If your Boxer is not excited about eating, you are almost certainly offering the wrong kind of food.
Most Boxer dogs labelled “picky eaters” are being forced to eat kibble.
When presented with their natural, biologically appropriate diet, Boxers will invariably devour every last morsel.
I’m yet to meet a Boxer (or a dog of any breed) that didn’t delight in a raw meaty bone and know exactly what to do with it.
I am not a vet. This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. See full disclaimer here.
How To Get A “Picky Boxer” To Love Their Food
If your Boxer is anything less than wildly enthusiastic about mealtimes, the very first thing to do is take a good look at what you are feeding.
Is it a natural, biologically appropriate canine diet?
Though the pet food industry would have you believe it’s perfectly fine for your dog’s food to come out of a packet, dry dog food bears little resemblance to a dog’s natural diet.
Kibble (and canned dog food) is highly processed and contains many synthetic ingredients that have no rightful place in a dog’s body.
Your Boxer knows this instinctively.
Consider whether your “picky eater” is simply saying, “Please feed me the kind of food my body is designed to eat”.
After all, kibble is so unrecognisable as food to the average dog that it is routinely sprayed with “palatability enhancers”.
Not all dogs can be fooled.
Dry dog food is replete with numerous other problems including its susceptibility to mold growth.
These molds are invisible to the human eye, but produce poisonous substances called mycotoxins.
Sometimes dogs can detect these, effectively sniffing out a bad batch of product.
For this reason, it’s doubly important to never force your Boxer to eat anything she is refusing to touch.
And throw out the rest of the bag.
Then, it’s time to get busy optimizing your Boxer’s diet.
Because, if you’re feeding kibble, picky eating may soon be the least of your worries.
The good news is it’s very easy to feed your dog properly, as soon as you free yourself from the marketing messages of pet food manufacturers with products to sell.
As you tread this path, you’ll have to ignore a lot of bad information from what should be trusted sources.
Be aware that the pet food industry has captured the minds of many conventionally-trained veterinarians.
Many owners are shocked to discover that vets receive next to no training in canine nutrition.
What information they do receive in school comes not from independent canine nutritionists, but from the pet food industry itself — the companies sponsor vet schools in return for access to their students.
The opportunity to shape the views of vets-in-training pays big dividends for pet food makers but unfortunately does not serve your Boxer’s health.
As a result of this close relationship between the pet food industry and vets, and the conflict of interest it creates, it can be very difficult for dog owners to access accurate information about what to feed their dogs.
For your Boxer’s sake, it’s necessary to do your own research.
Are Boxers Picky Eaters?
But many Boxers are fed inappropriate diets, which they rightly turn their noses up at.
As a result, their owners conclude they are finicky eaters.
Fix your dog’s diet first, before deciding she’s being unreasonably choosey.
What To Do If Your Raw Fed Boxer Is Still Picky
If you’re feeding raw but your Boxer still isn’t loving it, consider exactly what kind of raw food you’re offering.
If it’s a premade raw grind, this could be your problem.
While it’s closer to a natural diet than kibbled or canned, minced food still leaves a lot to be desired.
It deprives your Boxer of the pure pleasure of ripping, tearing and crunching up his own food.
Feed Raw Meaty Bones, Not Grinds
Studies have found that carnivores derive significant pleasure and psychological benefit from the process of eating bones.
We may not be able to give our dogs the experience of catching their own dinner, but we can at least let them devour it as naturally as possible.
Instead of buying a grind, opt for whole cuts and let your dog eat the edible bone component of his diet as intact bones.
Chicken carcasses (the skeletons of chickens after most of the meat is removed for human consumption) are the perfect size for Boxers and the bones are nice and soft.
Use A Slow Feeder or Puzzle Feeder
Another way you can make the eating experience more interesting, is to use a slow feeder or a puzzle feeder.
These canine enrichment tools not only slow down your dog’s eating (which protects against bloat in deep-chested breeds like Boxers), but they mean your dog has to problem solve in order to access his food.
Boxers love a challenge and these feeders are a good idea all round.
Try A Different Meat
Dogs don’t necessarily need a lot of different meats in their meals, and it’s generally not necessary to “rotate proteins” as long as you’re providing a full complement of edible bone, lean muscle meat and a little offal.
Dogs in the wild will predominantly eat the prey native to their local area, which necessarily limits variety.
But, if your dog seems bored with his meals, it can’t hurt to try something different.
If you mostly feed chicken and beef, how about a whole wild-caught rabbit once in a while?
What about a lamb neck?
Raw eggs make a great nutrition-packed snack.
Feed them whole and include the membrane from inside the shell which contains glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid .. all of which relieve joint and soft tissue pain.
Fresh, raw whole sardines are a complete food, including bones, and are smelly enough to pique the interest of even the most jaded eater.
Consider Organic Meats
Conventionally farmed meats are raised using antibiotics and hormones.
It’s possible your dog is detecting these residues in the tissues (toxins are stored in fat and passed up the food chain).
It’s not always affordable, but if you have the option it might be an idea to try organically farmed meats.
Failing that, free-range, pasture-fed animals are an improvement on caged and feedlotted livestock.
Try Whole Prey
If your dog is feeling humdrum about his food, see if you can find him a “whole prey” animal.
Depending where you live, you may be able to source animals from local hunters.
Some suppliers provide wild-caught animals with fur or feathers intact … an eating experience sure to jolt your dog out of his rut.
Are You “Free Feeding”?
If your Boxer is disinterested in food, it’s possible you’re overfeeding.
Dogs are not grazing animals, so never “free feed” or leave food out all the time.
Adult dogs should be fed once a day – although there is a case to divide a Boxer’s food into two smaller meals in order to minimize the risk of bloat or gastric dilatation-volvulus.
Give your dog a limited window in which to eat.
Anything that’s not gone during that time, remove.
Are You Overfeeding?
As well as avoiding feeding too often, consider whether you are feeding too much.
A good rule of thumb is to feed three to five per cent of the dog’s ideal body weight, adjusting up or down depending on your dog’s body condition.
If your Boxer is a couch potato, you would feed less than if she’s a highly active working dog.
What Not To Do If Your Boxer Is Refusing To Eat
The first response, understandably, of many owners when their dogs go off their food is to try to coax them to eat.
We worry when our dogs don’t eat, and it makes us feel better to get them to accept food.
It reassures us they are okay.
But it’s actually counterproductive.
Never Force-Feed A Self-Fasting Dog
While humans interpret not eating as a problem, fasting is a natural part of how dogs eat in the wild.
Eating every day is a human invention.
Dogs naturally eat more like three times per week.
They often go much longer without food when prey is scarce and eat fruit as a secondary food between meat meals.
In fact, the canine stomach functions best with regular periods of total emptiness.
Feast and famine is how wolves and other wild dogs eat.
The metabolic processes triggered by fasting including detoxification pathways in the liver that both prevent and heal disease.
Allow your dog to fast whenever she chooses.
Ideally you will build regular fast days into your dog’s routine.
Just make sure fresh, pure water (not tap water) is always available.
Don’t Just Change Between Brands Of Kibble
Notwithstanding variations in the quality of ingredients, kibble is kibble.
Offering one brand over another is much the same as eating KFC instead of McDonald’s and thinking it’s dramatically healthier.
Never “Trick” Your Dog Into Eating Something She Doesn’t Like
Don’t soak your dog’s food in bone broth or flavor it with gravy in an effort to get your dog interested.
Animals are much more in touch with their biological needs than we humans.
Just as cattle offered minerals “licks” will intuitively choose to consume the exact minerals their bodies are lacking, your dog has an in-built sense of what she should eat.
If your dog doesn’t like a certain food, listen to what his body is telling you and offer something else instead.
If you’re sure the food is genuinely appropriate, you can always serve it again in a few weeks’ time and see if your dog’s preferences have changed.
Don’t Panic If Your Dog Chooses Not To Eat
Dogs don’t have the emotional relationship with food that humans have developed.
Don’t project your issues onto your dog or “anthropomorphize” your Boxer by attributing human characteristics or emotions to dog behavior.
If your Boxer opts not to eat for a day or two, respect that choice.
Either she’s not hungry or she’s not feeling 100 per cent and knows fasting is the quickest way to recover.
Don’t Give Up If Your Boxer Doesn’t Like Raw Meat At First
Most dogs take to raw feeding immediately.
After all, this is the diet dogs ate for more than a million years during their evolution.
Kibble was invented only 160 years ago.
However, some dogs have become so conditioned to eating kibble that they may take a while to embrace real, whole foods.
It’s similar to the reaction you might get when you offer to an apple to a kid used to eating junk food.
Your Boxer will come around.
In the meantime, a little fasting will do wonders and help to reset the taste buds.
A truly hungry dog will not refuse food and — if your Boxer is like most American dogs — she has plenty of fat reserves.
Related Article: Most Pet Dogs Are Fat. Is Your Boxer One Of Them?
Don’t Supplement Your Dog’s Diet With Unhealthy Treats
You might be tempted to give your dog more store-bought treats when she’s not eating much dinner.
Resist the urge as these products are usually full of fillers and preservatives.
While homecooked meals avoid many of the preservatives and other problems with commercially manufactured dog food, it’s still biologically inappropriate due to being cooked.
Fresh, raw food is what your dog’s body is geared to thrive on.
Very light searing may be acceptable during transition to raw, but you want to do this for as brief a time as possible as cooking denatures proteins and creates carcinogens, as well as destroying nutrition.
When A Boxer Not Eating Might Be More Serious
If your Boxer is not eating and also displaying symptoms of digestive problems such as:
… then it is even more important to fast your dog for at least 24 hours after the symptoms have stopped, and to optimize the diet.
Once you begin feeding properly, you will likely discover your dog’s only problem was that she was being fed less than ideal food.
Be warned that sometimes improving the diet, just like discontinuing drugs, can trigger a detox reaction that causes your dog’s condition to temporarily worsen, before it improves.
Rest assured this is actually a positive sign, as a body relieved of the burden of misfeeding seizes the chance to rid itself of long-stored wastes.
You may have a genuinely picky eater.
But more likely than not, the problem is not your dog but the food.
What you’re witnessing is your pup trying to make a biologically appropriate choice where none is available.
Try this experiment: offer your dog a natural, raw diet of raw meaty bones, lean muscle meat and a little offal (see the article below for a how-to raw feeding guide) .. and watch the transformation.
Related Articles: How To Raw Feed Your Boxer: A Beginner’s Guide
Becker, Karen, A Way of Life for Wild Canines, This Could Be a Godsend for Your Dog, Mercola Healthy Pets, May 27, 2018
Bond, J. C., & Lindburg, D. G. (1990). Carcass feeding of captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus): The effects of a naturalistic feeding program on oral health and psychological well-being. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 26(4), 373–382