Picky eaters can be a pain.
Whether you’re talking about your child, your spouse or your dog, trying to feed a picky eater can be a task in futility.
Trying to manage a dog who is a picky eater is especially challenging because they can’t communicate to you why they’re being picky, what foods they don’t like or what they would prefer to eat.
Just like with humans, dogs can develop picky eating habits, or become picky eaters due to a variety of issues. Sometimes, due to health issues, you have no choice but to have a picky eater.
The good news is, with every picky eating issue, there are a variety of ways to inspire your German Shepherd to return to regular eating habits, or at least a more manageable eating routine.
German Shepherd Feeding Guidelines
Not to make the issue more complicated, but German Shepherds really do need to have a solid diet.
While some breeds can get away with mediocre or lower grade foods, your German Shepherd really needs to have a healthy, well-balanced diet that supports a healthy body and a higher level of energy and activity than many other breeds of dogs.
When it comes to feeding your German Shepherd, there are some basic guidelines that you’ll want to follow to ensure that you’ll have a healthy and happy German Shepherd.
Look for foods filled with high-quality protein. This means real meat, not meat byproducts.
Protein is essential to keeping your German Shepherd healthy and active. Proteins are the building blocks of strong muscles, healthy bones, and an alert and a quick mind.
Selecting good proteins that stimulate muscle and bone growth and keep your German Shepherd from being lazy and lethargic is important.
When you are shopping for dog food for your German Shepherd, look for foods that have real meat as the first ingredient.
Real meat is the best source of high-quality proteins that easy for your dog’s body to digest and utilize for energy.
Look for foods that contain a minimum of 22% protein to ensure that your German Shepherd is getting the necessary amount of protein for a healthy body.
Fats are important, too. Make sure your German Shepherd’s food also contains plenty of healthy, animal-based fats.
Again this means buying food that has real animal meat, no animal byproducts. Fats are essential for healthy joints, a thick and lustrous coat, strong nails and teeth and aid in digestion.
When you are looking at foods for your German Shepherd make sure that they contain between 15% and 30% animal fats.
If you have an older dog who is lower in energy you may want to select a food lower in fat, so that you can avoid having a chunky dog.
Provide plenty of fresh water. Water is incredibly important to healthy digestion and keeping your dog feeling great.
Believe it or not, if your dog does not have access to fresh water, it can cause your pup to become finicky about eating. Make sure that your dog has plenty of fresh water, whenever they want it.
Create a good feeding routine
Dogs need a consistent routine of meal times just like we do.
Feeding your German Shepherd on a regular schedule is a good way to help keep your dog healthy and feeling great. Larger breed dogs like German Shepherds will benefit from two or three meals per day.
Because they are high energy, this will allow them to burn calories between meals, keeping them from being lethargic or lazy.
Make sure that the meal times that you select are practical for your schedule as well. It doesn’t make sense to feed your dog on a routine that interferes with important parts of your day.
Know what isn’t healthy. This means you need to become an expert at reading dog food labels. When you are shopping for dog food, as best as possible, avoid the following:
- Animal byproducts or animal meal.
- Bulky fillers like corn or other grains.
- Excessive preservatives.
- Artificial colors or flavoring.
- Not enough essential nutrients.
Knowing what isn’t healthy also means that you need to be aware of your dog.
If your German Shepherd’s coat is dull and flakey, if they are lethargic or seem to have issues like poor digestion or allergies, you may want to consider changing their food.
All of these can be indicators of a diet that isn’t giving your German Shepherd the nutrients it needs.
8 Reasons Your Dog Won’t Eat
If your German Shepherd occasionally skips a meal, there probably isn’t much to worry about.
Skipping a meal or two, now and then may tell you that your pet isn’t feeling well or may he just isn’t hungry. We all have those days, and it isn’t your dog being picky.
However, if your dog constantly turns its nose up at the food you give them, and you are starting to notice changes in activity level or decrease in weight, you likely have a picky eater.
Here are XX reasons that your dog may be a picky eater.
They just don’t like the food
If you don’t like a food option you avoid it.
Your dog is the same. If you offer them a meal, and they don’t like it, they won’t eat it.
This is problematic because you are generally offering them the same meal, a couple of times per day, every day. If your dog doesn’t like it, won’t eat it, you’re going to have some issues.
The food creates a bad memory
This might sound silly, but dogs can remember foods that didn’t make them feel well.
If you give them a meal that made them sick or that they associate with some other unpleasant memory or incident, there’s a good chance that they won’t want to eat.
If something is causing your German Shepherd to be nervous, they just may not want to eat.
If the cause of their anxiety or nervousness is constant, such as separation anxiety, it may be the source of their picky eating.
Try doing things to help calm them, or provide them with more exercise and attention. These can help bring back your German Shepherd’s appetite and have everyone feeling happy.
This is seen in humans too.
As people and the dog’s age and their activity level decrease. This decrease in activity combined with a decrease in appetite due to age may cause your dog to eat less or want to eat less frequently.
In general, if your German Shepherd is older, and starts to lose interest in food, you shouldn’t be too worried.
They will eat when they want, and so long as they maintain a healthy weight, a decreased interest in food, for an older dog is normal.
Too many treats
For your pup, treats should be used to reward good behavior or as a special snack from time to time.
Feeding your German Shepherd too many treats can curb their appetite, and make them not interested in their food.
And, if you are enticing your German Shepherd to eat their regular food using treats, you may be creating a bad habit and switch in control.
This sends the message to your dog that if they don’t like something, they can always hold out for something tastier.
6. Kibble is boring. We all love a little something extra from time to time, so does your German Shepherd.
If your German Shepherd doesn’t seem as excited about dinner time, try adding a little something extra like a little canned dog food, chicken broth or a few treats.
You changed their schedule
Some dogs are schedule oriented and won’t eat if it isn’t the right time.
If you’ve recently changed your German Shepherd’s routine, it may be causing them to be picky.
There’s an underlying health issue
If your German Shepherd’s food pickiness comes on all of a sudden, and you can’t get them to eat new food, treats or even homemade foods, there could be an underlying health issue.
It is important to be aware of this and make sure your German Shepherd gets attention from the veterinarian, ASAP!
Feeding a German Shepherd Picky Eater
Now that you have some ideas about what might be causing your German Shepherd to be a picky eater, you can make some changes that will, hopefully, inspire them to enjoy meal time again.
The first step is to change up your German Shepherd’s food. This is the easiest solution in many cases. Start small though, you don’t need to buy a 50 pound bag of food just yet.
Many pet stores have samples that you can try or even buy a small 5 or 10-pound bag to start.
If your pup doesn’t like the food, you can try something else, without spending a ton of money. For some great food choices for German Shepherds, check out our buying guide.
Then, make sure you are consistent with feeding time. The choice of food may be great, but if their routine is off, make sure that you make setting the routine a priority.
If your schedule required the change in routine, see if there is a way to make the change more subtle for your dog.
If timing and food aren’t the issues, make sure your home is comfortable and free of loud noises and has plenty of fun, thoughtful toys.
This will keep your dog interested during the day, and help lessen sources of anxiety. And when you get home, take a walk with your pup.
The exercise will be good for the mind and body, for everyone.
And remember, a well-exercised dog is usually a hungry dog, so making sure they work up a hunger is always a good way to inspire eating, even with the pickiest of dogs.
Finally, if all else fails, visit your vet. They often have great suggestions for overcoming picky eating.
And if there is an underlying health condition or concern, your vet will know how to resolve it, and having your pup feeling great again.
A Feeding Timeline
It’s really hard to tell a busy family how and when to feed their dog.
And just like people, every dog is different, so creating a feeding time that works for everyone is really the best answer.
We do have a few suggestions to help you set up a routine and to avoid over or under feeding your German Shepherd.
Feed twice or three times per day
This will give your German Shepherd consistent energy throughout the day, and keep them from feeling lethargic.
Pick a time that will work on most days for you. If the schedule isn’t convenient for you, it will be hard to stick with.
Free-feeding is placing out a bowl of food for your dog to graze on during the day.
While there are always exceptions to the rule, in general, this practice can lead to overweight dogs and can increase your food and vet bills.
However, for some older dogs, the ability to eat when they are ready may be the answer to a picky eater, so know your dog, and work within their timing and needs, as best as possible.
Do give your dog a “special” place to eat
Make sure that your dog has a consistent place, to consistently eat, at the same time every day. This will make them feel special, and inspire them to eat.
A picky eater is never fun to deal with. When the picky eater in your home is your German Shepherd, it makes it even more difficult.
Without being able to ask your dog why they are rejecting their meal, finding an answer becomes a practice in sleuth work.
Hopefully we’ve given you some ideas on why your German shepherd dog might be a picky eater and some ways to get them excited about eating again.