12 Tips and Tricks for Getting A Picky Dog to Eat Their Food

12 Tips and Tricks for Getting A Picky Dog to Eat Their Food

Do you have a dog at home who has suddenly stopped eating their food? Luckily, you’ve come to the right place as this is a fairly common occurrence, and we have some useful advice to get your pet eating again.

Before we dive into the tricks, however, let’s discuss the importance of making sure your dog is actually being picky and isn’t suffering from a more serious health-related issue.

Make Sure Picky Eating Isn’t From A Serious Health Issue

If your dog, or any pet for that matter, develops picky eating habits, it’s always best practice to consult your veterinarian. They’ll be able to ask you the right questions to determine if something more serious might be causing new eating habits in your dog.

Common Health Issues That Can Cause Dogs to Not Eat

Checking to see if they’re uncomfortable, pawing at their mouth, or perhaps have gone through recent trauma is the best way to start evaluating your dog.

Here are a few considerations for you to begin understanding why a dog isn’t eating.

Food Intolerances and Digestive Issues

Sometimes dogs develop food sensitivities or allergies to foods that they used to love. If you just switched their usual food to a new brand, you might also have unintentionally provided them with a recipe they’re unable to digest well. Your Veterinarian might recommend trying a food elimination diet for your dog to get a better understanding of exactly what they’re allergic to.

Additionally, other gastrointestinal and digestive disorders like colitis can cause dogs to suddenly stop eating. Colitis conditions can be anything from IBD, IBS, pancreatitis, parasites, and more.

If your dog is experiencing tooth, gum, or any other mouth related soreness, he or she may also stop eating to avoid the pain.

This type of problem can result from an accident such as a dog chewing on a sharp object (think broken sticks or a jagged bone). It might also be something more serious related to poor dental hygiene and disease that will need further treatment.

Regular cleanings, dogs chews or toys, and low sugar foods are a good place to start improving your dog’s overall mouth health.

Changes of Environment or Increased Stress

Your dog might have stopped eating because he or she is stressed. We often don’t think about how the environment, or changes to it, impact our pet’s behavior, but one of the first things a stressor can impact is a dog’s eating habits.

If you’ve recently moved homes or apartments, you’ve probably encountered this. All of the changes, from new walking paths, to your new work schedule might be making your dog feel unsettled. Establishing a routine and giving your pup time to adjust may solve the problem.

12 Tricks That Will Make Your Dog Eat

1. Mix Foods

If your pet is refusing to eat something new, but still enjoys his old food, try mixing the two together for a few days. It’ll trick him into eating the new stuff by masking it with the old. It’s also how you should normally be transitioning dogs to a new diet each time you make a change.

2. Use Chicken Broth

Chicken broth makes everything taste better. If your dog is being persnickety about his food, consider adding a little low sodium chicken broth over the top to give it a little extra flavor. Hopefully, this will encourage your pet to eat and get them used to the new taste in their bowl.

3. Cut the Scraps

Your pet’s reluctance to eat his food might be entirely your fault. If he’s used to being fed table scraps then his palate likely prefers food with a little added flavor than what you’re going to get from something at the pet store. Stop feeing your pet from off the table to help curb their spoiled ‘tude when it comes to their food.

4. Cut Back the Treats

Your dog might not being eating his new food because he thinks he’ll just get his fill of treats throughout the day. If your pet is refusing his dinner try withholding treats for a bit so he can’t rely on them to quench his hunger.

5. Keep Serving The Meal Until Your Dog Eats It

Sometimes you happen upon a pet that is just too stubborn for his own good. He’ll refuse to eat no matter what you do. In that case, the only way to curb this problem is the gentle starvation method. Begin by placing your dog's food down for 30 minutes. If he refuses to eat in that time, take it back up. Wait until his next normally scheduled mealtime and put it down for 30 minutes again. If he doesn’t eat, take it back up. Eventually hunger will win over and your dog will eat his food. If not, there’s probably a deeper problem than just a picky pup, and you should head to the vet.

6. Buy Higher Quality Foods Rather Than Diet Foods

Sometimes your dog gets a little overweight or a lot overweight. It’s a natural tendency to think that you should then buy them a diet dog food. If your dogs are anything like ours, they can smell and taste the difference. This often leads to them refusing to eat until they’re starving.

Over the long term, it’s best to try and find a food that is healthy for a sustainable diet. Just like us, dieting is often a miserable experience for a pet, and we do best finding a diet that is good for us. This will ensure your dog has the right nutrients while allowing them to indulge in a treat every now and again.

7. Try Adding Dog Food Toppers

Your dog might just need a little incentive to eat. Adding Toppers to their meals often gives them some added flavor and makes the food seem special.

A topper also gives you a number of options to incentivize a dog to eat. You could try adding fruits, vegetables, or yogurt to ensure the topper is both healthy and delicious.

You can also find healthy toppers that give your dog recipes specially designed for them such as:

Dry Dog Food Toppers:

We Dog Food Toppers:

8. Buy Different Food

Yep, sometimes it’s as easy as that. Your dog might not like the food that you bought and needs you to buy different food. It’s common for picky dogs to find some recipes bland or uninteresting OR perhaps you’ve been giving them the same food for far too long..

Experiment with smaller bags of different foods. Foods with gamier meats, more similar to human-quality, or with higher fat and sugar contents can often convince a dog to eat.

Recommended Reading: Rotational Feed For Dogs: Benefits and How-To Switch Your Dog's Food Safely

9. Try Wet Food

Can’t get your dog to touch dry food? Try introducing them to wet food. This can suffice as a way to moisten their dry food as we mentioned above with chicken broth.

But for the pickiest of dogs, you should try buying fully balanced, wet dog food options. That doesn’t mean it has to be unhealthy, canned foods.

For example, at the honest kitchen, we offer both dog-friendly pate’s and stews that can function as either complete meals or healthy mixes.

10. Feed in a Safe Place

If you regularly feed your dog in a busy place, such as the kitchen while the family’s meals are being prepared, your dog may not be able to concentrate on his food. Puppies especially are easily distracted. It’s much better for your dog to feed him in a quiet, safe place. If you have a crate for your dog, that can work. Place his food in the back of his crate and have him eat there.

11. Warm The Food (Helps It Smell More Appetizing)

Your dog’s sense of smell is more important to him than his sense of taste. Therefore, provide food that is warm as it will smell better. Add some warm water or warm some of the ingredients or pop it in the microwave for a few seconds. It shouldn’t be hot, just warm.

12. Get Food Amounts Right And Exercise Regularly

If your pet is otherwise healthy, seems in high spirits, and has energy, try adjusting the amount of food that your dog eats in a day. Fully grown dogs, and older dogs need fewer calories than puppies at their peak of growing. Your dog might simply not need the food at the moment.

If your dog isn’t being exposed to regular exercise, getting them active for at least an hour a day via walks or trips to the dog park can stimulate their appetites.

If you’ve recently moved into a smaller location that also doesn’t provide the yard space that a dog used to have, he or she might also need less food because of their increase in naps and laying around waiting for their next walk.

Ben Kerns

Ben Kerns is a freelance writer, photographer and outdoor adventurer based out of San Diego. When he’s not busy working you can find him hopping across the world looking for new places to climb big rocks. He’s also fanatically obsessed with funding his outdoor obsessions for as little money as possible.
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