Going Rawr! for Fussy Eaters

I am a long time advocate of raw food diets, and was excited when approached by Maggie Rhines’ regarding her new book Going Rawr! Dog Lover’s Compendium.

In his book, Maggie explains how some picky eaters may struggle to make the change to a raw food diet.  But you know you need to persevere because it’s for the good of your dog. Fortunately, there are some tips out there that will help you help your dog adjust to this new and healthier diet.

Here are 7 tips from Maggie’s book to help you encourage your picky eater onto raw food:


1. Adjust your feeding schedule.

Having a set feeding time can encourage dogs to eat, setting them up for the habit of eating at a set time.  This means that their digestive juices get flowing (in a Pavlovian, classical conditioning way) and you will also know that your dog is definitely hungry by this time.  Dogs have also developed to exercise before a meal (i.e. ‘hunt first’ then eat), so a jog or run before a meal can sometimes help a dog to build up their appetite.


2. Regulate how much food your dog is getting.

If your dog is regularly leaving some of their meal in their bowl, then you may be feeding them too much. You may need to reconsider how much you are feeding. The dog might also be in a habit of leaving food. One way to help your dog finish his food and finish it quickly is to set a certain amount of time for them to eat. Say you only give them 20 minutes to finish their food. After that, take away his food bowl. That way, he’ll be encouraged to eat his food and to finish it quickly. You could also have a look at Sue Ailsby’s teaching a dog to eat guide, to break any bad-eating habits your dog may have.  Removing food after 20 minutes or so also prevents the raw food going off – obviously not desirable!


3. Lay off on the treats.

If your dog is often disinterested in their meals, maybe they are getting too many treats and snacks in between meals. If you cut out these treats, it may increase the dog’s appetite and make them more keen to eat raw. If you are the type to do a lot of training with your dog, make your raw meal into the training treats, or switch to play-based rewards for a week or two, could help encourage your dog’s appetite.


4. Variety is the spice of life.

Some dogs respond well to variety. The joy of raw food is that it is quite varied naturally! Planning a varied meal doesn’t have to be complicated. You can rotate his meals every 3 days. Serve different kinds of meat or different kinds of fruits and vegetables to keep him excited during meal times.


5. Make it fun.

Sometimes dogs enjoy the packaging of a meal more than the meal itself!  Dogs that are used to using food toys, like Kongs, may be inclined to extract raw food from these toys as well.  Some dogs may be inclined to get stuck into a raw bone or carcass if you were to drag it around or use it as a lure or tug toy first.  If your dog is used to receiving food treats in training, start using raw food as training treats.  These are all fun-based strategies that could work to getting your dog to try the new food.


6. Maybe he’s not feeling well.

When you’ve tried different methods and your dog is still not eating, it could be a sign that your dog is not feeling well.  If his lack of appetite is accompanied by a general lack of interest in any activity, a vet check may be in order.


7. Do the slow switch method.

Some dogs just need more time to adjust to raw food diet especially after being so used to a different type of food for a long time. To help a smooth transisition, you may like to mix some of the old diet in with the new diet, and gradually increase the proportion of the new diet, until the new diet is fed exclusively. This method has the extra benefit of reducing the incidence of upset tummies as a result of a diet change.


Introducing the raw food diet to your dog isn’t always as easy as just giving him raw meaty bones to munch on. There are a lot of things to consider, especially if your dog is the sensitive/picky eater type.

To learn more about switching raw, be sure to check out Maggie Rhines’ Rawr! Dog Lover’s Compendium.

(Thank-you, Maggie, for your article ‘Why is it important for a dog to undergo detoxification before switching to raw?‘, in which a reciprocal link was provided. Thanks!)


The Week in Tweets – 21st June

Welcome to our only weekly (ish) segment: The Week in Tweets! This is where I summarise my weekly tweets (from my Twitter account) and choose my favourite as the Tweet of the Week.


Tweet of the Week

Stanley Coren (best known as the author of The Intelligence of Dogs, How Dogs Think and a range of other books) runs a fascinating blog, often delving into dog science, called The Canine Corner.  Though I often read this blog with interest, it is his recent post, “Can Dogs Predict Earthquakes?“, that really fascinated me.   What was so interesting is that Coren was actually researching another area through a survey and noted anomalies in dog behaviour surrounding an earthquake event.  Coren goes into a lot of detail, but basically concludes that dogs can hear high pitched sounds with an earthquake, and that’s why some dogs react. My basic summary doesn’t do his research justice – please have a read, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy as much as me!

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“The Boys”

We welcomed these boys as fosters into our home last week. They were surrendered to us as the family didn’t feel they had the time for the dogs, and the dogs were also too boisterous for their young children. They’re a bit of a handful together! But individually, they’re pretty nice dogs. They can get a little overwhelmed in some situations, but they’re quite consolable and are never worried enough to refuse treats. We are working on their jumping up and their lead manners. Considering they were practically raised by a backyard, they have relatively few issues and will make charming pets for the right home.

First of all, there is Mack:

Black and white kelpie, labrador, border collie crossbreed dog looks at the camera.

Mack, being a lovely attentive boy for the camera.

Mack was a bit of a snob for the first couple of days, but when I took him for a walk without his brother, he totally changed! He started looking to me for reassurance and guidance, and then never stopped when we got home. Now we’re pretty good friends, and I am sure his new family won’t have to do much to win him over, either.  For more details about Mack, view his PetRescue profile.

And then there’s Jet:

Black kelpie cross labrador cross border collie dog, looking at camera.

Jet, much harder to photograph, and looking much older than his 20 months!

Jet has a sooky soft temperament, and is much more likely to win you over quickly than his brother.  Jet is one of those floppy submissive dogs that lay on their back for belly rubs and generally just is soft natured!  I think this boy will find a home easily with whoever meets him first – he’s quite endearing. Read more about Jet on his PetRescue profile.

Both Mack and Jet are available in South Australia to an appropriate home. They were surrendered as half Kelpie, half Labrador x Border Collie. They are 20 months old and will be available from Wednesday 20th June as vaccinated, desexed, and microchipped.


Reward Training Techniques (Dunbar)

This post is part of the series in response to Dunbar’s 2012 Australian seminars. See index.

Dunbar described five reward training techniques:



Lure Reward Training
He called these ‘techniques that cause the behaviour’ and the ‘Plan A’ of dog training – that is, it should be the first option when teaching a dog a behaviour.  More about this method is outlined in my lure reward training post.


All or none reward training
Dunbar created ‘all or none’ reward training after thinking about dogs in shelter situations.  These dogs need to default to good behaviour, or just be ‘good’ without any verbal cues.  In all or none reward training, you just wait for the animal to do what you want, and reward it.  For example, if you have a dog on leash and wait long enough, they’ll eventually sit.  The term ‘all or none’ comes from the behaviour: He’s either sitting, or he’s not.  Dunbar advocates this way for inattentive or ‘crazy’ dogs, and suggests it should be the ‘Plan B’ in dog training.


Black and white working cross breed runs with a tennis ball in mouth.

Life rewards: Running, playing fetch. Much better than any boring treat!


Shaping (often with clickers) Continue reading


The Week In Tweets – 27th May

Welcome to our only weekly (ish) segment: The Week in Tweets! This is where I summarise my weekly tweets (from my Twitter account) and choose my favourite as the Tweet of the Week. (And this post was supposed to occur on the 27th of May… Whoops…)


Tweek of the Week

Since I found this link, I have been recommending it, and I’ll probably continue to recommend it while it continues to be active.  Sue Ailsby has a fantastic website, mostly detailing the ‘training levels’ (which I also advocate!), but also with a page called; “Teaching your dog to eat“.  I admit it doesn’t sound very special but, gee, it has some good advice!  Sue outlines a process for teaching a dog to finish off their bowl of food. I’ve never had a dog to try this with, but all the logic is perfect, and I’m excited to include “Teaching your dog to eat” as the Tweet of the Week.

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