Picky Eater Shikoku

I hear it a lot, 'My Shikoku is a picky eater and I can't get any weight on him/her!' I've experienced this and other digestive issues in the Japanese breeds, so I'm going to share how I deal with it. So far the results have been 100 percent management success.

So what are you feeding your dog? I guess we've got the kibble feeders, cooked food feeders, and the raw food feeders. I find that most of the time, picky eaters will eat more readily eat cooked or raw food. At least at first. But, a lot of dogs will get bored of eating the same thing every day for every meal.

Since I have a lot of dogs, and a lot of dogs that I kennel for varying lengths of time, I feed my dogs a grain free salmon/sweet potato kibble. Mixed with this I will throw in varying meat topping, and they get cooked boar bones on occasion as well. When I boil the meat scraps and bones for the dogs after butchering a boar, I keep the soup. This soup is gold for dogs that temporarily lose their appetite, or to mix with rice when dogs are not feeling well.

My dogs are fed twice a day, individually, a set amount which varies by season. Dogs don't need to eat quite as much in the summer. Whatever they don't eat in 15 minutes is put away. The kibble is mixed with a bit of topping, and some warm water. Not all the dogs need topping or water, some will eat straight up dry kibble from the bag, but the majority will not do that unless they are starving. So, I could keep trying to force different types of dry dry dry food down them till they are skin and bones, or I can create a system that helps them maintain proper weight. This is especially important for working/show dogs if you're trying to keep them in optimum condition.

If a dog starts leaving food a few meals in a row, I will reduce the amount by a third. If their stool is looking a bit soft, I'll reduce by half. If they have diarrhea they skip a meal. This happens more often during the summer months. Dogs lose their appetite, get a bit more lethargic, and are more prone to digestive upsets.

One important thing to remember when dealing with dogs with appetite loss or upset stomachs is to not go switching their food suddenly. This is generally a bad idea unless you like dealing with poo explosion. Any change in diet or food should be in small amounts and gradual.

I believe there is a train of thought that kibble and cooked food digest at different rates so should not be fed together, but I have not found that to be the case. I read a good study on it somewhere that showed that when fed together they were digested at the same rate. Anyway, I mix. Blocks of meat, rice, pumpkin, these are all things that make it into the mix. Just be careful with keeping the meat you feed low fat. Anything too fatty or oily will often give a dog diarrhea.

And just to throw this in, get your dog's stool checked by your vet every once in a while. Parasites and bacteria can cause loss of appetite and poor stools. Dogs that have a habit of eating random things may also have a blockage in their digestive system (where's mom's other red sock?). Maybe your dogs eating issues have a more serious cause? If you get a new dog or pup, the first thing to do is to get their stool checked. Always. Some parasitic issues can cause permanent damage to the digestive tract.

Where do your dogs eat? Shikoku tend to be pretty reactive to their environment, everything is interesting. So, if you want your dog to relax and eat, set a routine. Mine is that after going for our twice daily walk, everyone goes into their kennels/crates, then it's time to eat. Once they're done eating, the rest of the day begins.

So to sum up my system...
1. Feed them quality food that they will eat (just don't suddenly add new things to their diet)
2. Feed them in a quiet, safe place
3. Always keep an eye (and your vet's eye) on your dog's stool
4. Add toppings - meat, fish, rice, pumpkin (just no fatty stuff, and make sure you check before adding any other exotic stuff) and warm water
5. Skipping meals every now and again is good for dogs. It can help their digestive systems catch a break, and help them regain their appetite.

Lastly, dog's that are burning calories (ie getting enough exercise!) will have more of an appetite, and of course will be happier. Get out for walks/runs/play with your dogs as much as possible!


  1. Hello! I was wondering what the name Suzuharuhime means, if anything? Thank you!

    1. 鈴春姫 Suzuharuhime.
      鈴 Suzu = bell
      春 Haru = spring (the season)
      姫 Hime = princess.

  2. Hello, may I know the name of kibble you are using? I have a 3yo kishu female that I rescued from irresponsible owners. She is 20 pounds (with ribs very noticeable) I've had her for a month now and I went from Wellness CORE chicken and liver kibble mixed with their same line wet dog food, chicken flavor. She would pick at it very little, leaving leftovers. I recently switched to Wellness Ocean mix kibble and tried without wet food mixed, she finishes a whole bowl at midnight and lunch time. I am thinking to move over to taste of the wild Pacific stream (I was trying to compare which kibble looked like yours posted) and I will mix sweet potato in.

  3. My Shikoku ken is getting thinner ��
    I always cook food for him and always walk him at least 4 hours per day. There are days when he will eat everything, licking the bowl cause he likes the food very much, and there are days when he won't even eat half of it. I don't know what to do,I never give him extra food or treats except when I train him, so he shouldn't expect human food.

    I also check his stool and take him to the vet regularly, and he doesn't have health issues.

  4. Thanks for this wonderful post. Every animal is different, Healthy food for Pets provides adapted healthy and nutritional answers for your animals with their wide range of top pet food brands.

  5. This is the best feeding guide for a Shikoku I have ever read.
    Masahiro is very like what you described, which has made my eating habits better. Masahiro (7 now) has variety in his food everyday otherwise he does get bored. When he is not hungry he simply does not eat. I can put a steak in front of him and have no reaction from him. This is normal, when he is ready for it, it is eaten. Usually his food is eaten right before I wake (only half) then we go for a good long run (then he eats the other half). I appreciate him not being food driven like other dogs. I don't have to worry about him eating unhealthy food. I once tried to give him the wrapped cheese slices for hamburgers. I peeled the wrapper off, let him sniff it....not a chance, he didn't eat it. So I put it on the burger I was bbqing for him. I had to scrape the cheese off before he would eat the burger. He won't eat anything processed, not even canned dog food. Luckily I live in Canada and we have some of the best natural, made with no fillers Kibble in the world. I add a small amount to what ever fresh meet we picked up for dinner and some mashed potatoes, mashed carrots (I found he'll eat any vegetable mashed, Together or separate, and mashed with a small amount of oatmilk and real butter. 1tablespoon each). The kibble I put 2 to 3 fist fulls in his bowl and the dribble I tsp of olive oil. mix until kibble shines. (I add the olive oil as we live in a very dry part of Canada and it helps his skin and coat). Then a handful of cooked meat, and a soup spoon dollop of the mash on top of the kibble. Never mixed. He'll eat the good stuff first and the rest by the morning. Give up trying to give him treats in dog parks or around other dogs. Shikokus take to much time examing their food, usually before the start to take a bite another dog steals the food and well, everyone shares unhappy feelings. My suggestion, never use food as the lure or training reward. Good dog, and soft words with cuddles always works best. If you cannot get a Shikoku to come to because he knows you are angry. Put that smile on and use a soft tone, then kneel on the ground and point to where you want him. And quietly say, only once, 'here' and point to the ground beside you. Then calmly wait. Someone in a dog park taught me this 7 years ago. It has been my most effective tool for recall. I do not over use it, so that when I do use it he knows I mean business.

  6. I honestly wish this was around 7 years ago when I first brought Masahiro home. I am so happy more honest information is being shared, as my Shikoku is the most amazing companion I've ever had the pleasure of being paired with. We have even been approached in a market by St. John's Ambulance, we were asked to share our time as a crisis support dog because of his beauty and sweet demeanor around all people, even other dogs and cats. The say Shikokus are Prey driven. Well I live about as close to the wild in Canada that anyone can get. Large Prey yes they are Prey driven. I have to keep him in check around moose, deer, cows, and definitely Bulls. He has no fear in taking on any of these animals. There a numerous coyotes (which he blends right in with)he does not chase them, he comes closer to me. He has even warned me to stay put when predatory animals are around. He is not the dog you can play fetch with or wrestle in an open field, he is too busy watching for danger. He has a cat, no problems there, they are bros. Though I did take time off work to introduce them properly and work with them. I've found he is not interested in chasing squirrels, cats, rabbits, the badger was interesting, or porcupines. And he's been lightly skunked twice, thanks to his quick response agility. My parents have two small yorkies, my brother has two toy poodles, and Masahiro has a british short hair cat named Winston. (I find the temperament of the
    British Shorthair is well suited to my Shikoku) This is my family at special dinners. 5 dogs, 1 cat and nobody has to be kept on leashes crated or locked in rooms. With the correct guidance and socialization these are amazing dogs. Though vocal, posturing is mostly what you get. When people put the fear away, cleanse it from their bodies, the animals put their fear away and what results is harmony.

  7. I was wondering what the translation for Masahiro is.


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