“My dog won’t eat raw meat”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard that I’d be retired on a tropical beach, coconut in hand.
It’s common for Australian dog owners to think their pooch won’t eat raw meat, but there’s a simple reason why this is typically a false assumption. A raw diet for dogs isn’t just easy to introduce - it’s natural.
When I hear a dog won’t eat raw meat, the first question I’ll ask is “what do they like to eat?”. Nine times out of 10 the answer is cooked meat. COOKED!!! Cooking makes meat more appealing for many reasons including a more palatable texture change and the melting of fat to release flavour. That’s not even mentioning the delicious smells that are released from cooking! Because dogs are all about smell, not taste, if it smells better it tastes better.
Let me ask you, would you rather a cooked steak, or a slab of raw beef? Well, your dog would make the same choice. That’s why my next question is, “what do you do when your dog won’t eat their raw meat?” which is usually answered with “I cook the raw meat for them...then they eat it”.
Your dog is a genius
Dogs are clever creatures and learn from past experiences. Think about dog training as an example. The keys to a well-trained dog are consistency and repetition. Rewarding good behaviour and ignoring bad.
With fussy eaters on a raw diet for dogs, the same principles apply. Every time your dog doesn’t eat what you offer and you give them something else (even if it is later in the day) you are telling them “I will give you what you want...eventually”. Just like I did last time, and the time before that.
If your dog wants their raw chicken cooked, they won’t eat it until you cave in to their pleading stare (no shame here, we all love to give our dogs what makes them happy). Unless you make a move to introduce a raw diet for your dog, your furry friend will continue to (try to) convince you that they only eat cooked meat.
What if my dog refuses to eat their raw diet?
The simplest approach can also be the toughest - ‘tough love’.
Refusing to substitute raw meat until your dog chows down (which they will when they get hungry enough) is a proven method of kickstarting a raw food diet for dogs. Unfortunately, this can be harder than it sounds as no loving dog owner is okay with seeing their dog refuse food. (If my boxer Lulu didn’t eat her dinner I would panic and rush her to the vet because that is unheard of. Though I am lucky she’s not a fussy eater).
There is a silver lining here. When it comes to dogs, there are health benefits associated with not eating. And if you’re worried about the thought of leaving your dog to go hungry, rest easy knowing dogs often fast themselves. The benefits of fasting include:
- Boost health and longevity
- Detoxes and removes toxins
- Improved cellular health
- Strengthens immune system
Your dog may be a master at convincing you they are on death’s door without food, but it won’t harm a dog to go without food for 24hrs (or even 48hrs in some cases). As long as your dog has fresh water at all times, they won’t starve. Keep in mind, these rules don’t apply to puppies – puppies must eat regularly throughout the day but DO NOT make the mistake of cooking food for your puppy, or you may face a dogs lifetime of fussiness.
How to apply the ‘tough love’ method
The tough love approach WILL work if you stick to it. This means NO other human food or treats from anyone. (For the people that say “I tried this and my dog didn’t eat for a week”, your dog was getting food from somewhere, or someone!).
Here’s how it works:
Step #1 - Offer your dog their meal at their usual meal time
Step #2 -Leave the food for 15 minutes
Step #3 - If your dog doesn’t eat the food within 15 minutes, put it back in the fridge
Step #4 - Offer your dog the exact same meal 1 - 2 hours later
Step #5 - Leave the food for 15 minutes. If they sniff it or eat a little, praise them (reward the good). If they don’t eat the food, take it away again.
Step #6 - Offer a fresh meal of the same variety at the NEXT meal time (i.e. if they only have dinner, offer it at dinner time the next day).
Step #7 - Keep the eating routine and food the same and continue with steps 1 through 6. Don’t offer treats or any human food between meals (or you’ll undo your hard work).
Your entire household must be on board with this approach and you must be consistent. That means ignoring your dog when they are stalling or not eating. Any acknowledgement can be taken as a reward so don’t say a word (or even make eye contact). Calmly take raw food away and try again later.
When your dog does take a bite of their raw food diet (and they will) make sure to make a big fuss and reward them with praise. It’s OK to give one of their favourite healthy treats after they’ve eaten from their raw diet. This will encourage them to do the same the next time you offer a new meal.
The secret to transitioning to a raw diet for dogs
Transitioning to a raw diet for dogs after years of eating dry or cooked food can be very overwhelming for some animals. Make the transition slowly by including a little new raw food and a lot of the old food. Gradually reverse that ratio over as many days or weeks as needed. If your dog begins to refuse their raw food diet, go back to serving more of their old food and start the transition process again. Some dogs can go cold turkey from one kind of food to another; while others need more time.
For less severe fussy eaters you may need nothing more than a little tempting. Something that smells amazing and is sprinkled onto new raw food can work wonders. Fishiness is a strong smell that dogs often love, so adding some sardines or salmon (plus yummy fish juice) can help with picky eaters. Coconut oil warmed up and drizzled is also a tasty (and healthy) treat to tempt pooches.
Not only are these amazing for tempting fussy eaters to eat whatever is in their bowl, but they are also a highly nutritious inclusion to your dog’s diet. Win-win!
If you’re looking for more transition tips pouring warm bone broth over the meal can also help. Here at the Saltiest Dog, we use a super easy to make bone broth packed with nutrients. This bone broth is an example of using foods that are healthy to tempt your dog to eat, rather than adding something unhealthy as a temptation (we’re looking at you peanut butter and cheese!).
Ensuring your dog doesn’t get TOO many treats throughout the day, and making mealtimes fun and engaging, can also help with raw food diet transitions. Why not turn dinner time into a training session or a treasure hunt to keep things interesting?
Ready to get your dog on a (healthy) raw food diet?
There are many factors that can affect your pets interest in a meal. This could range from the temperature, the freshness, the protein type or even the material their bowl is made of! Yes some dogs are that extra!
Transitioning a dog to a raw food diet can take time, so it's worth experimenting with the tips we’ve provided to see if a small change can make a big difference.
And remember, at the Saltiest Dog we’re always here to help, so browse our collection of yummy (healthy) ready made raw meals here. Or, get in touch with the details of your fussy eater – we would love to help!
PEASE NOTE: Sick dogs typically don’t want to eat. Don’t mistake fussiness with illness. If your dog’s demeanour or behaviour is different and they are refusing to eat they may require medical attention from a vet.