken, lamb, beef (not by products) and then stick to it.  No healthy dog will starve itself.  And no, dogs don't get "bored" with what they're being fed as we might.  They eat to live (not live to eat lolol).  Twice a day feeding: split full day feeding in half (this is dependent upon weight of dog and Veterinary advice).  Feed 2/3 in AM, 1/3 mid-day or end of day (5PM) so dog is not "hungry".  And then step back: put the food down, leave the dog alone, give the dog 1/2 hour to consume it, pick it up, next feeding give regular 2nd portion (1/3).  Keep doing this until the dog habituates to the food, is not feeling stressed because you are anxious, is not seeing you ADD stuff to her bowl or hovering over her bowl.  Do not remove bowl (if uneaten) in sight of dog.  Put bowl DOWN in sight of dog.  

If the vet finds her weight to be normal, and suggests a good dry food that you can purchase without paying extra $ because you're getting it from him/her, switch.  Don't worry about stomach upset when switching food: this only occurs if a dog has underlying condition (colitis).  Use followup feature if you want to further discuss this.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: First, I want to thank you for the quick reply!  I really appreciate it!

Her weight has not been an issue.  She is not obese.   It has not varied between vet visits, but there is one issue she has that may indicate a problem with what I've been feeding her.  She does have a "Lipoma" on her left side, which I understand is a fatty deposit, or "tumor", and I have talked to several experts, as well as the vet, about this and how to deal with it.  One person on AllExperts recommended that I try "Reiki" on her.  The vet said surgery is the answer.  Another said that giving her a detox agent would help her kidneys function better and somehow work to dissolve the fatty deposits that make up the growth. I have not tried any of these suggestions yet.  What I keep hearing is that if it does not cause her any discomfort it isn't a big issue.  But I hate to see her with that growth on her because she looks perfect otherwise.  

I understand that dogs don't live to eat, but eat to live.  But even when she has a bowl full of food she will come to me begging for something to eat.  I know this because her way of communicating she wants food is "licking her lips".  She does this every time I ask her if she wants a "treat", which she has learned this means a Dentastix, and she loves those!  But I can't give her more than one per day, and that's what worries me about her reluctance to eat what is in her bowl.  

I buy her food at Petco, but have not actually asked the vet what is best to feed her.  She is 12, so she has begun to develop some stiffness in her hips, and I've been giving her Glucosamine supplements, which seems to have helped.  I don't exercise her (or myself! lol ) as often as I should, so that is something I plan to do this summer, for BOTH of us!    :)

I will take your advice on the feeding schedule and technique.  I have been giving her a bowl of food in the morning, and she will nibble at it and go back when she gets hungry enough.  But as I said before, she doesn't seem to have an interest, or appetite like she once did.  I will also take your advice about reading the labels more closely, and will look for whole chicken, beef, lamb, etc.  By the way, you said to look for these ingredients, "with additives few and far between".  Can you suggest such a food brand?  Maybe the one that YOU use?  I am very serious about the care of my dog, and I want the very best for her.  She means everything to me.  I'm sure you can understand.   

Once again, thank you for being there, and I will give you a glowing Feedback!   Have a nice day!   :)

At age 12, your dog is a senior for real.  You need to make an appointment with your veterinarian and discuss:

1.  Is it worth the risk of anesthesia to remove the lipoma?  Can it be needle biopsied with a tranquilizer and then sent to pathology before surgery?
2.  What is the healthiest food you can buy from a large pet supply chain for your dog at her age.  The reason I stress "large pet supply chain" is because many veterinarians (I'm hoping yours is not one of them) sell specialty foods at greatly increased prices.  We all know human physicians who should be doing something else, like paving roads.  :o/

Let's see what the Vet says.  I had a Whippet who developed multiple limpomas at a relatively early age and they were surgically removed and never re-occurred.  She lived to be 17, a long life for a Whippet, although toward the end her cognitive failure was painfully obvious and that's what made my decision regarding quality of life.

Forget Reiki.  I had an acquaintance whose dog was suffering from skin cancer.  Rather than remove it, she was using Reiki and some holistic black tar crap.  Just plain stupid in my opinion.

The best advice will come from a good veterinary generalist.  If he has suggested surgical removal of the lipoma, then the question about needle biopsy with tranquilizer is a legitimate alternative to general anesthesia.  Please advise in followup regarding what is going on.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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