As a dog owner, it can be concerning when your dog refuses to eat their food especially when this becomes a frequent occasion. Every dog is different, some may go through phases and other can consistently be fussy. As time goes on, it become more frustrating owners as they rotate between food in a desperate attempt to find food that will get eaten every time.
Being classed as a 'fussy dog' is a broad term. This does not necessarily mean that they are picky about their food but that they are not hungry at the time their food is offered. While missing 1 or 2 meals may seem worrying, the main concern is their overall weight. If they are a healthy weight, it is most probably because they are not hungry.
Main reasons dogs become fussy
- Alternative food is being offered such as treats or human food
- Underlying medical (this is less common)
- Injured dogs
- Age - elderly dogs do see a decline in appetite
- They are not hungry at the time food is presented
Are dogs born fussy?
For some breeds, dogs become fussy from an early age. This leads us to believe that they are born fussy when this isn't the case. It is usually breed dependent or a behaviour that is developed overtime. Dogs who carry this status are usually those who require less food to function such as small and toy breeds including Pomeranians, Poodles, Chihuahua, Shih Tzu and Yorkshire Terriers. This is because they required less calories and therefore are happy to skip a meal or 2. These breeds also aren't always motivated by food. They are more bothered about attention or affection, and they see food as a secondary reward. There is no need to force it if they aren't interested in it all of the time.
Larger breeds tend to be less fussy and are driven by food. Labradors and Beagles fall into this category and are less likely to be classed as fussy as they require a higher calorie intake than small and toy breeds.
Stick to your guns - don't let them train you
It is important that you don't offer an alternative if they do skip a meal or refuse to eat. This can create a cycle where they know if they hold out long enough, they might get offered delicious but less less healthy human food instead! We mustn't underestimate how smart our dogs can be. They know how to train you when it should be the other way around! For example, in the case of a toddler, when offered sweets or chocolate as an alternative for their cottage pie dinner they will choose the sweet over their original dinner.
It's all about consistency
If it's not consumed after 20 minutes, remove the meal and offer a fresh bowl of dog food 12 hours later. This makes sure your dog has access to fresh food twice a day. We recommend our Semi-Moist Roast Chicken dog food. It has been developed to appeal to fussier dogs with more palatable ingredients.
Our food is specifically formulated to provide your dog with the nutrients they need. Feeding your dog solely human food means your dog doesn't get all the nutrients they require to be healthy. Resulting in health problems in their later life.
Table scraps and titbits
Refusing to eat may arise when dogs are given treats and table scraps throughout the day. This fills them up and can leave owners wondering why they don't want to eat their own dinner. This must be avoided. Let them wait until their next meal so that they are hungry and not full on the extras they are given. Once they do eat their own food, make sure you praise them and give lots of attention.
It's important that the whole family are honest about what your dog is being fed. All of those extra pieces of food will add up and can be enough to make them full inevitably putting them off their own food. We wouldn't recommend feeding from the table or giving titbits before their next meal. If you do, they can't be expected to eat a full bowl of their allocated food.
Please see our guide on feeding for more information on treats.
Why is my puppy not eating as much?
Whilst they are growing, puppies require a high calorie intake. However, once they reach 6-12 months their bodies need less calories. You may find that they could easily eat 4 meals a day and are now struggling with 2. This isn't anything to worry about as long as they are a healthy weight for their age and size, they are adjusting to their own growth.
When to worry
Dogs will not normally starve themselves just because they are picky about their food. Although, if your dog should go 48 hours without eating anything please consult your vet.
If they are starting to lose weight, have an upset stomach, or seem down as a result of their picky behaviour please contact your vet.