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Is Your Dog a Picky Eater?

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

Growing up, my family dogs were all outdoor dogs. Needless to say, I didn’t know that a pet could be a picky eater. My parents figured they would eat if they got hungry enough or catch something in the wild.

When I had a family of my own and we got dogs, I sort of expected that rescue dogs would simply be grateful to have food and only dogs from breeders would ever be the fussy type. After six years in the pet industry, I know that is not true. Picky eaters may be any breed whether adopted or purchased from a breeder. This picky eating phenomenon may be our fault as the doting pet parent!

I don’t want to offend anyone who has a picky eating dog by saying that people are responsible for making picky eaters out of their pets. So, I won’t say that, but several breeders and trainers indicate that this is very often the case.

We love to feed and give treats to our pets. It feels nice to show them love and care. Just remember, dogs have a very strong survival instinct. As long as they don’t have a medical condition that contraindicates fasting, they can go several days without food and be fine.

And maybe you are ok with having a finicky pet. Maybe you enjoy the challenge of finding the next topper for their food.

That’s the case in our household. Our pups are not picky eaters, but we have a spinning spice rack with 12 varieties of superfood seasonings that are both healthy and delicious. We keep the base food the same, but love to provide a variety by sprinkling toppers on their dry kibble. I feel like the variety of protein exposures and the superfoods that are in it, make the experience different for them.

Here’s the good news, if humans are responsible for causing a pet to be a picky eater, we can be part of the solution! Would you like a few tips for reversing a picky eater? Great! Here we go!

Limit Access to Meals

Dogs love a schedule. Keep mealtimes at routine times. Offer food for the morning mealtime. Only leave it out for about 15 minutes and then if it hasn’t been finished, put it up and don’t let them have access to it until the next mealtime. They’ll know that if they don’t eat now, they’ll have the chance in a few hours.

If it’s dry kibble you can use the same food. If it's wet food, its safest to throw it away and get fresh food for the next mealtime. To avoid waste, only offer a small amount of wet food. If they finished it within 15 minutes and needed more just add a little more.

Table Scraps

You and your household must resist the urge to feed human food from the table. Feeding complete and balanced meals is really important but tough to do when you throw in table scraps. If you are going to give some human food to your pets, I highly recommend putting it in their bowl with their meals rather than hand feeding at the table or kitchen. You’ll be less likely to over feed if you see it all in their bowl.

A few other reminders:

· Don’t salt their food (boiled chicken with no salt added)

· Don’t add oils or butters (dry scramble eggs)

· Use frozen green beans, peas or carrots

Don’t Change Their Food

If your dog is thriving on high-quality food that is complete and balanced but not finding it palatable, keep them on it but find ways to make it more enjoyable. Switching foods can often cause gastrointestinal problems. If you realize you do need to change foods, you want to gradually switch very slowly by adding a little of the new food at a time. Take several days or weeks to make the change. Here's a quiz you can take to see which recipe is best for your pet.


Are treats spoiling their appetite? That may be an obvious reason for a dog not eating its meal but it’s a relatively easy one to fix! Start rationing out their daily kibble with some set aside for the treats. We use the shaker seasonings with the kibble to make it a true treat.

Where Are They Eating?

Do they have their own dedicated space? Would they prefer and do better in an out of the way place like a bathroom or laundry room? Dogs like to have a routine place that is their own for enjoying mealtimes.

Lastly, I wanted to share a little reminder and a warning. There are a whole range of reasons why a dog may present as a picky eater, some are benign reasons but some can be on the more serious side. If a dog suddenly becomes less interested in eating, or is losing weight or losing hair, think about things that may be going on concurrently. Is your dog under stress or experiencing anxiety? Do they have a bad tooth making it uncomfortable to eat? Should you consult with your veterinarian? Our pets depend on us to do what’s best for them.

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