We noticed ever since he was a puppy that Oliver is a picky eater. Not only he cannot tolerate certain types of food (some dog foods will give him severe diarrhea or vomiting), but sometimes he just doesn't want to eat. He was skinny when we got him from the puppy store, so I did all kinds of effort to feed him and make sure he ate his portion of food every day. I used to sit down with his bowl of dry food and sometimes feed kernel by kernel to him until he started eating on his own. We said that he needed to be 'primed' to eat :)
When he got a bit older, I made him a mix of dry and soft food for his meal since it seems to make him eat better. He still didn't start eating by himself most of the times, so I started spoon-feeding him to 'prime' him to eat. I didn't mind it at that time because it didn't really take that long to feed him, probably only around 10-15 minutes per meal and he only ate twice a day.
This habit continued until Oliver is 3 and when I started traveling quite a bit for work, this becomes more of an issue because my husband doesn't really want to spoon feed him and he doesn't have the patience to deal with this little brat. So we knew we needed to find a way to 'wean' him off of this habit.
I was finally able to make Oliver start eating by himself a couple of months ago and now that this trick seems to work, I thought I would share it here :) I still give him the same mix of dry and soft food, but now I just put the bowl under his nose and 'force' him to start eating. He will try to lay down because that's how he got me spoon-feeding him before, but when he does that, I just put the bowl right next to him and then he will get up and start sniffing the food and finally eat! I still have to hold the bowl for him, but this is a big advancement for me! We'll work on having him eat completely on his own next!