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A picky eater dog – how to encourage your dog to eat


In my dietary practice, I increasingly encounter problems where a dog’s owner reports to me the dog’s reluctance to eat. Some time ago, this problem was noticeable mainly among cats who were trying to switch to a new diet, but as you can see, a picky dog ​​is also a common problem.

Reasons for a dog’s decreased appetite

Before we start fiddling with the diet, we should first check whether the source of the problem is not health-related. A sudden drop in appetite is very often a symptom of a progressive disease, and not always our pet’s wish. Therefore, if we notice that our dog is starting to eat less and less or refuses meals altogether, blood tests should be performed for morphology, biochemistry, and ionogram. Based on this, we will be able to determine whether our dog is developing any inflammation. It is also worth performing a stool test (even if it is regularly dewormed), as a decrease in appetite may be related to the discomfort the animal feels due to a parasitic infection.

If we rule out health problems, we can start working with a diet.

Veterinary examination of the dog

A picky eater dog – dietary background

Dogs also have their own taste preferences, and although they have a much more limited set of taste buds than humans, they are mainly guided by their sense of smell when choosing a diet. The form of food itself also plays a significant role here, as not all of them will be satisfactory for the dog. As you might guess, dry food will be the least attractive to your dog. Various flavor enhancers and flavors are most often added to such foods to encourage the dog to eat. It will work effectively for one individual, but not necessarily for another. But let’s be honest, a dog wouldn’t naturally choose crisps.

As a carnivorous animal, the diet of a dog should be dominated by a protein of animal origin, or simply put, there should be as much meat as possible. Additionally, if it is in a natural form, it the better for the dog. Therefore, a home diet, or this raw BARFWhether cooked can be much more attractive to a dog than ready-made food.

Good quality wet food is also often effective, as it is more similar to a dog’s natural diet than heavily processed dry food due to its higher moisture content.

Dog eating meat

How to convince a dog to eat?

There are many ways to convince your dog to eat. However, first of all, we should focus on our pet’s current diet and consider whether it is really appropriate. If, after analyzing the composition of the currently used food, we come to the conclusion that it has little to do with the dog’s proper diet, the basis is to change the diet to a better one. Sometimes this one change is the key to success and there is no need to fuss with putting our dog on a diet.

Another issue is common mistakes among dog owners. Two very popular ones are:

  • constant access to food in a bowl;
  • excess of delicacies and variety in the diet;

The dog should have the feeling of getting food, so food that is always available in the bowl is not a good solution. This way, the dog does not have to wait for a meal at all, because he knows that he can come to the bowl at any time and eat. In this way, food loses its attractiveness, and let’s be honest, for a dog, eating a meal should be one of the most enjoyable activities of the day.

You should also not overdo the amount of treats in your dog’s diet. There are situations where the dog will decide what he prefers to eat and if we overdo the amount of treats, he will not be interested in his basic diet and will wait for the treats. This is a very important thing because an excess of treats in a dog’s diet is a very common cause of deficiencies and health problems, e.g. obesity.

However, if the above methods fail, it is worth using various forms of flavoring the meal.

First of all, the dog’s diet should be diverse. We are not talking about diversity here in the context of the structure of food or the diversity of producers. It’s about protein diversity, i.e. the diet should include meat from many animal species. Unless we are talking about an allergic dog, the situation is different and then we carry out the test elimination diet, while in healthy dogs you can easily take care of such diversity. A varied diet will be more attractive to the dog, and therefore it will be more willing to eat.

The palatability of food is also determined by its fatness. According to the study, dogs were given a choice between meals rich in carbohydrates and those rich in fat chose the latter. Of course, moderation must be maintained, as excessive amounts of fat may worsen the taste of the meal and additionally negatively affect the health of our pet.

Therefore, if we want to encourage our dog to eat, we can think about adding fat to the meal. For this purpose, it is best to choose natural fats of animal origin, such as goose or duck lard.

The temperature of the meal also plays an important role, and this applies primarily to moist diets. A dog may not be willing to eat a very cold meal straight from the fridge, although this is a very individual matter for each dog. However, it is worth warming the meal gently to room temperature beforehand, which will make it more aromatic and more attractive to your pet.

In addition to enriching methods, it is also worth considering feeding your dog in an interactive way. We have various options at our disposal, such as special interactive bowls or feeding using a kong. When the dog has to make an effort to get food, such a meal will naturally become more attractive to it.

Dog with a kong

A good way is also to include bones in the dog’s diet, but this is a dedicated method only for dogs on the BARF diet. Eating bones is a very relaxing activity for a dog and has a positive behavioral impact. You can read more about dogs eating bones in the article: “Can a dog eat bones?”.

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