6 Sneaky Tricks To Help Your Dog Love Raw Food
By: Julia Henriques
Raw food is the best choice for your dog’s health and longevity.
But sometimes making the switch isn’t as easy as you’d hoped.
So … you’ve read all about the benefits of raw feeding. And you’ve had that light bulb moment.
You understand that heavily processed, starch and filler–laden foods are bad for your dog.
Mother Nature knows best and you’re ready to get started!
Your Dog’s First Raw Meal
So you do your research. You check your budget and find a supplier of meat, bones and organ meats. Or you choose a pre-made raw food for your dog. Maybe you even invest in a new freezer to store this delicious bounty!
You diligently chop and dice and blitz and grind.
You might gag a bit at the blood and the smell … especially if you’re feeding green tripe! But you want to do your best for your best friend.
So you soldier on to prepare her tasty raw meal.
Your dog may be wondering what’s taking so long. After all, she’s used to seeing you scoop some dry lumps out of a bag into her bowl … and plonk it down in front of her. That takes about 30 seconds.
But she’s waiting patiently.
So you proudly set it before her, expecting delight! But then, your dog looks up at you with a “What the …?” face … and walks off in disgust.
What Just Happened?
You’re devastated! How ungrateful is your dog? After all the trouble you’ve gone to!
Does this sound familiar? Is your dog less than appreciative of her new healthy diet?
Well … don’t give up! It’s not time to sell that freezer on Craigslist yet.
So what can you do to show your reluctant dog that raw really rocks?
Bones Are Hard Work!
Despite Mother Nature’s best intentions, some dogs just don’t like raw. Or think they don’t.
With a few dogs, all your cajoling or pleading won’t get them to enjoy a bone. It may sound silly … but there are a few dogs who think a bone is just too much like hard work.
By nature, dogs are lazy scavengers … and some dogs have this down to an art form.
Unless their meal is in the right bowl at the right time at the right temperature (and no-one is watching them) … they won’t eat.
Your dog’s always had the same food … and she’s come to expect the same level of service at mealtimes!
Addiction To Kibble
Dogs (and cats too) can “imprint” what they think of as food.
If your dog has eaten biscuits her whole life … that’s what she recognizes as food.
This new offering is an unknown … and she doesn’t trust it.
Your dog knows what the kibble package or can opener means. Even without reading a clock, she knows it’s time for dinner.
So any change in routine makes her suspicious.
But fortunately, that lovable lazy scavenger attitude means refusing to eat is usually an exception. Most dogs will wolf down anything on the floor … especially if you dropped it by mistake!
So sometimes you have to help your dog understand the new stuff in her bowl is actually food. And … that she’s allowed to eat it!
6 Tricks To Feed Your Dog Raw Food
Here are some things you can try …
1. Walk Away!
Put the bowl and new food down and walk away.
Curiosity will usually get the better of her. Watching your dog can make her uneasy … especially if she thinks the food isn’t really meant for her!
Wait about 10-20 minutes before picking it up. Put it back in the fridge and offer it again for her next meal. She won’t starve … and she’ll soon get the message that she’d better eat it while it’s there!
2. Make It A Treat
Put a little of the new food on a spoon. Feed it in treat-sized portions to start with.
Then gently show her the bowl where … ooh, yummy! … there’s a whole bowlful of “treats.“ Your dog thinks she’s won the lottery … and you’re off to a great start.
3. Get The Juices Flowing
You can use your dog’s sense of smell to help entice her to eat. If you’re feeding DIY raw, try gently searing the meat first.
Light cooking changes the texture to something that might be more palatable. But the real key is those delicious cooking aromas! Releasing the smell and juices can often encourage a reluctant dog to eat.
Then you can gradually reduce the cooking time until your dog‘s eating the food totally raw.
(After years of raw feeding, I still have to sear organ meats for my dogs. They just don’t like the texture of raw offal. But they love it seared and chewy.)
If you’re feeding a pre-made raw food, be careful. Make sure the bones are very finely ground. Otherwise there may be sharp pieces of bone that can get brittle with cooking.
If you’re not sure, just sear the outside of the food very slightly. Just the smells coming from the stove should tempt your dog to eat!
Don’t forget the organs! Find out why they’re an important part of the raw diet.
4. It’s Playtime!
Try turning mealtime into playtime.
Put the food in a toy (like a Kong) and make your dog work for it.
Dogs love play and if there’s food involved then even better!
People often feed agility and working dogs this way. It provides mental stimulation as well as dinner.
If you’re going out for a while, try freezing the Kong with the food. That makes it last even longer.
I had one dog who was obsessed with balls … and not very interested in food. So we used to play ball with him right in front of the food bowl. Then he’d agree to eat. We thought it made him feel like a great hunter who caught his own dinner!
5. Disguise The Food
If your dog has a favorite treat, try sprinkling a little on top of the new food.
Once she starts eating … she might barely notice that dinner has changed!
A little cheese or some other rare treat can be good for this. You can stop adding it after a few days … once she’s used to the new food.
Here’s more information about getting started with raw meals for your dog.
6. Yummy! Now You Try!
Here’s one more trick.
Pretend the food is yours.
Let your dog watch you lifting spoonfuls of the new diet to your mouth. Pretend to eat it, and then offer it to her.
Even put it on a dinner plate and sit at the table if she really needs convincing!
My dogs definitely think what the humans are eating is better. So if your dog sees you “enjoy” it first … she’ll be thrilled when you agree to share some with her!
Your Dog Won’t Starve
- Most dogs won’t let themselves starve. So they’ll usually eat after refusing a few meals. Even if they don’t like it much at first!
- Some dogs self-regulate their mealtimes. Your dog may miss a meal because she just doesn’t feel hungry. Or maybe she’s still full from the meal before. Or it’s too hot. Or she had a lazy day with not much activity. Or she’s just not in the mood right now, thank you!
- If your dog skips a meal, it gives her digestive system a break. Read why fasting is good for your dog’s health. (But don’t let puppies fast – they need regular meals.)
- Don’t stress too much about your dog not eating. Your dog will pick up on your stress and is even less likely to eat. So you get more stressed and so does she … and so on!
Remember … your dog can be like a child. She quickly learns how to “train” you. And she probably has you wrapped around her little paws.
So … one final word … persevere! Don’t give up too quickly. She’ll soon learn to love her new species appropriate food!
You’ll be glad you stuck with it when you see your dog start glowing with health!
the right way!
Julia Henriques is Managing Editor
of Dogs Naturally Magazine. She's on the Board of Playing Again Sams (Wisconsin
Samoyed Rescue) where she enjoys helping adopters and group members choose more
natural health care options for their dogs. She lives in Chicago with her
partner Marc and two rescue Samoyeds.