Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Food Fights?

Now, I'll admit I have a Lab who eats everything, so I've never really had to experience the frustation of a dog who tries to starve himself. However, the cairn terrier I had growing up would just randomly decide she wasn't hungry. One day she'd eat all of her kibble, the next she'd take a bite or two and that was that, then maybe she'd eat only half of her food for the next week. My parents never let us get upset about it. She ate what she ate and it was offered between 5 and 5:30 pm - whatever she didn't eat was just put away and fed the next day. She lived to be 16 years old and weighed exactly 12 lbs her entire adult life. She was still up to doing 5 mile hikes at the age of 12, so apparently she knew what she was doing when it came to eating.

Havana is slightly more discriminating than Cousteau. My dogs eat a raw diet and the first time I introduced lamb it sat in her dish for awhile. I gave her 15 minutes and whatever was still there was placed back in the fridge until the next meal. That evening she ate it all just fine. We went through the same thing with pork and again, one after one missed meal she decided the new food wasn't so evil. Organ meat is a different story. If organs aren't mixed in with her food, she won't eat them plain.

I repeated the "take up the dish until the next meal" routine with organ meat on top of her other food. Nope, she ate around the organs again. I've offered them to her on several different occasions and each time she looks into the bowl, looks at me, then eats everything she can without touching the organ blend. She just doesn't like them!

Now, I could get worried about this - after all, dogs are supposed to like organ meat. In fact, in a home prepared raw diet, organs are essential. I could spoon feed the organs to her, force feed them, saute them in olive oil and garlic, beg and cry, or find a way to hide the organs so she will eat them. I've elected to hide her organ meat. And if she doesn't eat it a time or two, she's not going to keel over and die. My meals aren't all perfectly balanced, but I do achieve a balanced diet over time. My feeding methods seem really harsh to some people, but it works for me and my dogs are all very healthy.

I employ the same basic philosophy for feeding BabyBug. Granted, her meat is cooked instead of raw, but overall, I'm not going to cater to her every dietary whim. For the most part, Bug's attitude toward food is the same as Cousteau's (the hazards of a baby's first solid "food" being Lab fur, I guess). Sometimes she just isn't hungry, or she is feeling picky. Thankfully a friend told me that toddlers can be like that sometimes so I knew not to worry too much the first time it happened.

What we do with Bug is pretty simple. Whatever is on her plate is what she's offered that meal. If she doesn't want it, she doesn't have to eat it, but I'm not going to keep offering her foods at that meal until she does eat. She can sit at the table with us and we'll offer her bites from time to time, but if she refuses, it's not a big deal. And when she says she's done, we let her be done regardless of how much she's eaten.

Generally speaking, Bug likes to try new foods, especially if Momma and Daddy are clearly enjoying it. (This is another way Bug and Cousteau are so much alike!) I always encourage her to eat one bite of everything on her plate and if she doesn't want it after that, then she doesn't have to eat it. This is different from my house growing up where the rule was "clean your plate or you don't get dessert", even if the meal was pot roast, mashed potatoes, and lima bean succotash - yech!!! But I was going to choke that down for the promise of a cookie afterwards. It's not my parents' fault - that's what children were expected to do back then - but I have just recently taken off 30 lbs and had to re-evaluate how I eat. I figured out a big part of my problem was the eating habits I learned as a child. So we never force Bug to clean her plate. And as a result, at her 18 month check up, the nurse looked over Bug's records and double checked her weight and said it was unusual for an 18 month old to gain weight from the 12 month check up. Bug's weight is perfect for her height, but even though she's *extremely* active, she eats enough to make up for the expended calories. The nurse was impressed. :)

I will add that I always have something I know she will eat on her plate. If we're trying something new with her - like pork chops - and I don't know how she'll feel about them, I will put a few pieces of pork on her plate, but be sure to have something like corn or cheese on her plate, too. That way if she truly doesn't like the pork but is hungry, she still has something she enjoys eating to fill her up. I also introduce a food several times. For months Bug would have nothing to do with chicken, but every time I made chicken I would place a bite on her plate and encourage her to eat it. She would refuse. Last month, after at least 10 refused chicken offerings, she ate the meat off of an entire chicken leg! She still isn't a big chicken eater, but whenever she takes a bite we let her know we're happy she's trying something new and leave it at that.

By taking a "she'll eat when she's hungry" approach for my dog and my baby, both of whom I know have no medical problems, meal times are a lot less stressful than they would be if I obsessed over what was and was not going into her mouth. It makes meal times much more fun for everyone.