German Shepherds, like all dog breeds, can become fussy eaters for one reason or another. If you’re dealing with a picky eating GSD in your home, you can fix it in a matter of days or weeks. Unfortunately, many owners give in to their dogs’ eating habits, making the problem even worse over time! So, are German Shepherds fussy eaters?
German Shepherds are not fussy eaters, but they can definitely become picky if you allow them to be! It’s important not to feed them too many treats or “human foods.” However, be aware that occasionally GSDs may suffer from a food allergy or intolerance.
This article will explore why some German Shepherds are picky eaters, how to break your dog’s bad eating habits, and the health risks associated with fussy eating. I’ll also give you 15 tips to get your fussy German Shepherd eating properly again.
Let’s dive into the world of your fussy eating dog and how to fix it!
How to Get Your German Shepherd Eating
It can be a bit worrying when your German Shepherd doesn’t eat his meals. Some dogs will even go as far as leaving their stomachs empty for one or two days to avoid eating something they don’t want to, especially German Shepherds, who can be pretty stubborn!
If you know that their dog food is healthy and of high quality, and they aren’t suffering from a food allergy, you can try out a few tips to get them to eat normally again.
Watch How to Get a Fussy Dog to Eat in This Video…
Here are 15 tips to get your German Shepherd to eat when they’re being fussy:
- Stick to one variety of high-quality complete food whenever you feed your dog. If you repeatedly give them too much “human food,” such as chicken or steak, they’ll decline the meals specifically intended for them as they will hold out for something more delicious. Instead, stop them from any begging behavior and never give them anything that you didn’t buy for them to eat.
- Don’t feed your dog treats during the habit-breaking process. It might be tempting to reward them for their progress away from fussy eating, but treats only worsen it. Rather than working towards eating a normal diet, your dog will start only to eat their meals if they know they’re getting a treat after. Try rewarding them with toys instead.
- Consider the food that you’re feeding them. Many pet owners grab the cheapest, bland food on the shelf to save money. However, it often lacks nutrition and flavor. If your dog feels that they’re not getting any taste from their food, they’ll only eat it if they’re starving. Even then, they won’t get the nutrition they require. Always choose the most expensive food you can afford to give your dog.
- Mix other food into their meals or add it as a topping. Some dogs can’t handle the consistency of their kibble. Whether it’s because their teeth aren’t sharp enough or have become sensitive, or their digestive systems just can’t handle it due to their sensitive stomach. You might need to add a topping to their meals with something to moisten it up, such as a spoonful of plain yogurt or unsalted chicken broth.
- Stick to a specific feeding schedule. Dogs are like humans because you can train their body clocks for sleep, energy, and hunger. If your dog’s body tells them it’s time to eat, they’re much more likely to eat the food you put in front of them. Free feeding is not a good option for finicky eaters. German Shepherds can go for hours or even an entire day without eating. You can also make a “special place” where they always eat and keep them away from your mealtimes by feeding them first so that they won’t be hungry or show bad behavior such as begging or barking for your food.
- Make sure you’re feeding them the correct quantity of food. Along with quality, the amount of food they’re eating could have something to do with their fussiness. When a dog doesn’t have enough food and is worried that the food in front of them won’t suffice, they will start to beg and depend on handouts. Most reputable brands will have helpful feeding guides or calculators on their websites or packaging to help with this.
- Be persistent and patient throughout the process. Some German Shepherds can be very dominant and stubborn, especially males. If your GSD is having trouble and being a bit too fussy, you need to stick to your plan and have the mindset to wait it out. They’ll eventually eat their food, bringing them one step closer to a normal diet. Remember also that dogs can sense any stress or anxiety you may feel due to them being finicky, which can worsen the situation. Stay calm!
- Supplement their diet with raw food. Many studies prove that dogs do well with raw diets that mimic what they’d eat in the wild. These diets include raw beef, fish, cheese, and certain vegetables. Whether you want to completely change their diet or add a few raw meals every so often is up to you. Check out my outrageously detailed article on the best diet for German Shepherds, including a section on raw diets and some great advice concerning the safe and proper handling of raw foods.
- Consider making a vet appointment. If your dog refuses food for two days (24 hours for puppies), you should take him to the vet for a check-up. Although it’s usually just a matter of pushing through with a stubborn German Shepherd, there might be an underlying health reason that your dog won’t eat. Look for other signs such as lethargy, excessive thirst, vomiting, or diarrhea. A visit to the vet can help you determine the cause of their fussy eating and will put your mind at ease.
- Be aware of food allergies or intolerances. Kibble usually contains safe ingredients for dog allergies, but in rare cases, your dog could be allergic to the food they’re eating. The most common symptoms are dry, itchy skin, bald patches, excessive scratching, leading to skin infections, ear infections, and poor coat quality. Tummy troubles such as vomiting and diarrhea can also occur.
- They might just still be full from their last meal. If you’re okay with leaving their food bowl out if they are a free feeder, your dog could still be processing breakfast by the time you’re ready to give them dinner. German Shepherd puppies can eat as much as three times per day, whereas adults usually only eat once or twice. It is recommended that large breed dogs do not eat all their daily food in one go, preventing bloat (GDV), a life-threatening condition.
- Buy a vitamin supplement to add to their meal. Most supplements have a delicious aroma and flavor that your dog will quickly chew without even knowing they’re getting added nutrition. It is good to get them eating again, but you won’t have to stress about them becoming malnourished. Always consult your vet before providing any vitamins or supplements to your dog, as over-supplementing can be dangerous.
- Get them to exercise more often. German Shepherds need a lot of exercise to keep themselves mentally and physically healthy. Most health problems stem from a poor diet or improper exercise, so why not fix them? GSDs require at least two sessions of 30 to 60 minutes of daily exercise. They require more than regular leash walking and need off-lead running, play, or agility. Exercise them well to work up an appetite. However, you must give them at least an hour of rest before and after feeding.
- Limit their meal times to 20 minutes. If your dog knows that they’ll only have a short period to eat, they’re much more likely to get food in their stomachs while they can. This goes back to their instinct and not knowing when their next meal will be available. Ten minutes is long enough for them to eat slowly but short enough to prevent them from walking away mid-meal.
- Never force them to eat. Many pet owners try to force their German Shepherds to eat by waving the bowl in their faces or pointing at the bowl. Although it might work with some breeds, GSDs are notoriously stubborn. Combined with their intelligence, their natural mindset keeps them from being submissive and eating when you tell them. If they refuse the meal after 20 minutes, remove the bowl and only give it back a few hours later or at their next mealtime. They will soon learn that food goes away if they don’t eat.
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Why Are Some German Shepherds Fussy Eaters?
We have already learned that German Shepherds can be stubborn, but they can also be easily trained due to their high intelligence, loyalty, and desire to please. The best way to prevent them from being stubborn is to form a loving bond by spending lots of time with them.
Since they love and seek the attention of their primary owner, they’ll want to obey you, especially if you reward them with their special treat or give them their favorite toy.
Unfortunately, that bond doesn’t always prevent German Shepherds from being fussy eaters. To know which of the suggestions listed above will work for your dog, you must get to the source of the problem. Here’s a list of reasons that your German Shepherd might have become a fussy eater:
- Your dog might be eating poor quality food, too many “human foods” or treats, or be overfed. They may not get sufficient daily nutrition if you always give them food from your table or low-quality, cheap, mass-produced kibble. Remember that dogs aren’t used to digesting too many carbohydrates, so low-quality, high-carb kibble or large quantities of bread and potatoes are unhealthy. Never remove an uneaten food bowl and then replace it with something tastier, as this teaches your dog that by turning their nose up and refusing their regular food, they will get something better.
- If your dog has developed an allergy to the food you’re providing, he’ll undoubtedly become a fussy eater. Your German Shepherd will notice that they get super itchy or uncomfortable after eating their regular kibble, preventing them from returning to it when it’s time for their next meal. Remember, excessive itching, frequent ear infections, and tummy troubles are all signs of a food allergy.
- Depression and anxiety can prevent your German Shepherd from eating as he should. Stress in dogs is more common than you would believe. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to see if your dog is suffering from chronic stress caused by a significant change in his life, such as a house move, relationship break-up, or a death in the family. In addition to appetite changes which include fussy eating, keep a lookout for things such as excessive panting, whining, or pacing. If you suspect that your dog has depression or anxiety, you must seek professional help.
- Your German Shepherd might skip meals if he’s bored of the same food. Imagine eating the same food every single day. You’d quickly get sick of it and not want to eat as often! However, this is a bit of a myth, as dogs do not experience food the same way we do. Let me explain. Dogs only have a fraction of our taste buds, so they use their powerful noses (up to a million times stronger than humans) to differentiate between various flavors. Consider adding toppings such as plain yogurt, chicken, or fish to your dog’s food or buy different flavors of the same brand and add unsalted chicken broth or warm water to make it into a gravy. This will increase the aroma making the food more exciting and enticing.
- Your German Shepherd might have an underlying health condition if all else fails. This would be of concern, especially if he refuses treats or human foods he usually loves. Digestive issues, pain, muscle injuries, and even dental problems could be the cause. Organ failure, heart disease, or cancer may be to blame in more severe cases. Since our dogs can’t speak to us, it’s crucial to figure out why they’re acting differently, and the only way to find out for sure is to visit your veterinarian.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why your German Shepherd might have become a fussy eater. Fortunately, you’re now well-equipped to tackle this problem. Be persistent, but don’t forget to look for clues if you think there may be something wrong healthwise.
Health Risks Associated with Fussy Eating
Sometimes there’s more to the problem than just having a picky dog. If your German Shepherd stops eating correctly for several days or weeks, he will inevitably become fatigued, malnourished, and anxious. By following the steps and tips found in this article, you’ll be able to prevent these issues in the first place.
Let’s review five of the most common risks associated with fussy eating in German Shepherds:
- Aggressive or hyperactive behavior. This can be common when your dog is not getting all the correct nutrients. If they eat a diet too high in protein, they may become aggressive, or if they have too many carbohydrates, the blood sugar spikes can make them hyperactive! If they’re becoming overly aggressive due to a lack of nutrition, you will need to keep an eye out.
- They might start eating things they shouldn’t, including their stools, garbage, or grass. When your dog is a fussy eater, it can seem like they’re staging a hunger strike, and they want you to give in to their every demand! Eating non-food items or getting into the garbage due to a lack of nutrients can significantly impact your dog’s health. Many poisonous foods can harm your dog that he may find in the garbage, so you need to be extra careful.
- Elevated heart rate and anxiety. These are common symptoms of a dog not getting sufficient nutrition. When they act picky and won’t eat what you’re giving them, they will eventually feel weak, anxious, and scared. If you notice this problem, you should seek a vet or a pet nutritionist. I found this helpful directory of veterinary nutritionists from the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, should you wish to get some expert advice.
- Diarrhea, vomiting, and other digestive problems. These are all additional issues your dog may suffer if he isn’t getting the vital vitamins and minerals he needs from his food. At this point, most German Shepherds will probably give in and start to eat the food that you’ve provided them, primarily if you feed them something bland like chicken and rice to help with diarrhea. It’s improbable that a dog will intentionally starve itself!
- Poor body condition, skin, coat, and poor dental hygiene. Malnutrition can be the cause of all these health issues. Your German Shepherd may become fatigued and underweight, and if his diet is devoid of fatty acids, such as those found in fish and vegetable oils, this will have a detrimental effect on his skin and coat. Dogs also need good-quality dry food instead of eating wet food all the time, leading to plaque build-up. They also need healthy chew sticks, dental treats, or bones, which promote good dental hygiene. Check out my GSD treat recommendations here.
How to Break Your Dog’s Bad Eating Habit
Breaking a bad food habit, such as fussy eating, with your German Shepherd will be pretty challenging – for you both! The GSD can get very set in his ways, so you must break his fussy eating habit before it escalates. You must also stick to your strategy, not give in, and be patient.
The best way to break the habit is to start by figuring out how you’ll manage their diet and eating behavior. As you’ve seen from the tips above, start by setting specific mealtimes to get a regular schedule for your German Shepherd.
If you want to include raw or homemade food into their diet, you’re likelier to see fussy eating behavior disappear. This is partly because they won’t be bored from eating the same diet, but also because they’re getting extra high-quality nutrition, especially if you feed them a low-quality cheap kibble.
If you choose a raw diet, be mindful of the rules you will need to follow around extra hygiene. Raw food is more likely to be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and Listeria than other types of dog food.
Another good tip is to add some raw vegetables to your dog’s food, such as carrots, broccoli, or peas. The extra flavor and difference in texture may do the trick to breaking your dog’s fussiness.
If you need guidelines for your dog’s eating routine, start by feeding your German Shepherd when you eat breakfast. Getting them accustomed to your eating schedule will make it easier for you to keep them on track. When you eat dinner, feed them as well.
Read more: You can check out this article for greater insight, How Often Should You Feed a German Shepherd?
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As an example, I like to feed my German Shepherd twice daily. However, she will refuse breakfast on some days and only eat her dinner late at night, or occasionally even the following day. I don’t get too concerned about this, though, as I know she will “catch up” on her meals over the next day.
As long as she still drinks her water and there are no signs of illness, I just let her get on with it. I’ve learned to accept her eating behavior and not stress about it as I used to.
Pro Tip! If your dog struggles to keep hydrated, you can give ice cubes or frozen fruits such as raspberries or strawberries. You can also try a dog water fountain such as the Petsafe Drinkwell from Amazon to entice your dog to drink. I like this one as it’s a good size and even comes with carbon filters which remove bad tastes and odors from the water.
Work on your dog’s exercise routine too. Exercise your dog a good hour before feeding to work up an appetite.
Breaking a habit does take time and patience. Many studies say it can take as long as 21 days, but it will be worth the effort in the end. As you’ve learned the risks associated with fussy eating, you can probably understand why so many owners wish to fix the problem.
It can also be more expensive if you constantly throw food away, or you must keep visiting the vet!
Once you’ve restricted their eating to specific times and removed table scraps and treats from their diet (except for training), you just need to be persistent. Stick with it! Continue for 21 days, and if they’re still being picky, it may be time to think about a complete change of their food.
Is it Harder to Fix a Male or Female GSD’s Fussy Eating?
Male German Shepherds are known for being more dominant and stubborn than females, but some situations can cause a female to be pickier. For example, pregnant or lactating females might have trouble eating food during certain times of the day, require numerous small meals to help with digestion, and need a wide variety of extra nutrition.
More important than gender, though, is how the dog has been raised, especially if they were neglected or abused. If you’ve adopted a rescue dog from a foster home or shelter, it’s no surprise they may have an eating problem due to stress or anxiety caused by many different situations.
They might eat as quickly as possible because they don’t want other dogs to eat their food or may not know when they will get their next meal, especially if they have been living on the streets. They might even leave their food altogether out of fear of a more dominant dog attacking them. Their overall experiences may have made them very timid.
Generally speaking, your dog will likely not develop any eating disorders or fussiness if you stick to the same schedule and feeding advice from a young age. German Shepherds don’t usually develop issues that make them dislike food unless they’ve got a food allergy or have become ill.
German Shepherds can be stubborn and may try to dominate, but when you’re persistent, you can get their fussy eating habits back to normal for sure. Remember to work at breaking the habit over three weeks to regain control. Eventually, they will give in and eat the food you’ve provided.
Here’s a quick recap of the post:
- Don’t give in to your German Shepherd’s begging or fussiness.
- Always feed high-quality food for better health and longevity. Never underestimate the power of nutrition.
- Stop feeding your leftovers and treats, except when training.
- Consider adding raw ingredients or toppings to their food, such as plain yogurt, chicken, or tuna.
- Consider mixing vitamin supplements with delicious tempting flavors.
- Male GSDs are usually more stubborn and fussy when it comes to eating.
- Allergies and other medical concerns can be the cause of eating problems.
- There are numerous health risks involved with fussy eating.
- Excessive carbohydrates can cause digestion issues and lead to obesity.
- Stick to specific meal times and develop a good routine.
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