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How Do I Get My Dog to Eat Dry Dog Food?

by Irene Hislop

09 January 2020

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Some dogs are fussy eaters. While most will goggle down anything, including plenty of non-food items, a minority turn up their noses at dog food. Often they are holding out for something better, something the people are eating. And often, we know better but cave anyway and hope that mixing some of our food into theirs will get them to eat well. Dogs are pretty clever at picking out the bits of food they want and ignoring the rest.  Some will even take a mouthful of food and spit out the bits they don’t want. So how do you get  your dog to eat dry dog food? Don’t despair, we have some long term solutions to get your dog back on track with healthy eating!

First, you should of course rule out any medical issue. If your dog suddenly stops eating and doesn’t eat for more than a day or if your dog seems at all ill when they stop eating, that merits a visit to the vet. If your dog slowly stops eating, it is still no harm to consult your vet. A variety of medical problems from a toothache to cancer can affect your dog’s appetite, and it is important to make sure that is not root of the problem. But some dogs become more picky in obvious ways. They’ll only eat certain treats, for example. Or they will devour your food or cat food while ignoring their own. Those are the dogs who need a whole new approach to meals.

Why Do Dogs Reject Their Food?

If a dog is healthy, the main reason they reject their food is because they, like children, would rather eat treat foods and don’t understand the importance of diet to their overall health and well-being. Many of us are a big part of the problem. We adore our fur babies and we can’t resist those pleading eyes and sure a little won’t do any harm… It is sooo hard to resist, but like with children, it really is best to stick to the rules. An occasional treat is a fine thing, but it isn’t a treat if they get it every day.

Another thing to consider is portion size. If your dog is eating some but not all of their food, you might just be feeding more than they need. Check your dog’s weight and the guidelines on the bag of dog food, and feed the minimum recommended for your dog’s size. Dry dog food should be measured with a scoop specific to the brand, and the pet shop where you buy the food should be able to provide one.

How Do You Get Your Dog to Eat Dry Dog Food?

Shaking the dish and pleading doesn’t work, so what can you do? Here’s a list of things, and you can try them all to get your dog to eat dry dog food.

  1. Stop all treats and table scraps during the day. If your dog can fill up on goodies, they won’t eat their nutritious food. You don’t have to eliminate all the treats, but don’t offer them unless and until your dog has eaten their dry dog food. A small, low-calorie treat such as Leader Train Me treats are good because your dog can have a few without filling up.
  2. Get moving! An active dog is a hungry dog. Don’t feed your dog right before or after exercise, but try serving their dinner half an hour after a brisk walk.
  3. Serve two smaller meals instead of one large one.
  4. Try to feed your dog at the same time every day. Dogs thrive on a predictable routine.
  5. Feed your dog after you’ve had your meal and tidied up. Seeing that there are no table scraps coming their way will encourage them to eat their own food.
  6. Put your dog on a rotation diet where every three to six months, you switch foods. Alternate between two high-quality dry dog foods such as Leader and Go Native.
  7. If your dog doesn’t eat the food within 30 minutes, pick it up and try again in an hour. (This works for dry dog food, but not wet. For wet food, you’d need to use fresh food each time, which involves a lot of waste.)
  8. Alternatively, try free feeding where you set out the day’s food and just leave it there for the dog to have whenever they want. The trick to this is to be careful to measure out the day’s portion of food and not keep topping up the dish.
  9. Consider changing where your dog eats. If your dog’s dish is in a busy part of the house, try moving it to a quieter spot. If it is an out-of-the-way location, put it somewhere with more activity. Dogs are individuals. Some will be too distracted or intimidated to eat if there are lots of people around, while others will feel isolated if they eat alone. If you have more than one dog, they can have tension over food and that can result in one feeling intimidated at mealtime and not eating.
  10. Give your dog some focused attention before you feed them. If they feel topped up with attention, they will be more relaxed and less distracted.
  11. Puzzle toys that hold food your dog has to retrieve can be great for dogs that get distracted while eating.
  12. Make sure your dog actually likes the food you are feeding, and that it is nutritious and appropriate for your dog’s size, age and activity level.

One Thing You Should Never Do

When your dog seems bored with their food, it seems like offering a variety of foods would help. But dogs really are not like us that way. They love routine and predictability. Switching their food daily or weekly is likely to result in stomach pains and diarrhoea. When you do switch food, do so gradually. Start with a mix of one part new food to three parts old food and slowly increase the new while decreasing the old.

The 12 tips above should help get your picky eater cheerfully munching their dry dog food. If they don’t, it might time to check in with your vet.

Irene Hislop

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