A Finicky Dog’s Guide to Actually Eating by Chiclet T. Dog

Written by Jan on August 6, 2013 – 12:01 pm

sugar doggyIs your dog a delicate creature like myself, possessed of an ultra-discriminating palate? Does she seek perfection in every morsel, but find all too often that even perfection isn’t good enough? Is she fickle like moi, loving chicken one day and hating it another?

Fortunately, my Mom convinces me to eat enough to sustain life, and even build health.  Here are some of her general tips, followed by some of her patented tricks:

  • Make sure your dog is hungry. You’d think this would be obvious, but my friends say it isn’t.  Give your dog 20-30 minutes to eat, then remove the food. She’ll quickly learn the value of eating promptly or will suffer the dreaded growling tummy.
  • News flash: dogs like some foods and not others. If you love your dog, feed her food she loves.
  • Give your poor dog some variety. Alternating foods or giving just a few bites of something different can whet the appetite.  How would you like being forced to eat the same darn food day after day – especially if you don’t like it? Talk about animal cruelty!
  • Make sure your dog’s dining area has a good view. Dogs like to look out into a room, not stare into a corner.  Don’t ever let us feel we might be ambushed from behind. We don’t want to be ambushed from behind.
  • Segregate your finicky dog from pushy chow hounds, strangers and boisterous kids.
  • Feed your dog in a quiet, happy place. If your dog considers her crate (or laundry room or garage) a penalty box, don’t feed her there.
  • Consider if a new medicine, housemate, bed or whatever could be affecting her appetite. Or maybe you changed foods too abruptly and she has a tummy ache.
  • Make sure the food isn’t spoiled or tainted. Smell it to make sure it’s fresh. Yes, I know, most processed foods smell like a decaying corpse. But does the food smell like the same corpse as usual? Throw out any kibble with an “off” smell and check the Internet for recalls on the brand. Feeding tainted food is not habit forming. It can be deadly.
  • If the meal is a stew or other mixture of foods, make sure your dog likes all the ingredients. One icky ingredient can spoil the whole meal.
  • Warm refrigerated food.  Your dog doesn’t like cold, hard food any more than you do.
  • Don’t mix supplements with food. Liquefy them then squirt them into your dog’s mouth using a hypodermic (with no needle)

Here are a few sneaky tricks:

  • Sometimes just swallowing a bite or two will jumpstart the appetite. “Accidentally drop a few bites of food on the floor near her dish.  Off-floor dining makes us feel like we’re getting away with murder. Weird, I know. It’s a dog thing.
  • Hand-feed a few bites but do NOT let your little darling trick you into making this a habit. Her being finicky may really be a clever ploy to train you. (I feel like a traitor admitting this.)
  • Flavor the food with a wee bit of garlic warmed in oil (or use a tasty garlic-flavored oil). Mom drizzles a few drops of garlicky liquid from a jar of organic roasted garlic into some coconut oil; then she whooshes cold and/or raw foods around in it. The jarred garlic keeps her hands from getting stinky from cutting fresh garlic — which makes no sense to me. The more something stinks, the more we like it!
  • For variety, flavor with a touch of sardine or sesame oil.
  • Lightly salt the food but don’t use onion salt. It isn’t good for us.
  • Crumble small bits of dry treats over the meal and mash them in a little.
  • If your dog turns her nose up at veggies, try well-flavored leftover restaurant veggies. Just wash off heavy spices and sauces first. After we developed a taste for leftovers, Mom mixed them with fresh lightly-steamed bits of veggies.  Now we love our veggies au naturel.
  • Offer a few small bites of yummy sweet potato (cooked but not hot) to start her mouth watering. As a bonus, it’s high in fiber and good for treating both diarrhea and constipation.
  • Alternate bits of regular food with treats to use as rewards for tricks. Anything we have to earn seems more special.

Because toy dogs can suffer from hypoglycemia, offer food again an hour or two after refusal if your dog won’t eat. This is doubly true for puppies.

If your dog’s being finicky because of a long-term illness like cancer, read “How to Help Your Dog with Cancer When He Won’t Eat.”  Put quotes around the title and do a web search.  Find more information by searching for inappetence and dogs.

Is your dog finicky because you’re switching from processed food to raw or home cooked?  Don’t worry. We’ll love the new food eventually – it’s so good for us — but it isn’t quite as familiar, or flavorful, as the processed stuff. Make the transition slowly, mixing old with new and use lots of tricks to ease the transition. I hate to admit it, but I still have cravings for the yummy animal digest and rancid fats in processed foods. Hey, who doesn’t?

Got some tricks of your own? Post them below and we may put them in our new e-book version of Scared Poopless.

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Chiclet T. Dog is the national award-winning co-author of Scared Poopless: The Straight Scoop on Dog Care. Chiclet is working on her updated and expanded e-book version. Want to be notified when the ebook is available (with no obligation)? Send her an e-mail here and put “e-book” in the subject line.

Get more of Chiclet’s eating tips, read one of her book’s chapters on the truth about dog food and get tips from her Mom, Jan Rasmusen, at Dog Food: What to Eat and Why

Other posts you might like:

The AVMA’s War Against Raw Diets for Pets by Dr. Jean Hofve
Dog and Cat Food Labels: Marketing Tricks That Cost You Money by Dr. Jean Hofve

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Tags: dog food, dog won't eat, feeding, finicky dog, new dog food, picky dog, picky eater, small dog
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9 Comments to “A Finicky Dog’s Guide to Actually Eating by Chiclet T. Dog”


  1. Sophie, Toy Poodle Says:

    My mommy uses bits of cow’s tripe on my food to whet my appetite. Me and my brothers and sisters can’t resist the tripe.

  2. kathi richards Says:

    I have read that instead of feeding a stew that you can separate the items so that your dog can show you what they like. I have had dogs that can pick peas out of their food, unless they are blended in, and put them on the floor.

  3. Nadine Says:

    My youngest Chihuahua is the ultimate in pickiness and I already do many of your tips on here. I need to keep two different flavors of food on hand for her to rotate every couple of days and every meal needs to have some parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, otherwise she’ll just give me one of those looks!

  4. Carolyn M M Says:

    When Esme joined our family she was a wanderer at mealtime … and a bit chubby. Two days of picking up the food after 20 min. and feeding a realistic amount for her size (i.e., not overfeeding or free choice, which she’d apparently been used to) did the trick. We’ve never had a moment’s problem since — she’s an eager eater and cleans her plate right away. She’s now also at a healthy weight. Another tip to entice picky eaters is plain garlic powder (not garlic salt). It’s an easy way to add a burst of flavor if you don’t have garlic oil on hand. Thanks Jan!

  5. Nuvet Says:

    Like us our pets also need change either it is about food or about outdoors. My dog Elle refuses to eat something that he has eaten previous day. So its quite natural to keep his dieting changing and fresh.

  6. susan Says:

    Never ever ever feed your dog garlic of any kind or onion of any kind-nor your cat. It is extremely toxic to them

  7. susan Says:

    I have put chicken or roast with water and a little salt in crock pot until it falls apart and you can put it in a blender and make a nice dog food to add to dry food.

  8. Marie Z Says:

    From the ASPCA: NO GARLIC or ONION!!! “All close members of the onion family (shallots, onions, garlic, scallions, etc.) contain compounds that can damage dogs’ red blood cells if ingested in sufficient quantities. A rule of thumb is “the stronger it is, the more toxic it is.” Garlic tends to be more toxic than onions, on an ounce-for-ounce basis. While it’s uncommon for dogs to eat enough raw onions and garlic to cause serious problems, exposure to concentrated forms of onion or garlic, such as dehydrated onions, onion soup mix or garlic powder, may put dogs at risk of toxicosis. The damage to the red blood cells caused by onions and garlic generally doesn’t become apparent until three to five days after a dog eats these vegetables. Affected dogs may seem weak or reluctant to move, or they may appear to tire easily after mild exercise. Their urine may be orange-tinged to dark red in color. These dogs should be examined by a veterinarian immediately. In severe cases, blood transfusions may be needed.”

  9. Kristen Says:

    When our dog, Bandit, would not eat from a traditional food bowl, we took him to the vet to rule out illnesses. We were thrilled he was in perfect health, but frustrated he would not eat from his bowl. We tried all sorts of different tactics to get him to eat. We finally realized Bandit preferred it when we dumped his food on the floor. In an attempt to replicate his natural instinct to eat off the ground, we used a paper plate and we even used a lid for a while. None of these options were visually appealing or sanitary. We finally switched to The Pet Plate Complete Feeding System, an innovative pet feeding system designed specifically for finicky pets like Bandit. The Pet Plate solved our pet feeding issues once and for all.

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