Feeding a fussy cockapoo – Another consideration was what do we eventually feed our cockapoo puppy as they were renowned to be fussy eaters? Not an immediate concern we thought; Freya had come with her own pack of food and the repeated message that whatever happened in her first 20 weeks it would not be not down to the food so do not change it!
In fact, the excellent breeder puppy information pack we’d received mentioned over and over again not to change the food, but Freya just wasn’t keen at all and we were beginning to despair as thought she was starving. Hilary fed Lily on raw food and swore by it, Ruth fed Digby and Amber dried kibble. I must admit I preferred the convenience and clean smell of kibble, especially as we often go away and it made life so much easier.
Asking the Expert
I bumped into the man (AKA Nigel) who delivered Oscar products to my two neighbours with labradors and asked his advice. All Oscar reps are trained nutritionalists; Nigel explained that no puppy will starve itself unless there is an underlying issue and Freya looked healthy and so to persevere by adding warm water to soften the kibble as she may be teething. He advised that if owners constantly change their food, there is the danger that it may upset their tummies and any new food should be gradually added to their current food. Puppies soon learn to refuse meals with the expectation that something new will appear and also to avoid over treating so they are not hungry.
So once again I adopted the same stance I had with my toddlers – having four children I simply couldn’t afford the time or the additional expense of preparing different meals for each of them, and so they were always encouraged to eat everything put in front of them, unless they really disliked the taste or texture. To this day one of the twins still refuses mushrooms, although he will eat one brussel sprout at Christmas as was the custom each year! Great result though as they will all try anything and are not fussy eaters, so I determined to achieve the same with Freya.
Persuasion Tactics to Discourage a Fussy Cockapoo
Alison at Raffles advised that I add a little cooked chicken or white fish to her kibble and this went down a storm. I chopped white fish in small pieces and froze these in an ice cube tray, getting one out each day and zapping for 30 seconds in the microwave before mixing with her dinner. Breakfast and lunch still consisted of pure dried food with a little hot water added to soften the kibble, and she usually ate most of this (although I extended the feed time to 30 minutes before taking away the bowl), but dinner was gobbled up. If Freya’s poo was runny, I added a little white rice to the mix, but this only happened twice and I must admit feeding kibble certainly seemed to make collecting poo more tolerable!
The magic 20 weeks were finally up (which was the length of time Raffles advised to keep Freya on the same kibble) and, having previously invited Nigel round so that Freya could sample their products, I transferred her gradually to Oscar puppy kibble. She loved it with no need to add anything!
Until Freya reached six months that is and came on heat. Once again she completely went off her food and so I reintroduced the fish cube and also chopped liver, again freezing this in an ice cube tray and zapping in the microwave for dinner time. I still had a large bag of puppy kibble and preferably wanted to use this up before changing to junior which it was time to do. Nigel came round for another tasting session and put her straight on to adult formula, which I mixed 50/50 with the puppy kibble until it was used up and it was huge success. Suddenly lamb, chicken and salmon were on the menu and she love it all!
I weigh and store her food in mini containers to last a couple of weeks so that I can grab and go if I arrange to meet friends. Dinner is between 5 and 5:30 and she’s very quick at letting me know when the time comes. Her food body clock is amazing!
Freya has now turned into a Labrador with her feeding habits – she will eat most things anytime, anywhere! The trick now is to curb her appetite for anything calorific and unhealthy and steer her on the positive treat track.
While Freya is still growing I intend sticking to a kibble diet with the occasional supplement of raw meat and fish: offal, white fish, beef, lamb and chicken bones given separately to the kibble as this ensures she has all the nutrients built into her diet while she is growing. This may change as she gets older to one meal of kibble and one raw simply because she loves the small amounts of raw I give her as a reward say after a long groom. I don’t intend to buy commercial raw as I find the smell unpleasant, but Lily (Hilary’s cockapoo), loves it! The Raw Feeding Community website has some great advice on how to include raw in a dog’s diet, but there are also some experts who say feeding raw can mean both you and your dog may be exposed to harmful pathogens. More about this in the From the Experts article on raw food.
The Food Rules
I learnt about the 20 minute feeding time rule from dog trainers and they, along with Hilary, all said the same: If your dog hasn’t finished eating what is in its bowl after 20 minutes, pick it up and take it away – permanently. This was so hard to do when Freya was hardly eating, but it worked when I added the tempters to the original kibble. It is the same for chews, bones, etc – if your puppy leaves these on the floor at any point, you need to take them away.
Why? Because when you are in charge of the food supplies, you remain Top Dog – you lead the pack, stay in control, and training will be much easier in the future. If your dog can access its food at any time, they are in control.
Freya’s first puppy trainer drummed into us that although treats were important for training, they should never be over used. One, they will make your dog gain weight and two, they will fill up on treats and not eat their nutritionally balanced food, so important for puppy growth. Naturally, some breeds will just eat forever and refuse nothing, but it’s rare to find this in cockapoos apparently. Not so Freya now though…
Healthy treats include sweet potato, carrot, broccoli and cabbage stalks, pumpkin, green beans, peas straight from the freezer, peppers, asparagus, apples and pears, blueberries, water and cantaloupe melon*. Unlinke her human brother, Freya even eats the odd brussel sprout! These are naturally given in moderation – and a couple of times day – but has the advantage of the fact they are in my store cupboard anyway so I see them as uncommercialised and ‘free’!
High Value Treats to Train
For general sit, down, centre, etc, I’ve tended to stick to grain free Wainright’s training treats, but she loves the Fishmonger’s Finest range – salmon mini sausages, and JR Lamb Spaghetti. You can break this up into pieces and there are no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, which I always look out for if possible.
And she will do anything for a Pawsley & Co chewy chicken from their variety pack. 100% natural chicken breast meat and in small portions so perfect. She can concentrate on the ‘watch and wait’ for a whole minute at seven months with these as her reward.
Treats to Help with Chewing…
…and give you some peace! Once I was told that hide chews were potentially unhealthy (even though Freya loved them and really helped with her chewing instinct), I sought out healthier alternatives:
Uncooked lamb bones from the butcher (great for teeth cleaning);
Goats’ Ears (less fatty than pigs’ ears),
Yakers Chew – I occasionally buy the large size so Freya can get hold of it, but they are very expensive and don’t last her long.
Elk Antlers – again very expensive, but last for hours and hours.
Whimzees dog chews (all, other than the rice bone, she wasn’t keen on these)
Forget the Food Bowl
As your puppy gets older they will need regular distractions to keep from being bored (which is when the chewing begins) and the Kong is great for keeping them occupied.
Rather than give your puppy all of its food in two servings it is far more interesting to encourage them to work for their food – Freya loves hide and seek and I place her toys around the kitchen and she has to hunt and sniff out the kibble which is buried somewhere within the toy.
Some trainers advocate you get rid of a food bowl altogether as your dog gets older and make feeding more fun by taking a more natural hunting process or working harder to feed (although they need to be on a kibble diet for this to work effectively).
* I always try a small amount of any fruit and vegetables first to ensure that they don’t upset Freya’s tummy; she usually has one small portion of fruit and one of vegetables per day.