Whole Prey Troubleshooting
Updated: May 26
⚠️This post contains graphic images... proceed with a strong stomach⚠️
Whole prey is such a great addition to a raw food diet.
But... when it comes the time to feed, your dog might turn her nose up to it.
I've been there and it sucks! I get so excited to add something new (maybe even more excited than Stormy) to only find she doesn't like it... yet.
It's been a long battle but Stormy finally eats whole prey (mostly) trouble-free now. I'm sure they are a million other ways to go about this but this is just my experience and what has worked for me. And remember: every dog is different. What works for me may or may not work for and that's perfectly okay!
So here are my tips and tricks to help your dog to get over her whole prey strike.
First things first, we want to make sure that the whole prey is high-quality and fresh. I don't want to be feeding rancid quail and then expecting Stormy to eat it. Secondly, I want to make sure she's going to be hungry. When introducing a new food, it shouldn't be done after a long training session with lots of treats. I want her hungry and ready to eat what I put in front of her.
The most common reason that a dog will refuse whole prey is because of the new and unusual texture of the fur/feathers. They're not used to eating the pelt of an animal so it makes sense they'd be a little hesitant.
Before we get started here are some supplies that are needed...
Sharp scissors or knife
A dog who refuses to eat (see below for example)
#1 Expose More Meat
My first approach is to expose more of the muscle meat by pulling the pelt back. I make a small incision usually by the chest at a pullback to expose the meat. After exposing the mean, I'll tear off a bit of the muscle meat and feed it to show this foreign meal is somewhat familiar. Since our dogs are used to eating muscle meat, they usually have no objections to this part.
#2 Small Pieces
The next strategy is to cut the whole prey into smaller, more manageable pieces. It's not fair to expect an unseasoned whole prey eater to confidently gulp down the furry new meal, though keep in mind I know many dogs who would.
Using your scissors or knife, cut the whole prey into smaller parts. For quail, I usually cut off the wings, legs, and head. Then I'll half the body as well.
The way you present the whole prey to your dog may affect if they gobble it up or not. If your dog is usually hand-fed, throwing a whole prey on the ground and walking away may not be the best strategy.
Make sure you're presenting the whole prey meal as you would any meal. Stormy gets hand-fed since she's a gulper, so I make sure to hand feed her whole prey meals as well!
Some dogs just need a change in texture! So, try feeding the whole prey either frozen or partially frozen to change up to feel. It's not ideal to feed frozen meals but in this case a few times won't hurt them.
I personally like to cut the whole prey into smaller pieces then freeze so it's easier for Stormy to eat right out of the freezer!
#5 Tough Love
The last strategy requires some tough love...
By this point, if skinning the whole prey and cutting it down doesn't work then Stormy doesn't eat.
Now, this may sound cruel, but skipping a meal or two won't kill your dog and is actually very beneficial!
Not giving in to the refusal to eat teaches the dog "if you're not going to eat what I give you, you don't get to eat". Plus, eventually they get hungry enough to give in to their pickiness.
Some dogs are very stubborn (like Stormy) and can go days without eating (her longest streak is 3 days). But I promise, these stubborn little housemates eventually give in... and now Stormy eats whole prey like a champ.
When you're saving a meal to present it again, it's important to store in properly. I store my refused meals in a glass container and store it in the fridge until the next meal.
When the next meal comes around, I'll go through the first and second strategy again and if they don't work, I'll resort to the 3rd strategy again.
Now you're prepared to tackle the refusal of whole prey. I hope these troubleshooting strategies help you and your dog. If you do use these tips, I would love to hear how/if they worked you!
As always, thank you so much for stopping by and Always Keep Exploring!