picky dog: how to get them to eat | Pupford

Picky Dog: What to Do When Your Dog Won’t Eat [Updated for 2020]

A picky dog. Who would have thought that could be a thing?

When your dog won’t eat their food, it can drive you crazy (and make you nervous about their health).

In this article, I’ll tell you ways to avoid picky dogs. And, if your dog is picky already, how to overcome it!

Let’s do this!

a white picky dog on grass | Pupford

But first… a quick story. (If you want, you can skip ahead here)

When I was a kid I absolutely HATED beets. And that hatred (similar to how much most dogs hate bath time) continued on for years. I mean, if I could eat Starbursts, why would I choose beets?!

Then, at age 26, my wife put into layman’s terms why I should eat beets. The vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc. blah blah blah. Meh, I was still uninterested and “stubborn and picky” – her words not mine.

A few weeks ago, something miraculous happened though. My wife bought some beets from our local farmer’s market and whipped them up with some delicious goat cheese and other ingredients.

Honestly, I still wasn’t a huge fan at first. I only took a couple of bites before moving over to the buttery mashed potatoes on my plate.

Strangely though, I found myself going back to the beets. It’s like my body actually knew they were good for me. And now, I ask my wife pretty frequently to whip up those delicious beets again.

What does this have to do with your dog and their diet?

Well, if your pup is a picky eater he’s likely similar to the 13-year-old version of me – would rather eat treats (Starbursts), barely touches the healthy things in their bowl (beets), and is overall quite picky about their food.

Well, I’m here to tell you, there is hope for your picky dog!

dog with pet insurance | Pupford

Podcast Episode for a Picky Dog

For more podcast episodes, check out the Perfect Pup podcast here.

Video Episode for a Picky Dog

If you want to see more videos like this, head to our YouTube channel here. 

General Tips to Help a Picky Dog

Let’s face it, sometimes our pup’s bad eating habits and pickiness is a direct result of our own choices. Even if you’ve helped create a picky monster 😉 there are still steps that can be taken to reduce the pickiness and help your pup love mealtime!

Here is an overview of some ways to help a picky dog:

  • Avoid table scraps and human food
  • Stick to a consistent schedule
  • Make mealtime fun
  • Give enough exercise
  • Don’t overfeed
  • Be patient
  • Use meal toppers/enhancements

Now a deeper dive into each topic ⤵️

Avoid Tables Scraps and Human Food

No matter how cute the puppy eyes may be, do your best to avoid giving your buddy any table scraps or human food. If your pup gets used to having table scraps, why would they ever want to eat their own food?

On top of it creating a picky eater, giving your dog table scraps is a very fast way to get an overweight pup! That is not good.

Overweight dogs are often more prone to joint problems, organ issues, and other health issues.

a pit bull with it's tongue out | Pupford

Stick to a Consistent Feeding Schedule

Dogs are creatures of habit. That truth goes for training, feeding, and so many aspects of their life. For a full breakdown of feeding schedules, see our article here.

Sticking to a consistent daily feeding schedule can help your pup learn to be less picky and to eat when it’s mealtime.

For dogs on a two-meal schedule, make sure that their meals are within the same 30-60 minute window every day. For example, always feed breakfast between 7:30 and 8:30 am.

On top of the time of day, be sure to keep your feeding time to a limited window. Once the bowl is down, help your pup learn that they only have a certain amount of time to eat (roughly 20-30 minutes). This will help your pup understand that mealtime means that is the time to eat.

Every dog is different, but this method has helped many picky dogs learn to eat at mealtime!

Make Mealtime Fun for a Picky Dog

muffin tin game | Pupford

Some dogs just get bored with their food in a regular old bowl.

Use mealtime as an opportunity to exercise their mind, and in turn, make them more excited about their food!

You can try some of the following ideas ?

  • Puzzle feeders
  • Muffin tin game
  • Feeding part of meals from Kong toys
  • Use their meal as training rewards
  • Snuffle mats
  • Foraging boxes

If you want some more ideas on mealtime enrichment, try some of the ideas found in this article.

Give Your Dog Enough Exercise

dog running with human after hearing a high pitched noise | Pupford

Just like us humans, when your dog exercises more often and is active, their appetite increases. If your pup is acting extremely picky, be sure to ask yourself if your pup is getting enough exercise and playtime.

Your little doggo may need just a little more time to play fetch to work up an appetite.

On a similar note, feeding your pup right after a walk or a game of fetch is often the best time to feed a picky dog!

Don’t Overfeed Your Dog

One common reason that pups seem to be picky or not interested in food is that they are getting too much food.

Every bag of dog food has a feeding guide, often with general guidelines based on your dog’s weight and activity level. Those feeding guidelines are typically okay for every pup, but it’s important to remember that each dog has unique circumstances.

Some dogs who weigh the same can be an entirely different dog! Factors including their living conditions, amount of exercise, feeding history, and so much more can affect how much food they need to eat.

With that being said, keep an eye on any movements in your dog’s weight and monitor to see if they are eating too much food. Use the image below as a guide to check if your pup is at a healthy weight.

You should be able to easily feel your pup’s ribs under a slight covering of fat.

ideal dog weight guide | Pupford

Give Your Pup Time

a picky dog laying on the carpet | Pupford

Sometimes you just need to be more patient… and not give in to your picky dog!

It may take a little patience, and this may sound a bit drastic, but healthy dogs won’t let themselves starve.

Obviously, we’re not advocating starving your poor dog… just like a good parent wouldn’t starve their human child, but they would make them eat their veggies whether they liked em or not 🙂 Your dog will eat eventually.

And if the food they finally eat is high quality, they’ll feel better and act better as a result.

Using Toppers or Meal Enhancements

Honestly, this should be one of your final options for helping your picky dog.

Once you go the route of toppers and/or meal enhancements, recognize that it will be very hard to ever go back.

Here are some popular toppers and enhancements worth checking out for your picky dog!

Recap & Overview for a Picky Dog

Above all, be patient and don’t give in too easily to your picky dog.

Remember, they are creatures of habit and once you give in, it’s hard to turn back!

Is your dog picky? Tell us what has best helped them in the comments below ?

Written by Devin Stagg

Since being deprived of dogs during his childhood, he and his wife decided to make up for it by having three dogs, two Lab puppies, and one grandpa Puggle. Meaning he is ALWAYS covered in dog hair. When he’s not busy training his dogs and/or picking up their poop, you can find him cheering on Tottenham Hotspur and the Cleveland Browns (yes, you read that right).

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