Try These Tips To Get Your Picky Dog To Eat Their Food

Woman feeding her pet dog training him to wait for his food

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It seems there are three types of dogs in this world: those who will eat absolutely everything, food or otherwise; those who have great portion control and dutifully eat only what you give them; and those who are total food snobs and turn their noses up at that gourmet food you just gave them.

That third type might cause the most frustration at mealtime: the dreaded Picky Eater. If this is your dog, fear not — you can turn them around and get them to eat!

Here are some tricks you can use to be sure your pup is getting all the nutrition they need.

Talk To Your Vet

It’s possible there’s a very good health reason your dog may not be interested in the food you’re giving them.

Dental pains are a common reason dogs may show disinterest at meal time, or there may be an even more concerning underlying health problem, like allergies to a certain ingredient. This should definitely be your first step if your dog’s disinterest in their food is sudden or if you have reason to suspect a health issue.

Call your vet within eight to twelve hours if your dog won’t eat and is also experiencing vomiting or diarrhea.

Try A Different Dog Food

Cute black dog, looking up at the camera and licking lips.

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Try not to feel frustrated with your dog; they have taste preferences, just like we humans do. Generally, most dogs are pretty versatile with their chow, but some may just not like certain ingredients or changes a manufacturer made to their usual food.

Most importantly, make sure you’re getting a high-quality, veterinarian-recommended food.

If you really want to give your dog a culinary delight, try experimenting with different flavors, bases, and recipes to see what they like best, whether it’s chicken, pork, beef, salmon, venison, etc.

You can try both dry or wet foods, but, fair warning, if they’re already picky, you may have a very hard time transitioning them back to dry food after they’ve had wet food.

One way you can try keeping costs down during this tasting tour is to check with your vet if they have samples you could try. You could also try calling reaching out to dog food companies to find out if they can send you samples, so you don’t have to invest in a huge bag of food when you don’t know if your dog will like or not.

Don’t Spoil Them With Table Scraps

Not spoiling your dog may feel like someone asking you not to breathe, but it’s for their own good.

We know dogs are smart and playful, and sometimes, those traits team up to work against us when they decide to play a game of protest, holding out to try to get something better. This may sound obvious, but it can be hard to comprehend, since we know table scraps are just a sometimes-treat, never a whole meal.

If your dog has gotten confused — or just become a total diva — then try reserving human foods as a reward for good behavior or following commands, and try separating those treats from your human mealtime. Be sure to keep those human food treats healthy and dog-friendly, like plain bits of meat, carrot, or tiny pieces of cheese.

Make sure you don’t unwittingly reward bad behavior, like begging at the table, which will reinforce those habits.

If those tips won’t work, it may be time to go cold turkey on that cold turkey — consider doing away with table scraps and human food treats altogether until your dog learns to eat their food diligently.

Hold Out After A Medical Or Dental Procedure

black and white dog seated awaiting for its food bowl

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My little Maltipoo, Leia, has the unfortunate predisposition of dogs her size to have dental challenges. After tooth extractions, the vet instructions for us are to give her soft food, either her usual kibble, soaked and softened, or wet dog food, for about five to seven days.

One time, she decided to protest after that soft food period was over and not eat any of her regular dry food. Being the doting, concerned, gullible dog mom I am, I decided to keep wetting her food. I mentioned it to her dog dad, who said he was sure that she was just manipulating us so she could keep getting wet food.

I held out and didn’t give her any choice except her dry food, even when she refused to eat for a whole day. Dogs can go for several days without eating, not that it’s fun to watch!

Lo and behold, Leia resumed eating her usual food when she realized nothing better was coming along. This was important and a relief, as our vet told us dry food is helpful in maintaining good dental health in little dogs if they can tolerate it.

Moral of the story: Give it a day or two to make sure your dog isn’t just protesting to get a food that’s less healthy for them. You can call your vet if you’re concerned.

Remember: Location, Location, Location!

It’s not just a motto for realtors. There’s a chance your dog is reluctant to eat their food because it’s in an uncomfortable position for them — perhaps too close to a draft, too near a territorial fellow pet, too low to the ground, or for any number of reasons.

Try a different bowl, height, or room for your dog’s mealtime. A simple change in feeding location may work wonders.

Find The Right Timing

Jack Russell Terrier dog carrying in mouth metal plate

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You probably know dogs are social animals, most likely to be active when you’re around. Did you know that can go for their hunger, too?

They may just want to share their mealtime with you — aww — so try serving them at a time when you’re home with them, or even during your own mealtime.

Up The Activity Level

It’s possible being a couch potato has made actual foods less appealing for your dog.

Try taking them on a walk or playing outside for awhile to work up an appetite. Burning off calories makes room for more, after all!

Try increasing your dog’s activity level overall to see a result. You may need a few days of effort for the change to kick in.

Does your dog ever refuse to eat their regular food? Do you have stories or tips from your own picky eater dog? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!

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