By Barbara Martorelli

How to Feed a Picky Dog

Best Ways to Feed Picky Dogs

Just like people, dogs can have different reasons for not eating, such as not liking the food that’s available or feeling uncomfortable in a new environment or just being a little bit spoiled!!! However, there’s always the possibility of an underlying medical reason why your dog’s not eating, so if your dog suddenly loses interest in food or won’t eat at all for 24 hours, please take them to the vet and get it checked out. If your dog is in good health but just won’t eat, keep reading for tips dog parents can use to motivate their picky eater.

Create a Feeding Routine

Dogs need routines, and mealtime is no exception. Figure out a feeding schedule that works for you and your dog. Offer food at the appointed mealtimes, let it sit for up to 30 minutes, then remove it. Letting food sit out all day can lead to bad eating habits and is also unsanitary. Remove the uneaten dog food after 30 minutes so your dog can learn that they need to eat their food when it’s served. Remember to never leave raw or wet dog food out for more than two hours.

Optimize the Location

If you have multiple dogs, they should each have their own designated space to eat. For us, when our new pup Frida entered the picture, Dewey was more than happy to move his eating to a new location but for some, the "older" dog should be fed in the same location and the "newer" pup should have a new place to eat.  If possible, choose somewhere quiet where your dog won’t be disturbed by children, foot traffic, or noise. Some dogs like to eat in their crate, so that is always an option. Once you find a place that works for your dog, then feed them in the same place each time so the setting becomes part of the routine.

Use the Right Bowl

There are different types of dog food bowls you can get depending on your dog’s needs and preferences. Avoid plastic bowls which can affect the smell and taste of dog food, and are also more likely to harbor bacteria. Stainless steel dog food bowls are the easiest to sanitize and won’t change the taste of the food. No matter which type of bowl you use, wash it with soap and water after every use so there’s no “old food smell” which could deter your dog from eating.

If you have a senior or arthritic dog, they might appreciate a raised food bowl that makes it easier for them to eat. Flat-faced dogs eat with a scooping movement and it can be hard for them to get all the bits of food around the edges of the bowl, so you may want to try a bowl specially designed for brachycephalic breeds.  We used a raised feeder for our pups - right now, 6" high is perfect, but as Frida grows, so will her raised feeder!

Don’t Feed Treats or Table Scraps

Ugghh - let's admit it - this is the hardest one but we all know it!!!  Feeding your picky eater treats and table scraps is only making the problem worse. If your dog has come to expect a lot of “shares” of your food, you can try pretending that you’re snacking on the dog’s food and share some when they beg - never works with Dewey, lol, but give it a shot. It is best to not start the bad habit of feeding table scraps but if it is too late, try sprinkling our Pawcasso Crumble or another type of treat, on top of the food - this way they feel like they are getting the good stuff too!

Try a Topper

Not to repeat ourselves, but dog food toppers and mix-ins can make mealtime more exciting and encourage regular eating. Try using Pawcasso Crumble as a topper to make your dog’s meals more enticing. Our beef and veggie mix has been a hit - I think it is the earthiness of the yam skins that makes the doggies love it.  Of course, you can also mix in small amounts of human foods that are safe for dogs to eat, such as peanut butter, cheese, pumpkin, cooked eggs, or yogurt but refer to the paragraph above. To keep things interesting for your dog, rotate meal toppers (or food types) so your choosy dog has something different to taste on a regular basis.  We are constantly offering new flavor combos or buy a few and make your own mix.

Experiment with Texture

If your dog has been eating the same kind of food for a while, offer them dog food in a different format to see if it renews their interest. Consider trying different textures, such as:

  • Frozen raw dinner patties
  • Frozen raw dinner morsels
  • Freeze-dried raw dinner patties
  • Gently cooked dog food
  • Raw-coated dog kibble with raw bits
  • Dog food stews
  • Shredded wet dog food
  • Dog food paté

You can also change up the texture of dog kibble or freeze-dried food by mixing in some water or bone broth, which also helps your dog stay hydrated.  We carry Tailwaggers Doggy Beer at Pawcasso and some dogs love it when added to their food.

When trying out different types of dog food, start with small amounts and transition your dog gradually to avoid digestive upset.  And, of course, always keep pumpkin on hand.

Find a New Flavor

You can also stoke your dog’s enthusiasm for eating by switching up the main protein. Our dog food recipes include many different proteins for dogs, including beef, chicken, fish, turkey, pork, venison, lamb, duck, and rabbit.

Warming up dog food enhances the smell and flavor, which can stimulate appetite. Add a little warm (not hot) water or warm broth to kibble.  This is Dewey's favorite - anything warm gets him going!

Factor in Food Sensitivity

It’s possible your dog’s picky eating behavior stems from a food sensitivity. The most common ingredients causing food sensitivity or allergy in dogs are:

  • Dairy
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Corn
  • Wheat gluten
  • Additives like preservatives, dyes, and artificial flavors

Choose dog food recipes that are free from artificial ingredients, preservatives, wheat, corn, soy, nuts, and dairy. You may also consider poultry-free and beef-free recipes, and limited-ingredient dog food diets that can offer relief for dogs with food sensitivities.

Work Up an Appetite

Is your dog getting enough exercise each day (and, are you)? If not, their decreased appetite could be due to decreased activity. In general, healthy adult dogs need at least an hour of exercise every day. Good ways to add more activity to your dog’s routine include:

  • Daily walks
  • Playing fetch
  • Swimming
  • Tug-of-war
  • Hide and seek
  • Obedience training
  • Backyard (or indoor) obstacle course

Giving your dog plenty of playtime and interaction is also good for their digestion and can help manage stress if your dog has anxiety.

By following these tips and incorporating Pawcasso Treats and Pawcasso Crumble into your dog’s diet, you can help ensure that even the pickiest of eaters looks forward to mealtime.