Is your greyhound a picky eater? What can be done about it?
A greyhound can become a picky eater any time he is distracted by a change in his life. A new pet greyhound may withdraw a bit, while adjusting to his new life. As they age, they need less food. It could also be a symptom of illness.
The culinary habits of a greyhound come in two varieties: Wolf and Picker. I’ll address the Wolves another day! If you’ve ended up with a Picker in your home, here are 10 ideas that are sure to help. Read on, and I will crystallize the wisdom of the seasoned greyhound professional into advice that works here, on the home front.
Picky Eating Begins at Home
… but first, let’s talk about our expectations, as owners of greyhounds as pets. The use of the word “rescue” to mean acquiring a retired racing greyhound as a pet causes a lot of mischief, and picky eating is a good example of this. Regardless of your personal feelings about greyhound racing, this industry is where our pets come from; and it is unconstructive – no it’s actually destructive – to alienate the people who know these dogs best, and without whom the breed would not exist, as we know it (if you think show greyhounds are the same thing, you’re in for a surprise – Just ask anyone who is familiar with both show greyhounds and racing greyhounds).
You may be surprised at the amount of greyhound trainers and handlers are also pet greyhound owners. These professionals will tell you that picky eating is a problem which is unique to retired, pet greyhounds. “No picky eaters at the track,” is what they say. Let’s examine the reasons for this.
Picky Greyhounds: Born, or Made?
Is the picky eater born, or is the picky eater made? With greyhounds, it can be either, or even a little bit of both. Overall, greyhounds are fabulous eaters. They adore food! In the racing life, they exercise big, eat big, and nap big. Since they can’t run well if they don’t feel well, they are carefully watched for anything that might interfere with their nutritional intake. Potentially bad habits are nipped in the bud.
The base of the racer’s diet is mainly raw beef, and plenty of it. Different trainers have their favorite add-ins (such as parsley, good for the digestion), each with a different benefit, all delicious to the greyhounds. It may seem disgusting to us; but perhaps that’s a root cause of picky eating in our greyhounds – That we assign human feelings to our dogs.
Think back to when you were a child – Your mother tried to get you to eat certain foods, and you were completely on a different wavelength – Pizza, burgers, fried chicken, sweets… It’s the same with dogs…except they seem to love foods that smell bad.
The excitement of mealtimes with his pack of buddies makes mealtime more joyous to the track greyhound, as the hustle and bustle brings out his competitive spirit, inspiring him to dine with gusto.
This enthusiasm is, of course, sharpened by an appetite made keen by hours of physical conditioning.
Then, we adopt them, and all that is gone. Most adjust very well, and take to their new diet like a duck to water. This is even more often the case with owners who have brought home a greyhound before. They already have foods that are greyhound tested/approved, which helps ease the transition.
It’s easy for the new owner to feel very anxious. The dog looks, to him, too skinny, an opinion reinforced by well-meaning friends and neighbors (many of their pets are overweight, which makes the greyhound, by contrast, look even thinner).
Your dog feels overwhelmed by the newness and his schedule is all thrown off. He misses his buddies, and often misses all the people who used to spend time with him every day. To make things worse, he is less active, so he doesn’t have that outlet for his feelings.
This stress can upset his stomach, and he may need small portions for a while, until he feels better. This is a better strategy than cycling through many foods, and knocking yourself out with a lot of fancy meals, hoping to catch his interest.
Food Add-Ins Can Tempt a Picky Greyhound
If you really find it necessary to use something extra-tasty to coax the dog to eat during a time of transition, or recovery from an illness, phase in his normal food gradually, while phasing out the incentive.
There is no harm in doing this to get your dog through a tough time. He will find that he actually likes his kibble, once he gives it a chance. It is, after all, made to be appetizing to dogs! One of my YouTube viewers recommended a light sprinkling of Parmasan cheese or yogurt. The yogurt has the added benefit of probiotics, which may improve an upset tummy. Another good idea is to stir in a tablespoon of chicken or beef baby food.
10 Ideas to Get Picky Greyhounds to Eat
The key to getting your picky eater back on track is to, first, find the reason for his behavior. Here are 10 ideas and insights to get your picky eater back on track (no pun intended).
Don’t Overfeed, and Reassess as They Age
Don’t worry about what the bag says. Always determine how much to feed by activity level, age, ribs, and observation of how much they eat, as opposed to worrying about how much they leave behind.
Let Him Be
Some greys will go off their feed if emotionally upset by something. Miss Peaches strongly disliked anybody fussing around in the kitchen while she was dining dining. If disturbed, she would abandon her bowl and go sulk in her bed. It also helps to put the food on a stand, so they dont feel like they are eating upside-down. Take on a relaxed attitude about meal times, so your anxiety doesn’t rub off on them.
Keep Schedule and Food Regular
It’s tough on greyhounds, if you keep changing their food, or the amount of it, or the time that you feed them. Greyhounds are creatures of habit.
Feed Less, But More Often
Smaller, more frequent meals prevent stomach upset and bloat. Many greys like to graze, since they have relatively small stomachs. Many like to eat less, but more often, to maintain their shape. Many even say that greyhounds cannot take in a big amount of food at one time. It’s not unusual for a greyhound to prefer picking at a bit of food here and there throughout the day, never gorging. They often like to eat small amounts, and not just bolt a big, daily meal; which is just as well, decreasing the risk of bloat.
Be aware, also, of never feeding too close to exercise. A good rule of thumb is always feed at least one hour before or after running.
Check Protein Content
High-end foods often contain too much protein for greyhounds. See if your greyhound improves on a food with about 20-25% protein content, especially if he has been having diarrhea or gas, for which you haven’t been able to find another explanation.
Avoid Artificial Ingredients
Find what works, and stay with it. It doesn’t have to be a super expensive, premium dog food. Watch out, however, for chemicals and artificial flavors, colors, preservatives. Be careful with “cheap” dog food for greyhounds, as it can upset their small delicate stomachs. Many greys have had success with the Purina Sensitive Stomach formula, Iams kibble (green bag), and some types of Kirkland and Coscto kibble.
“Premium” foods are ok, if you can afford to feed your large dog with them. If he likes the higher end stuff, though, consider mixing in just a bit with something more affordable. “Premium” dog food is considered by some a scam, who also claim that “rating” sites are actually paid for by dog food manufacturers. Feed your dog what he will eat, and what fits into your budget.
Consider Contributing Health Factors…
…such as teeth, age, history of parasites, even arthritis. When Shannon got to be very old and arthritic, I used to assist him in standing for his meals by holding him up with a harness. When he declined from there, he would have his meals on his bed. He wasn’t leaving his bowl because he didn’t want it; he was leaving it because it was painful for him to stand long enough to eat the whole thing, and some simple assistance was the cure. Often, picky eaters aren’t really picky at all; they’re suffering from physical discomfort.
Don’t Spoil His Appetite
This is where a little behavioral finesse may need to come into play. Greyhounds, like children, can become spoiled easily, and will “play games” with you to improve their meals. It’s best to save treats and table scraps for after meals. In fact, you may be better off saving the goodies for training – tricks, recall etc, but don’t start that, until he Is eating his meals properly.
If you change a dog’s food every time she’s slow to eat, you WILL end up with a picky eater. The tip that has always worked the best for me, whether it’s with greyhounds or children, is to put the food down, and if he doesn’t eat it in 20 minutes, put it away in the fridge, and try again at his next meal. As long as he’s not losing condition, and he continues to drink, you can go on like that for several days – Just make sure that he’s the one to give in! This is the policy at my house, just for food safety reasons, if nothing else.
You never want to leave your greyhound’s food sitting around for any extended period. Don’t worry that you are starving him – remember, its not you starving him, its *him* starving him!
Some owners say they would not want to be without variety to keep things interesting for their dog, not to mention the health benefits of things like fish (great for their coats), chicken, cottage cheese, etc.. Just keep in mind, as one owner responded to another owner who is anxious about his dog’s picky appetite, “Sorry to laugh, but I love the description of Little Lord Fauntleroy + it is so refreshing to hear someone admit that it is them who (inadvertently) has caused the problem in the long run.”
May Prefer Some Added Water
Some like their food a little bit wet, with water, and others prefer oil. Most like meat, fish, or rice in with it, just to make a change and add moisture.
Warm Food Can Be Nice
Sometimes, with older greyhounds, or in very cold weather, greyhounds can find cold food off-putting. You can heat your dog’s food nicely with some warm water, or you can give it a zap in the microwave. If you use the microwave, just be careful to check for hotspots, before giving the food to your dog.
…And What Do I Use?
Miss Lily, age 7, gets two feedings a day, at noon and at 7pm. In each bowl, she gets about a cup of BilJac Adult Select kibble, a tablespoon of yogurt, 1/4c cooked rice, and 20 ml of cranberry-vinegar mixture (you can learn how to make this UTI-prevention blend in my video, “ByeBye UTI 7Day Bootcamp, Day4: Supplements,” linked below). She gets a cookie after each bowl, and assorted treats, rewards, and table scraps throughout the day.
Enjoy the video form of this article now 🙂