Pet Boarding & Daycare

Picky Eaters: Tips For Proactive Good Eating Habits

Picky Eaters: Tips For Proactive Good Eating Habits

By Outstanding Pet Care Learning Center

It’s often a very difficult and emotional decision when a pet parent decides to trust someone else with the important job of caring for their dog while they’re away from home. Top pet care providers understand and take this responsibility seriously.

Along with the dog’s overall safety and comfort, ensuring guests eat well is among the top on the list. Being proactive is an effective strategy rather than having to deal with an upset customer who complains her dog lost a lot of weight while in your care.

When a dog is introduced to a new environment like a temporary home away from home, it’s common for them to go through an adjustment period. This adjustment period means the dog may develop a selective appetite or even skip a meal or two.

Proactive Steps Your Team
Can Take

The best pet care facilities have adopted various proactive protocols to help ensure pets do well while in their care. Here are some helpful tips.  

Give the dog and their pet parent an opportunity to enjoy a trial visit; this can reduce the pet parent’s anxiety of leaving their dog. Since dogs often are sensitive and pick up on their owner’s feelings, having fun can help the dog realize your facility is a great place to be. This visit can also be helpful to acclimating a dog prior to the family leaving them for a long time.

If a dog tends to be sensitive to a new environment, they may also be sensitive to a change in routine or food. In these cases, it’s best to encourage the owner to bring the dog’s food from home so you can simulate meal time.

A proactive approach to care is to track the basic wellness of the pet. One indicator that there may be a health issue is a significant change in weight. It’s a good practice to weigh pets on arrival. For stays longer than three days, weigh them periodically to provide confirmation they are maintaining their weight.

Some pet care facilities have a procedure or protocol if a pet’s weight drops five percent or more. For a big Lab, this may not be significant, but five percent in a small dog is a lot, relatively. So for some, a five percent loss triggers a review of the feeding log.  If a pet is eating everything and just more active at your facility than they are at home, call the owner, let them know, and ask if they want to increase the food.  If the pet is not eating everything provided, the five percent mark is when we start using the other methods to tempt them to eat.

If the pet’s weight drops more than ten percent, it’s recommended you contact the veterinarian for an adjustment in feeding and to assure nothing else is going on. Since numerous staff will see many dogs each day, it’s tough to make a visual assessment if an individual dog is at a healthy, appropriate weight. Weighing a dog provides quantitative confirmation.   

Another proactive approach is to observe consumption and eating habits of pets that show selective appetites or refuse to eat. Maintain a daily log of observations and any adjustments made to the food. This is helpful if a veterinarian becomes involved or to report to the pet parents on pick up.

Stay out of the area while a dog eats and give them a quiet, safe place to eat, away from distractions or competition from other pets.

Many pet care facilities feel they are able to head off many selective eaters by having a great staff that regularly and positively interacts with the dogs in their care. If you have a dog that has lost its appetite, encourage staff to make an extra special effort to talk to the dog throughout the day to help them settle in.

Activities and exercise help pets build up an appetite. Engage in positive, fun activities to help them settle into a new place more easily.

So you’ve done everything possible to help the dog settle in, but he’s still not eating normally.

What Are the Next Steps?

Before we proceed, it’s important to know if the dog has any food allergies. Asking this upon check in, and having this information in a place that is easily accessible to anyone feeding is important. You obviously don’t want to do anything that will cause an adverse reaction.


If the dog isn’t eating after a few meals, reach out to the pet parent in a non-alarming way to let them know their pet isn’t eating his/her normal portions. Ask for any suggestions they feel will be helpful for their individual dog. Share what next steps you’d like to take. Your proactive care should go a long way to let the pet parent know how committed you are. A follow up call after the pet is eating will put their mind at ease.

Because not eating can be a sign of illness (as well as adjusting to a new environment), make sure the appropriate people in your company know when a dog isn’t eating normally. In addition to monitoring the dog’s consumption, it’s important they are observed for signs of illness.

Pets that aren’t eating properly are more likely to have lower functioning immune systems and may be more susceptible to infections and stress–related disease. Also, if a dog is eating well and then stops, notify a veterinarian.

Have good protocols in place for staff to monitor pets.

Outstanding Pet Care Learning Center provides the industry’s leading pet care education. Our online format provides proactive training to staff, as well as instant access and verification of skills. It saves pet care facility owners’ and managers’ time and can result in increased pet wellness. New to OPCLC? Go to to try a free class.