It seems as though most dogs can and will eat anything, anytime – expect their own meals. A lot of dog owners think that their dog stopped eating dry food because he is bored with it and that he is looking for more diversity in his diet. This, however, is not always the case.
The truth is that dogs are certainly capable of eating the same food every day, provided that it is tasty and fulfills their nutritional needs. However, when your dog is given table scraps (or too many treats), it not only increases his chances of developing obesity, but it also makes him a picky eater.
Fortunately, you can eliminate your dog’s tendency to display finicky eating behaviors. Keep in mind that there are several different methods for doing this and some will work better than others.
In this post, I will teach you how to get your dog to eat dog food again by implementing nine different changes which I have personally tried to combat my own dog’s picky eating. I will also talk about why your dog might not want to eat, including potential health issues that you should be aware of.
Is Your Dog Healthy?
Before you set out to make changes in order to make your picky dog eat again, the first thing you need to do is check his health to be sure he is feeling well. Be aware that the following medical conditions can mess with your dog’s eating habits:
Vaccination Side Effects
Vaccinations are necessary as they protect your dog against many serious diseases. However, like any other medication, receiving a vaccine does come with the possibility of experiencing adverse effects, such as loss of appetite. These symptoms typically disappear within twenty-four hours or so, but unfortunately, there is really nothing you can do but to wait it out.
Dogs eat whatever food they can find on the floor and even in the trash when nobody is looking. Do not be surprised if your dog has an upset stomach occasionally. Typical symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting. This is how your dog’s body reacts when it wants to get rid of whatever it ate that upset it.
It usually takes a couple of days until your dog returns to normal. In the meantime, be sure that you keep him hydrated and give your vet a call if the symptoms last for more than twenty-four hours.
If your dog is having problems with his teeth or in his mouth, it can make it hard for him to eat his food. Visit your vet so he can examine your dog’s mouth for gingivitis, sores, and broken teeth. Also, do not forget to use teeth cleaning treats to maintain good oral health.
Older dogs are prone to developing a decreased sense of smell (as well as dental problems), but they may also experience joint pain, which makes it difficult for them to make the walk to their food bowl.
In case your dog is suffering from joint pain, you need to have him checked. Your vet can provide you with medicine and other treatments to decrease your dog’s pain and increase his appetite. You can also take simple steps right now to ease your dog’s arthritis symptoms.
This is only a partial list. There are, of course, other illnesses that can cause your dog to stop eating his food, so always consult with your veterinarian at the first sign of appetite loss.
9 Ways to Get Your Dog to Eat Dog Food Again
1. Check the Freshness
First and foremost, check your dog’s food date to make sure it is not passed its expiration date. Odds are, your dog will not eat his food if it is spoiled and who could blame him? Also, be sure to seal the bag, or use a pet food container so that the food is not exposed to air and humidity. This will keep its taste fresher for a longer period of time.
2. Pick Better Dog Food
Is your dog’s food tasty? Obviously, for us humans, it is difficult to say. However, in order for your dog’s food to be truly appetizing, it should meet the following criteria:
Dogs are naturally carnivorous animals, so it is not surprising that they find the taste of meat highly appealing. Whether it is poultry, fish or meat – a meat-based meal is usually tastier than one with low meat content or poor-quality meat. For the same reason, it is recommended to skip dog food with fillers and artificial flavoring.
Fat tends to make food taste better. Aim for a moderate amount of fat content in your dog’s food, but make sure most of it comes from unsaturated sources, like fish oil. Fat is also necessary for maintaining a shiny coat and healthy skin. Other than that, good fatty acids promote better brain functioning.
Dogs love the sweet taste of fruits, so it is very likely that your dog will prefer kibbles that include a few of them. Besides being delicious, fruits are also a quality source of vitamins, which can contribute to your dog’s overall health.
Be aware that you should use precaution when giving your dog fresh fruits as certain ones, like grapes, can result in serious medical problems, such as kidney failure.
Now check the label on your dog’s food and make sure it fits. If not, then it’s probably time to switch.
I feed my dog Taste of the Wild, a highly rated dog food that contains real meat as the first ingredient. You can choose between real venison, salmon, lamb, wild boar, roasted fowl or bison. Furthermore, there are no fillers, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives you need to worry about.
Fat is also relatively high and comes from salmon oil, smoked salmon or ocean fish meal. Additionally, these recipes include blueberries and raspberries that provide a fantastic taste, powerful antioxidants, and satisfying fibers.
3. Upgrade The Meals
Add a touch of omega-3 for dogs to moisten the kibbles and give them a fishy flavor that dogs love. Aside from being delicious, these fatty acids are also beneficial for your dog’s long-lasting wellness.
Alternately, pour a bit of homemade bone broth (unsalted) or use an instant bone broth for dogs in order to make the kibbles moist, aromatic, and irresistible.
If you don’t have any of these around, you can use slightly warm water or put the food in the microwave for a few seconds to bring out its meaty scents. Just make sure to use a glass bowl and nothing else.
Blend dry and canned food to give your dog more variety, texture, and flavor. Alternately, you can top the kibbles with natural peanut butter or freeze-dried dog food which is often more attractive in terms of smell and flavor.
If you want to take it up a notch, use kibble seasoning. It is super easy and convenient to use, especially on the go, and has low-calorie and low-sodium content per serving.
Veggies and Fruits
You can throw in anything from carrots to green beans, cucumbers, bell peppers, and apples into your dog’s food to provide a nutritional punch that is also delish. A small amount of canned pumpkin (not the sugary type) can also go a long way.
A Kong Wobbler is a great way to make your dog sweat for every piece of kibble inside it. Likewise, utilizing a dog puzzle toy or hiding kibbles around the house will motivate your finicky friend to use his super sense of smell to find his food, all while providing exercise and relieving boredom.
Works every time.
4. Change the Location
Sometimes, simply changing the bowl’s position can solve your dog’s eating problem. Be sure to choose a quiet room without a lot of traffic so that your dog can eat his meal peacefully. Some dogs may even prefer to eat their food inside the kennel in private.
In some cases, you will have to replace an old bowl altogether. However, do not get a plastic one which can absorb color, odor, and bacteria. Instead, go for either stainless steel or ceramic.
5. Limit Table Scraps and Treats
Does your dog prefer to shun his food in favor of table scraps? Unfortunately, this is a problem that you need to take responsibility for and fix.
When a dog gets to taste from our table, he is exposed to tastes that are far more versatile than his everyday dry kibbles. Once he realizes this, he will turn his nose up at his own meals and wait for something more exciting. To avoid that, you need to stop giving your dog table leftovers as this will only reinforce his behavior.
Besides it being a bad habit, feeding your dog foods with unbalanced nutrition can cause him to gain unhealthy weight and he might miss essential nutrients. Also, some common people foods can be toxic to dogs.
In the beginning, your dog may exhibit obvious signs of displeasure when you refuse to give in to his begging and feed him from the table and he may stubbornly refuse to eat his food, hoping that you will give in.
In that case, do not worry and do not give up. As long as your dog is a healthy adult, he should be fine to skip a meal or two. Once he realizes that your food is off-limits, he will have no choice other but to eat his own food again.
Likewise, be sure not to give your dog too many treats since this can ruin his desire for regular dog food as well.
6. Do Not Encourage Picky Behavior
Perhaps your dog enjoys the attention he gets when he refuses to eat his food. In order to prevent this, you will need to ignore him during mealtime and interact with him only after you have removed his plate.
Also, make sure that you praise your dog when he is done eating his food, even if it is just a few kibbles and some kind words. Until then, stay out of your dog’s feeding area and let him enjoy his meal quietly and without distractions.
7. Go for a Walk
Dogs usually get hungry after they have been active. Burning calories works up an appetite, so the busier you can keep your dog, the less you need to worry about him not eating his food.
Take your canine outside for a good walk before you serve him his meal. This will help with his hunger and eventually take care of any eating issues. You can even turn this into a daily routine, so your dog will link his walks with mealtime.
8. Stick to a Feeding Schedule
While we are on the subject, most dogs are okay with just two meals a day. If your dog has not touched his food for more than thirty minutes, remove the bowl until the next feeding. That way, he will learn that there are certain times when he can eat.
It is also possible that your dog prefers not to eat his breakfast in the morning. This is why I suggest giving smaller meals, several times throughout the day. If you are a busy owner, an automatic pet feeder is an ideal way to set up feeding schedules and meal portions.
9. Try Different Flavors
Changing your dog’s diet frequently is not advisable as it may cause digestive issues. Trying other flavors, on the other hand, can be just the thing your dog needs to restore his craving. If you decide to change your dog’s food, make sure to do it gradually (over a few days) by mixing a portion of the old food with the new one.
A Few Words on Hand Feeding
Hand feeding should only serve as a last resort to get things going. Better yet, hand-feed your dog during or after training sessions so that he treats it as a prize and will be more likely to eat it. That said, you definitely do not want to make it a habit.
What Did You Think?
I hope this article helped you understand how to get your dog to eat dog food again.
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