When my mother passed away, I inherited her cocker spaniel. He ate dog food as a puppy, but as an adult, she fed him table scraps. He eats green beans, baked chicken and turkey jerky, among his favorites. He is eight, and I was wondering if it is too late to try to get him back on dog food? I have tried all the different products, but he just turns his nose away. I even leave it out all day thinking he’ll get hungry enough. Is there anything I can do?
— Denise Boranian, Fresno, CA
I am sorry for your loss. It’s great you could step in to care for your mother’s dog. While your mom likely had the best of intentions with her dog’s diet, I am glad you want to change it. Table scraps don’t meet a dogs’ nutritional needs and can even be bad for their health.
While he won’t switch to dry food overnight, he may be receptive to wet food. Mix two tablespoons of wet food with the table scraps to start. You can try chicken, or other proteins like duck and bison, etc., that might appeal to him. Look for grain-free dog foods that are high in protein.
Gradually, and over the next month, increase the wet food and decrease the table scraps. Start with 20% wet food and 80% table scraps. By mid-month, it should be 50% wet food and 50% table scraps. By the end of the month, it should be 80% wet food and 20% table scraps. If he balks along the way, adjust the percentages and go slower.
After you have been at 80/20 for a week, give him the wet food without the table scraps one day and see how he responds. He should be ready to eat his canned food without the need for a green bean topping. If you want to switch him to dry food, which may be much tougher, follow the same process as described above with the wet and dry food. But you should at least be able to switch him over to wet food.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal