There’s nothing more concerning than when you try and feed your favorite four-legged friend and they just look at you with puppy dog eyes as if to say “that’s all you got?” If you have a Border Collie that doesn’t seem to want the food you give him you know what I’m talking about.
You may be wondering is this typical border collie behavior, or is it just your pooch being particularly stubborn. I’ve done some research as well as reached out to border collie owners and vets so I can help answer those questions. Here is what I found out.
Border Collies are not known to be picky eaters. Out of 600 Border Collie owners surveyed less than 7% worry about their Border Collies being so picky that it’s detrimental to their health. 75% of owners say their dogs have good appetites, and 19% say their Border Collie is slightly picky.
What makes Border Collies picky, what to do about it, and other surprising questions about feeding border collies you may want to know….. Keep reading to find out!
How Picky Are Border Collies
When most people think of dog breeds that are picky eaters we tend to think of the smaller breeds such as Maltese and Yorkies. It’s true that there has been some interesting scientific research showing that small breeds do tend to be the pickiest eaters in the dog kingdom, but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones.
Every Breed has its share of picky eaters and Border Collies aren’t much different, but the difference is that because of how much energy Border Collies burn up and use on a daily basis having a picky eater can be quite worrisome. Border Collies need to be getting enough calories to sustain their energy levels and body weight.
What is considered a picky eater? If your dog takes more than about 20 minutes to finish his meals or routinely leaves some food untouched (even when feeding them the recommended amount by your vet) then your dog would be considered a picky eater.
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The good news is in general your chances of getting a Border Collie that is a very picky eater is pretty low, and in most cases having a picky eater is not going to affect their health.
Less than 7% of owners that I surveyed said their Border Collie was so picky that they worried about its health and felt like there wasn’t much they could do to fix it.
Around 19% of owners said that their Border Collie was a slightly picky eater. Enough of a picky eater to warrant some strategies when it comes to feeding them. I’ll talk about those strategies below.
If you are like the other 74% of Border Collie owners and your Border Collie wants to snack on things like poop, grass, and dirt, then check out this article I wrote to help you problem-solve that stinky situation!
What Makes a Border Collie a Picky Eater
Border Collies are working dogs and so their focus tends to be on their internal drive to get the job done. Sometimes this means that they are just not interested in other distractions such as eating.
On top of this there are a lot of different things that could contribute to your Border Collie being a picky eater.
Here are some things to consider
Low-quality dog food – Be sure to know what ingredients are in the dog food you are buying. Many pet food companies will use fillers like byproducts and additives to make their dog food cheaper to produce. It may be cheaper for you to buy, but in the long run, it could cost you additional vet bills from a sick dog.
Dog foods with fillers or byproducts are not a healthy option for your dog. If your dog is refusing to eat, it could be that the food is making him feel poorly.
Also, be wary of added coloring in your dog food. It may look pretty, but it’s completely unnecessary and could also cause irritation for your dog.
Solution: Use high-quality dog food. Many owners recommend Instinct Natural Raw Boost.
Underlying medical conditions – If being a picky eater is something that has happened suddenly and you notice other worrisome signs like diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, or lethargy there could be a medical reason your border collie is not eating.
If you notice that your dog is trying to eat but only takes a few bites then backs away, that may be another indication that something more concerning may be happening.
A few owners also said that their Border Collies became picky eaters after being sick with a stomach virus.
Solution: Take them to your vet. Your vet will ask questions about when your dog started to lose his appetite, other symptoms that you have noticed, and recent medical history. They will also perform an exam and may take blood, fecal, and/or urine samples, as well as do x-rays, or an ultrasound.
Bored of the same food – This one is tricky. You don’t want to be changing your Border Collies food all the time just because they might be bored, that could actually cause more problems rather than fix them. If you have ruled out medical issues for your dog and they still have gradually stopped eating the food they once liked it could be boredom.
Solution: Start with a high-quality dry kibble. Choose two flavors of the same brand and rotate them every few months. A second option is to add some wet food toppings as a flavoring and change those every so often.
Too many table scraps or treats – Feeding your dog your leftover scraps can seem like a good idea, but if your dog is a picky eater think again. Border Collies are really smart and they could easily figure out that if they hold out the good stuff will come sooner or later and probably more often.
Solution: No more table scraps, no matter what! It may take your dog a while to understand that you are serious, but don’t give in.
Leaving the food out all the time – By leaving your dog’s food out all the time and letting them have it whenever they want it makes it seem less important that they eat an appropriate meal. They may also feel like since the food has been sitting out for a while it’s no longer appetizing or appealing.
Just think about how you would feel about having your dinner sitting out on the counter all day long, day after day. Yuck!
Solution: Start feeding your dog on a schedule. When you give them their food allow them 15-20 minutes to eat it, then pick up any unused food. Depending on the type of food you may have to throw it out. Start with smaller portions so if they are not eating it you don’t have to waste very much.
Distractions – If there are other things that seem more exciting and pleasing to your Border Collie they are not going to want to take time out to eat. Border Collies are smart and love to engage. Playing and working can be a lot more fun to some Border Collies than anything else.
Solution: During feeding time make sure your dog is in a calm quiet place free from distractions. Don’t play with or talk to your dog while they are eating. Try making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise before you feed them.
You could also try some puzzle toys to make the food a reward for their working effort.
My Border Collie can be a bit picky, but a good hard play session before meal time helps her work up a good appetite!Carol H.
Change in schedule or routine- If you’ve moved recently, changed jobs and are away from home more, had a new baby, or any other big change, it could be something that is making your dog feel unsettled.
Border Collies can be a very sensitive breed. Even small changes like a new food bowl or a different feeding time can cause some stress and make your border collie lose its appetite.
Solution: When you have a schedule change or big event try to ease your dog into it with smaller changes. Be as consistent as possible with everything else.
Food allergies or sensitivities – Since Border Collies are full of energy and such hard workers, they need a diet that is able to keep up with them. Border Collies diets should be high-quality protein, high in healthy fats with some complex carbs. Some foods like grains, soy, or even different proteins like chicken can cause sensitivities or allergies.
Look for other signs like itching, diarrhea, upset stomach, increased aggression. Whenever you change your Border Collies food, always be observant of how it is affecting them.
Changing foods too suddenly – Switching your dog’s food too quickly can cause stomach problems, poop problems, and well…. just problems. Their digestive tract is sensitive and when eating a new food their not use to it takes some time for them to adjust.
Solution: Whenever you want to change your dog’s food to a different kind you should always make it a slow smooth transition, adding just a little more of the new food to the old food each day. Transitioning over 5-7 days is ideal.
Some additional questions to ask yourself
Has my dog always been a picky eater?
If it’s something you have noticed since your dog was a puppy then it’s most likely just part of your pup’s personality. If it is a consistent pattern for your dog to be generally picky, but they are still maintaining a healthy weight then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
If something has changed and your dog has gone from a good eater to a picky eater quite suddenly or over the space of a few days or months then there may be some further investigation needed.
Are there other signs or symptoms?
Pay close attention to see if there is more going on than just picky eating. If you also notice a change in their poop, vomiting, drinking more or less than normal, pain, discomfort, or other abnormal behaviors for your dog you should take your dog to your vet right away.
Is his picky eating really a problem?
If your Border Collie is a healthy weight and has no underlying medical issues, a change in appetite or being a picky eater won’t be detrimental to him. As long as they aren’t experiencing any other problems and you are doing what you can to be consistent your dog will eat what he needs.
Your Border Collie could go 2-3 days without eating and be ok (however it’s very unlikely he’ll hold out that long). If he goes more than 48 hrs without eating or has other issues like lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, contact your vet.
This is not true for puppies. Puppies should never go more than 12-24 hrs without food and you should contact your vet immediately.
Should I use treats to train?
If your Border Collie is not very food motivated or already a picky eater, most likely using treats to train them will not work very well. Since border collies are naturally work-driven using praise, toys, and playtime as a reward is often all that is needed.
On the other hand, if you have a Border Collie is like my brother’s dog Nico and he scarfs his food down any chance he can get, then using treats to train may still prove to not work very well. Nico is able to focus much more when rewarded with toys and praise. Bring out the food and his concentration is blown, all he can focus on is getting the food no matter what!
If your Border Collie falls into the category of a healthy eater, or slightly picky eater, then using treats or food as a reward when training will probably work for you.
What if my Border Collie puppy is a picky eater?
You will still need to use your investigative skills to try and figure out what may be causing his picky eating. One of the biggest differences with treating a picky eater as a puppy instead of an adult is the amount of time you can safely let them carry on with their pickiness. If you puppy is not eating after 12-24 hrs, you should definitely contact your vet.
When you bring home a new puppy you may want to change his food from what the breeder or his previous owner had been feeding him. Make sure you give him some time to adjust to his new home first. Puppies go through a lot of changes and transitions when they go to a new home and for the sensitive border collie, the stress could be difficult enough already.
After about a month in their new home, you should be just fine to start slowly transitioning their food. Puppies need different food than adult dogs. This high-quality puppy food is recommended by owners: Taste of the Wild High Protein Puppy Food.
What Should I do if My Border Collie is a Picky Eater
If you feel like you have tried everything including taking your dog to the vet and you’re still worried that your Border Collie is not eating enough here are some more tips from Border Collie owners.
Raw food- Although controversial some owners have had great success feeding their picky eaters with this diet. A raw food diet is based on what dogs ate before they became domesticated. On this diet dogs eat raw muscle meat and bones, raw organ meats, safe fruits and vegetables, and some dairy products. Here’s an article you can read to learn more.
Warm it up – Sometimes a warm meal will do the trick. You can heat it up for a minute in the microwave, just make sure not to get it too hot!
Get rid of the bowl – It sounds strange, but some dogs actually prefer to eat their meal straight from the floor.
Pretend to eat it – Yes, dogs can sometimes act like a stubborn toddler, and yes pet owners have actually said when they pretend to eat the food first their dog is more willing to dig in!
Check for teeth problems – No one likes to eat when you have a toothache! Check for extra tarter buildup, sore or swollen gums, bad breath, and discoloration or brown teeth.
Check the expiration date – Sometimes it’s the most simple things we miss. Has the food gone bad? Check the expiration date. You may also want to check to see if there is a recall by looking at this website?
Making sure our four-legged best friends are well fed and healthy is important to all of us, but there’s really no need to worry about our picky eaters unless it seems to be causing a lot of weight loss or health problems. As always it’s when in doubt it’s best to check with your veterinarian for a personalized and professional opinion.
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Although we do our very best to provide you with the most accurate and fact-based information Pawsandlearn.com is not meant to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, or treatment for your pet. Pawsandlearn.com provides general information for educational purposes only. You should not use this information in place of a visit to your veterinarian.