I found an interesting article on ‘forced weaning’. It seems to sum up all of Pickle’s symptoms quite perfectly, and would suggest that, in many cases, this is a psychological or behavioral issue, rather than physiological.
It goes something like this…
Puppy isn’t eating well.
Owner feeds puppy.
Puppy resists, owner force feeds puppy.
Puppy resists more strenuously, owner force feeds more often and more vigorously.
Puppy comes to associate eating with unpleasantness, and balks at any suggestion of food, causing owner to continue force feeding, with escalation of puppy’s behavior.
It does seem to make sense, doesn’t it?
One of the suggestions on how to break the cycle is to introduce a new food puppy has never tried before, and then feed that food with a strict ‘hands off’ approach. No hand feeding, no coaxing – just put it down, and leave it. Since I’ve hand fed Pickle all of the foods I normally would feed a puppy (raw, pablum with baby food, hamburger, etc), I decided to try some kibble.
I soaked some Pro Plan Selects puppy in goats milk, mushed it up with a fork, and put it down in a bowl. All of the other puppies rushed for the dish, as usual. Pickle seemed about to, but then noticed me at the side of the whelping box, and wandered over to see what I was up to. Since I was obviously a distraction, I left the room, steeling myself to just leave them alone for a good five minutes.
When I returned, I found Pickle ankle deep in the food bowl, along with the rest of her siblings. She might not have eaten as much as they did, but the fact that she ate anything, willingly and without being hand fed or force fed from a syringe, is a phenomenal start.
It would be ironic if all of this stress has been caused by the simple fact that Pickle is picky. Ironic isn’t really the word I’m looking for here, either – tragic, perhaps. Or seriocomedic.
New pictures of the puppies on Flickr, or below the cut in a slide show.