Feeding a non eater

"He's not going to starve himself."  Well maybe not but he's going to get so skinny that if he is hit with any sort of illness his weight will be a huge issue.  As you all know I do not like when dogs are allowed to get overweight.  Being overweight can cause a great deal of health issues; diabetes, heart disease, severe joint issues, liver and or kidney failure, problems breathing, decreased mobility and more.

Article on obesity in dogs

But today I'm talking about the extreme opposite, skinny, underweight or Luke.  Luke is skinny, really, really skinny.  He has always been skinny and he has always been a very poor eater.  He grew up on real food and has over the years been sporadically fed dog food as well.  He is a tough customer, very complicated and emotional.  Many people may think that his lack of eating like a normal dog is something that I may have caused but I can assure you it is not.  I have had dogs for thirty years and Luke is my very first non eater.  His much younger housemate Elsa eats like an eating champion at an eating competition.

After years and years of trial and error I am finally figuring Luke out a bit. But mood has much to do with his desire to eat or not.  He is by far the fussiest dog we've had, he likes things a certain way, his way.  Even then when you do it his way he might not be in the mood.  He will eat like a hog one night on a homemade beef meal and the next night, forget it.  It can be frustrating at best, many nights I've thrown my hands in the air saying "fine, whatever."

Naturally dogs hunt, stalk, kill and then eat so for many of them the idea of a boring bowl of food placed in front of them is just that, boring.  Luke is not a big bowl eater, he likes to eat on the go.  We learned quite sometime ago that we can get a great deal of food into him on our walks.  He loves to snack, it is his favorite way to eat.  He also enjoys when I take food outside and toss it around.  This makes him work for his food.  I have also used a kong to feed him with, this is very similar to the instinctive way of eating.  I fill the kong with his food, partially freeze it and offer it up.  He has to work for his food and he likes that.

But to get enough calories into him I need to be constantly feeding him throughout the day and he is not always in the mood.  I don't know how many times my kids have asked "what kind of dogs turns down meat?"  Luke is the kind.  I can offer him up some great meatballs; one day he will eat 5 and the next day, he will turn his head.  If he is not in the eating mood and I try to force the issue he will literally get up and leave so there is no force feeding.

If sadly you have a dog with eating habits like Luke you have your work cut out for you.  First let me say how sorry I am that your dog eats like Luke, it is not fun and a constant worry.  I am not a big fan of store bought dog food but it has surely worked to get extra food into Luke. All throughout the day I offer it to him, sometimes he eats it other times not.

I have found a cookie that Luke loves so I make them often and he never turns them down.  He likes really tasty food as well.  I hate the term "people food," and do not like to use it with regards to real food.  Real food is just that, not our food that we've laid claim to, it's just real, fresh food.  But, Luke does like people food.  He likes flavorful, sauteed, barbecued and slow cooked.  He loves good food.  He would much prefer a savory marinated steak over a raw one.  So the boy has taste, but he also has a bad case of the fussies so the whole eating ordeal is a constant one.

So far we've done pretty well, his birthday is in August and he will be 12 years old.  I always have food on me, stuffed into a pocket, pouch or my top.  So if you ever meet me and when I bend over  to tie my shoe, food falls out of my clothing, you'll know why.  


  1. I have a Standard who is like Luke. I cook for her. She is a big fan of variety. Also, I feed her with a little competition so she will eat so that they will not get in her bowl. A kitty works well.

    She also will eat socially. If I am eating and share, she is more interested. By "more interested" I mean maybe she will eat if hand fed. It constantly worries me that she gets enough to eat. She is now eight and she just had knee surgery so she is less active. Boy, did her medicine make her go off of her feed. I was so worried when she would not eat for two days!

    She seems to eat more if she gets plenty of exercise and lots of time to play. We wait to eat for a half hour prior to or after a good run so that she doesn't bloat.

    Eating is an emotional thing for my girl and if she is happy, in good spirits and gets fresh air, we have the best luck eating.

    Best of luck to you and Luke!

  2. This is like reading about our Edward. Extremely picky!
    It frustrates me to no end that one day he will like something and I'll rush out to buy some more, only to find him turning his nose up at it the next day.
    When he was seriously ill last week, he lost seven kilos. How on earth we're going to get it back on him, I have no idea.
    I find myself giving him treats all day, just to make him eat something. Not smart you may think, but I have tried just offering him proper food when he must be hungry. He still won't have any, if he is in that sort of mood.

  3. At a picnic, I learned that Johann will retrieve a hot dog from a bucket of water and eat it in 40 seconds. I do not worry about him eating,it is the other two.

    Elizabeth can be picky but wouldn't concern me if it weren't for the fact that she is too skinny. I have learned that she wants to play with her food.

    Wolfgang will eat when it suites him and rarely the same thing twice. The exception is asparagus, he will eat an entire pound of roasted or grilled asparagus without hesitation. He became ill and dropped to 35lbs, which is too skinny. He is picky about treats too and will only eat real jerky right now.
    I cook for the dogs regularly and leave a high quality kibble out all day. Johann eats the homemade breakfast or dinner with zeal and will pick at the kibble all day. Elizabeth will eat homemade stuffed in toys and in games and will play her own games with the kibble. Wolfgang is hit and miss and feeding him is a struggle. My husband says that if he isn't eating he must not be hungry but I don't believe he isn't hungry. How can he not be hungry? It would be so much easier if they could tell us what they wanted for dinner.


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