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Doc Sara
Doc Sara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 952
Experience:  I am a dog and cat veterinarian with a lifetime of experience in our family veterinary hospital.
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I have an 8 month old Havanese. She's great except she's a

Customer Question

I have an 8 month old Havanese. She's great except she's a finicky eater. I've been told to put her food out and leave it out as she will eventually eat it(self feeding). I've also been told it's better to feed twice a day. I also need to feed her in the kitchen in the mornings and the den at night. Is this OK? Thank you.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.

Hi there, I'm Dr. Sara. I'm a licensed veterinarian who works exclusively with dogs and cats. Thanks for sending in your question - I'll do my best to help.

The first thing to be sure of is that your pup is healthy. It's uncommon for a pup this young to have health issues, but when we're discussing finicky eating habits, I always want to make sure that you've had her to the vet and she's checked out as healthy. She also needs to be growing well and not underweight in any way. If she is, there might be a health issue underlying her poor appetite that will need to be addressed.

Assuming she's 100% healthy and this is a behavioral issue, then my approach is to have set meal times. Two (or three) times a day, get the food out, make a big show of getting it ready, make sure that she sees it and has ample opportunity to eat it in a quiet area with no distractions. If she walks away from it or doesn't eat it after 5-10 minutes, pick it up. In order to get a dog to eat, we have to create hunger. She will be more likely to eat at the next meal. You certainly can try different brands, flavors, and consistencies of food to see what sorts of food she likes better. Obviously, you'll not want to get into the habit of feeding her anything that you don't want to feed long term, or this defeats the purpose of the strict meal times and creation of hunger to get her to eat. For this reason, I don't love the idea of leaving the food out 24/7, because this creates a situation where she can pick anytime and never really get hungry, which can make it difficult to know exactly what and how much she is really eating. If she is healthy she will not starve herself. Dogs aren't like people in that they don't NEED to have emotional fulfillment from their food. Certainly many dogs LOVE food, but some just don't need that emotional attachment to their meals like we humans do. It's OK to try different places in your home - you may find that she eats better in one area than in another. My greyhound would only eat in his crate when we first got him, although over the years he's adjusted to eating in a different room - we did this using a little bit of tough love, using the knowledge that he was perfectly healthy, he wasn't losing weight, and he was not going to go hungry if the food was there for him to eat. Some dogs will get nauseous if their tummy stays empty too long, which can make this process much more difficult. If she's acting fine in every other way, though, and not vomiting or losing weight, it's OK to be a little strict with her.

I hope that this info is helpful to you - please let me know what other concerns I can cover for you :)

~Dr. Sara


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Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.
I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?
Doc Sara