How to Make a Picky Dog Eat


No two dogs are the same when it comes to appearance and character, but we tend to think of one constant among canines:  a love of food.

Now, while most dogs will wolf down anything within reach, owners of dogs who are picky eaters can find Rover’s mealtimes challenging and frustrating.

Beyond the grief this causes you, your dog will also be suffering and you obviously don’t want that.

The good news is, with a little patience and persistence, you should turn mealtime back into your furball’s favorite time of day.

How can you do that, then?

8 Ways to Make a Picky Dog Eat

  1. Start by taking your dog to the vet
  2. If your dog eats dry food, liven up dull kibble
  3. Limit treats while cutting back on portions
  4. Gradually transition to a tastier dog food
  5. Make sure your dog gets enough exercise
  6. Ensure that you’re feeding your dog the right amount of food
  7. Stop feeding your dog table scraps
  8. Keep his feeding routine consistent but add some variety to the food

1) Start by taking your dog to the vet

If your dog is rejecting his food out of the blue and has suddenly become a picky eater, there could be an underpinning medical issue.

Some of the most common conditions that can trigger picky eating include:

  • Vaccination side effects
  • Dental disease
  • Parasites
  • Swallowing foreign objects
  • Allergies
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Arthritis
  • Spine issues

If you notice the quality of your dog’s coat diminishing at the same time as his waistline, schedule an immediate appointment with the vet.

2) If your dog eats dry food, liven up dull kibble

Most experts agree that dry dog food offers your dog the optimum nutritional experience, giving the high moisture content of wet dog food.

Health benefits set aside, not all dogs enjoy dry kibble. Ask yourself how much you would enjoy food that was entirely dry.

When you’re feeding your dog kibble, ensure the formula is made from premium ingredients. A high-grade kibble made with protein from real meat as the first ingredient will be much more likely to tempt picky eaters than one containing meat by-products, grains, and cheap bulking agents.

Adding some warm water to Rover’s kibble will help to fully release all of the aromas, often enough to tempt a fussy dog to the bowl.

If this still doesn’t do the trick, try adding a spoonful or two of wet food to that dull, dry kibble. Wet food might not impart the same goodness as dry dog food, but it is recognized as the tastier option. Less is more here, so use a light touch and you might be surprised at the results.

3) Limit treats while cutting back on portions

Keep treats to a bare minimum if your pooch is a fussy eater. Overloading him on treats when he rejects his food is like giving candy to kids after they turn down their dinner.

Scale back on portion size if you see your dog struggling to finish his food. Speak with your vet for advice concerning his daily caloric requirements.

4) Gradually transition to a tastier dog food

Sometimes, you may just need to switch up your dog’s food.

If you feel a change of food could be the answer, try to avoid swapping to a similar flavor. If you’re finding Fido is uninterested in his chicken-based food, look for salmon or venison formulas instead.

When you’re changing to a new dog food for picky eaters, you should make the transition gradually over a period of ten days. For the first three days, give Fido 75% of his old food with 25% new food. From days 4 to 6, aim for a 50/50 split of old and new food. From days 7 to 9, introduce 75% new food with 25% old food. On day 10, Fido should be ready to try all-new food.

5) Make sure your dog gets enough exercise

You can often use exercise to prompt a picky eater into wolfing down his food.

Exercise makes dogs hungry, and any day that’s genuinely hungry will find it hard to turn down food, even if it’s not exactly what he wants.

If you already give your dog plenty of exercise, try increasing the intensity of his regime.

6) Ensure that you’re feeding your dog the right amount of food

Overfeeding dogs is surprisingly common. Not only can this lead to health conditions like obesity, but you can also find your dog failing to finish his food.

Try reducing portion sizes until Rover manages to eat the whole serving.

7) Stop feeding your dog table scraps

Are you sharing your own dinner with your furball?

If so, you should stop this.

It will be tough to convince him to eat a bowl of kibble if he is pretty confident a burger or hunk of steak will be coming up later.

Luckily, this can be easily remedied by exercising a little discipline, ignoring your mutt’s pleading eyes, and keeping your dinner for yourself.

8) Keep his feeding routine consistent but add some variety to the food

To minimize the chance of fussy eating in dogs, keep his feeding routine consistent. Dogs are suckers for routine, so bear these pointers in mind:

  • Feed your dog the same amount of food
  • Feed your dog the same type of food
  • Use the same bowl
  • Keep feeding to the same time and place

Maintain this consistency, and you might find a picky dog starting to lap up his food.


We hope you enjoyed today’s exploration of how to make a picky dog eat. Be prepared to try out a few of these strategies until you find one that yields dividends. Then, all you need to do is make sure not to overfeed your dog!

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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