Help please with getting my dog back to eating from a bowl

Hi, I’ve just joined, and I need some advice and help if possible. We rescued our dog in September last year, and long story short, I ended up hand feeding him because of numerous issues. He is not very food motivated in the slightest and is very fussy when it comes to food. We then overcompensated by giving him lots of treats and human food whatever we were eating, and now we have a dog that will not touch anything. We have got a trainer in, and he has told me to go down the tough love route, put the food down leave 15 minutes and then take it away. So I began today, 24 hours in and he has not eaten a thing, I guess my worry is how long can this be continued, can he go for days like this. When do I need to say enough is enough, the trainer said 5 days, as long as he is drinking, but he has only had a small drink today. I really am going around in circles with worry, and I guess my dog is also picking up on this as well. Will he eventually eat?

Hello and welcome to the forum. It sounds as if your dog has an eating disorder but first it is important to make sure that there is no physical reason for this problem. The commonest problem is poor oral health. Have you asked the vet to check his mouth and to perform a general health check including blood tests?

You mention that you have had several problems but don’t say what they are so I don’t know if they are connected with this current one. You say that he would eat human food and actually a home cooked diet can be an excellent way of feeding dogs, as long as it is properly balanced and contains the correct supplements. We have a section on home cooked dog food here. There is also a thread on feeding the fussy eater here.

If you go down the home cooking route it would be best to obtain some specific recipes, ones that are not too complex. There are suggestions on how to obtain recipes in the home cooking section. Home cooked food always needs supplementation - it’s important to add calcium in the correct amount and Omega 3:6. Usual ratio is 60% to 75% protein. In your case I would go for the higher amount because if a dog doesn’t have a good appetite the additional calories will be beneficial.

Some great advice from Dottie there.

I’d like to add a further suggestion - I’m thinking that your dog has been interacting directly with you whilst you have been hand feeding him. Whatever the reason we each find ourselves at times having to hand feed our dogs and they do seem to rather enjoy it! :wink:

I would be unable to try the ‘tough love’ approach as it would project unwarranted stress onto my dogs and that would feel heartless adding nothing positive to their emotional well being.

For that reason I’d suggest you might want to continue your contact with your dog around food and turn feeding time into fun for him, and eventually - at his pace - you’d be trying to help him to progress to happily feed from a bowl.

Sitting relaxed near him on the floor and letting him see you take food from your hand (which he had successfully been feeding from) and now he will see that your hand will be light-heartedly scattering a few items of food around you on the floor. Encourage him to go and eat the food and praise him when he eats it. You might want to try with treats or chicken at first to coax him if he is hesitant!

After he is comfortable to do that with you, then you might (& once again sit near him on the floor) progress to letting him see you put some of the food (you are scattering) near to a bowl (not necessarily his bowl) on the floor near you. And again praise him when he eats the food.

Further progress this to sitting next to him on the floor (and letting him see where you put the food), and put the food underneath a bowl and again encourage him to eat the food - you may want to lift the bowl so he can reach the food.

When he is comfortable with that you can try turning a bowl the right way up and then put the food in it.

Take things slowly at his pace.

In time you might try to continue with the food in a bowl for him but without you sitting next to him on the floor. I’d suggest you remain near to him and try sitting on a chair continuing with your encouragement as he eats.

And I hope he will continue to happily eat from a bowl as you continue to edge further away.