Dogs get used to what they're given - so be adventurous advises David Tomlinson

One of the remarkable things about dogs is that they will apparently happily eat the same thing every day, every week, throughout the year. A skinny spaniel stayed with us recently while its owners were away on holiday. The dog was delivered with its bed, food bowl and a big sack of so-called complete food. “She loves it,” we were assured. As we feed our dogs on what is basically a raw-food diet, I asked the dog’s owners if it would be okay to feed her the same. “I don’t think she will eat it” was the reply.

Dry dog food

So called complete feeds can be unappetising

The dog that is a fussy eater

The reluctance of the owners of this dog to give it anything other than food out of a packet stemmed from the advice of the breeder, who didn’t believe in raw food. So for the first few days our visitor stuck to her unappealing diet. We offered her more interesting grub, but she declined to even try it. After several years of eating the same food she had become a fussy eater. However, even fussy eaters can succumb to temptation.

I tried the visitor on a chicken wing, but she didn’t know what to do with it. Out came the poultry sheers and the wing was chopped up into bite-sized pieces. This she decided she could manage, and within a couple of days it was the pieces of raw chicken she ate first when offered her usual diet of complete food.

Chicken wings

As the days progressed I gave her increasingly bigger pieces of chicken wing, until eventually she discovered that she could cope with the whole thing. I also gently weaned her on to a more natural diet of raw meat and boiled rice, and it wasn’t long before she was eating this in preference to anything else. I did fail to get her to eat raw vegetables, but I suspect that given sufficient time I would have succeeded here too.

A dull coat

This particular spaniel was underweight and with a dull, staring coat. There was no question that she was much loved and otherwise well looked after, but it was evident, at least to me, that her diet didn’t suit her. She wasn’t here long enough to get a shine on her coat or meat on her ribs, but hopefully her owners will follow my advice and feed her more sensibly in future.