Sometimes it seems as though your dog can (and will) eat anything–except his own food.
A lot of owners think that their dog stopped eating his dry food because he’s bored with it, or that he’s looking for more diversity in his diet. This is simply not true.
The truth is that dogs are certainly capable of eating the same food every day, provided that it’s 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, but keep in mind that there are several different methods for doing this and some will work better than others.
In this post, I’ll teach you how to get your dog to eat dog food again. In fact, I’ve personally tried some of these ways in order to combat my own dog’s picky eating.
I’ll also talk about why your dog might not want to eat, including potential health issues that you should be aware of.
Make Sure Your Dog Dog Is 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’s feeling well.
These are the following medical conditions that can mess with your dog’s eating habits.
Side Effects from Vaccination
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 24 hours, but unfortunately, there’s 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, so don’t 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, keep him hydrated and give your vet a call if the symptoms last for more than 24 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 for gingivitis, sores, and broken teeth. Also, don’t forget to use dog teeth cleaning treats to maintain good oral health.
Older dogs are prone to developing a decreased sense of smell, but they may also experience joint pain, which can make 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 at home.
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.
Now that that’s out of the way, here are some ninja tricks to help you get your dog to eat.
10 Ways to Get Your Dog to Eat Dog Food Again
1. Check the Food’s Freshness
First and foremost, check your dog’s food date to make sure it’s not passed its expiration date. Odds are, your dog won’t eat dry food if it’s spoiled, and who could blame him?
Also, be sure to seal the bag, or use a pet food container so that it isn’t 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’s difficult to say. However, there are some ingredients that can make your dog’s meals more appetizing.
Dogs are naturally carnivorous animals, so it isn’t surprising that they find the taste of meat highly appealing. Whether it’s 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’s 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.
Omega-3 is also necessary for maintaining a shiny coat, healthy skin, and promoting better brain functioning.
Dogs love the sweet taste of fruits, so it’s very likely that your pup will prefer food that includes at least a few of them. Besides being delicious, fruits are also a quality source of vitamins, which can contribute to your dog’s overall health.
Warning: 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.
Look for a premium dog food that contains real meat as the first ingredient. It can be venison, salmon, lamb, wild boar, roasted fowl, bison, etc. Also, make sure there are no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or other fillers you need to worry about.
Additionally, the fat should be relatively high and preferably from salmon oil, smoked salmon, or ocean fish meal. Last but not least, aim for fruits, such as blueberries and raspberries to help provide great taste, powerful antioxidants, and satisfying fibers.
In summary, your dog’s food should contain:
- Real meat as the top ingredient
- No fillers (corn, wheat, soy, etc.)
- No artificial flavors, colors, and/or preservatives
- Healthy Omega-3 fats
- Some fruits, preferably berries
3. Change Things Up A Bit
In case you’re wondering, “What can I do or add to my dog’s food to make him eat it?”, Here are a few tried and true ideas.
Add a touch of omega-3 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 to wet the kibbles, and make them irresistible! Just make sure its onion-free.
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.
Put canned food on top of the dry 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 really want to take it up a notch, use kibble seasoning. It’s super easy and convenient to use and has low-calorie and low-sodium content per serving.
Quick Tip: You can also use this prodcut to make a delicious broth for your pup.
Veggies and Fruits
You can throw in anything from carrots and green beans, to bell peppers and apples into your dog’s food bowl to provide a nutritional punch that’s also yummy. A small amount of canned pumpkin (not the sugary type) can also go a long way.
A dispensing toy can be a great way to make your dog sweat for every piece of kibble inside it. Likewise, utilizing a dog puzzle 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.
In my experience, this works like a charm!
4. Change the Food 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’ll have to replace an old bowl altogether. However, don’t get a plastic one which can absorb color, odor, and bacteria. Instead, go for either stainless steel or ceramic.
5. Stop Giving Your Dog Scraps
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’s 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 this, you need to stop giving your pup 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, remember that some common people foods can be very poisonous 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’ll give in.
In that case, don’t worry and don’t 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 him too many treats since this can ruin his desire for regular dog food as well.
6. Don’t Encourage Picky Behavior
It’s possible that your dog enjoys the attention he gets when he refuses to eat his food. In order to prevent this, you’ll need to ignore him during mealtime, and interact with him only after you’ve removed his plate.
Be patient and praise your dog only when he’s done eating his food, even if it’s just a few bites 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. Exercise Your Dog Regularly
Dogs usually get hungry after they’ve 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 associate his walks with his meals.
8. Stick to a Feeding Schedule
While we’re on the subject, most dogs are okay with just two meals a day. If your dog hasn’t touched his food for more than 30 minutes, remove the bowl until the next feeding. That way, he will learn that there are certain times when he can eat.
It’s also possible that your dog prefers not to eat his breakfast in the morning. This is why I highly suggest giving smaller meals, several times throughout the day. If you’re a busy pet parent, an automatic pet feeder is an ideal way to set up feeding schedules and meal portions ahead of time.
9. Try Different Flavors
Changing your dog’s diet too frequently isn’t 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, and over the course of a few days by mixing a portion of the old food with the new one.
10. Cook for Your Dog
No dog, and I mean NO dog, will ever say no to homemade food. I won’t go into too much detail here, as I have a whole blog post dedicated to cooking dog food at home. If you really want to do this thing right, make sure to educate yourself first.
11. BONUS: 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 don’t want to make a habit out of it.
Li-ran is the Founder and Executive Editor at PuppyTip. He is a holistic pet parent and believes that dogs can teach us more than we could ever teach them. He also loves cooking, especially for his dog, Richie!