Not all dogs fit the stereotype of being eating machines.
As a matter of fact, many dogs are quite picky when it comes to their food – even requiring encouragement to consume their daily meals.
So what do you do if your dog doesn’t want to eat his/her food?
Below we’ve compiled our favorite tips and tricks to help encourage your dog to get the nutrition that they need. This includes plenty of homemade solutions as well as a few products designed just for the task!
Getting a Picky Dog to Eat
Narrowing Down the Problem
First things first, you will want to make sure there are no health reasons which may be causing them to lose interest in their food. In particular, watch out for sudden changes in your dogs behavior, weight loss, or signs of pain. You may even want to schedule a visit with your vet to consult them on them matter just to be sure that your dog has a clean bill of health!
Once you feel confident that everything is OK physically, you may want to consider a different brand of food or protein source. Even if you are already feeding a premium food, some dogs will simply have a taste preference. We have switched up brands of food several times over the years as our boys developed a lack of interest in it – even after eating it for years prior!
TIP: Many pet food stores actually have a policy that allows you to return open bags of food if your dog will not eat them!
Simple Homemade Solutions
Yes, you read that correctly!
Simply mixing a bit of hot water with their food will help to release aromas which may pique your dogs interest.
Dogs have up to 300 million sensory receptors in their noses. As a comparison, humans have only about 6 million! Though dogs have a great sense of smell not all breeds/dogs sense of smell is created equal leading to quite a bit of variation! Think of it like this, if you’ve ever had a bad cold and can’t smell, you know its hard to have a taste for anything! So while dogs have a better sense of smell than humans, lots of kibble is significantly less aromatic than our human food. No wonder they need some encouragement!
When something like kibble mixes with water, tiny particles are dissolved into it. Through evaporation, these small particles will begin to float about the air and should grab the attention of your furry friend!
Another benefit of mixing food with water is that it will soften up dry dog kibble. Some dogs do not like the crunch of kibble, and prefer a softer meal!
Similar to the water option, heating up your dogs food helps to increase the aromas it emits. This is because the molecules become excited as heat is added and are able to “break away” and float into the air.
10-15 seconds in the microwave in a ceramic or glass bowl is all you will need to give this option a try. Just make sure to touch the food yourself to confirm that it is not too hot!
Adding a bit of chicken, beef, or vegetable broth to your dogs food is a great way to encourage your dog to eat. Just make sure to choose one that is low sodium and onion free (onions are toxic to dogs)!
Better yet, make your own if you have the time! A homemade bone stock provides tons of health benefits and you get to control exactly what is in it!
Add in a Bit of Healthy “Human Food”
- Eggs – These can be raw (if you are comfortable with that) or cooked. Just remember to adjust for the extra 70 or so calories that a large egg will add to their meal!
- Yogurt – Not only is it tasty, but yogurt is loaded with the probiotics to help keep a dogs stomach in balance. Make sure to stick to plain – flavored yogurts are packed with sugar that your dog does not need!
- Cottage Cheese-Depending on whether your dog tolerates dairy well, cottage cheese can be an inexpensive and high protein addition to your dogs food. Once again, be sure to adjust for calories!
- Fruits and Veggies – Our boys love bananas, carrots, green beans, and apples but there are TONS of great options. Check out this list of healthy fruits and vegetables for dogs from our friends at Puppy Leaks for more ideas.
Mixing in a Wet Food
Perhaps your dog is not a big fan of the consistency or texture of their food.
Mixing in a bit of wet dog food into their dinner will not only create a more enticing meal by increasing the aromas, but it will soften the kibble due to the higher moisture content.
TIP: Your current food likely also has a wet option in the exact same flavor so that you don’t have to worry about causing stomach upset!
Use a Bit of Psychology to Create a FOMA (Fear of Missing Out)!
Believe it or not, some good old fashioned jealousy can work wonders in grabbing your dogs attention. Everyone wants what they can’t (or shouldn’t) have, right?
Try these psychological tricks to see if they change your dogs attitude about the food they are getting:
- Pretending to eat it yourself
- “Preparing” it on the stove-top or kitchen counter
- Remove the food after a set amount of time if it has not been eaten. If your dog learns that it is not always available they will be more apt to eat up while they can.
- Make it a game! There are lots of easy DIY or ready to purchase options! Create a DIY puzzle by putting some of your dogs food in an empty and clean 2 liter soda bottle with the cap off. You can also get fancy and purchase a pre-made option like a snuffle mat or boredom busting game!
If nothing else seems to be working try hand feeding your dog. It may sound extreme, but if you are really worried that they are not getting the nutrition that they need, it is absolutely worth a try.
Your dog has developed a strong connection with you and wants to please you. Because of this, they may feel more comfortable taking food directly out of your hand vs. a bowl on the floor. Work with them over time to transition them into eating from their bowl.
Dog Food Toppers and Mixers
Now that we have taken a look at some options that you probably already had at home, lets dive into a few commercial products designed specifically for this sort of thing.
Basics Brands FLAVORS Food Toppers
FLAVORS food toppers are a simple way to add some variety to your dogs next meal.
These all natural, grain-free, powdered mixes can be sprinkled directly onto their current food. Best of all? They come in 5 different varieties including Ocean Fish, Sweet Potato, Chicken, Red Meat, and White Cheddar.
We recently had the chance to try out these flavor mixers and both boys loved them!
Stella & Chewy’s Meal Mixers
Can you think of anything that would grab your dog’s attention like raw meat?
Well, Stella & Chewy’s Meal Mixers allow you to give your dog a taste of raw – without the hassle. Meal Mixers consist of 95% nutrient-rich meat, organs and bone, all in a freeze dried form. This can be added directly to your dog’s current food or even served on it’s own.
TIP: Mix it with a bit of water to release an aroma that your dog won’t be able to resist!
Primal Freeze Dried Raw
Another Raw option in a freeze dried form, Primal’s nuggets come in several different varieties including beef, chicken, pork, and turkey/sardine.
Primal’s freeze dried raw dog food is completely self stable so you don’t need to worry about finding space in your refrigerator. These large chunks of meat can be crumbled and re-hydrated in a matter of minutes.
While the formulas make for a complete meal in and of themselves, they make for and amazing topper to your dogs current food.
Have you ever dealt with a picky eater?
What techniques have worked for you?