My Dogs Won’t Eat. How Can I Get Them to Eat Their Dry Dog Food?

Skylar Dial
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Question: My dogs refuse to eat their dry dog food. What can I do to get them to eat?

Answer: If your dogs won’t eat their dry dog food, you have a few options:


There are many reasons why puppies and dogs may not eat dry dog food. Most commonly, the reason for not eating is related to the dog's environment.

Are they hungry enough? Missing meals is not uncommon for small dogs, puppies, and wolves. Mom may not feed young pups for 12-24 hours, then they eat and drink for a while. This creates a shorter resting time, and more meals, within a week or possibly two. This is why young pups not eating may be normal for them, as they should be encouraged to eat.

Did their last meal digest well? Did they drink enough water? Did they burp and have a bowel movement? Did they play or run around enough? If not, then they should take their time. Keep cautious watch if it’s longer than expected.

Have they been fed before? If they’ve already eaten, then most likely they are not feeling well due to an underlying condition, sickness, or injury.

Is it really dry dog food? If they’ve been fed dog treats, then the dog may not be hungry and may not know that dry food is available. Food is sustenance and should be know as food, especially if they’ve been treated to food.

Food Is “Off”

One of the first things you need to do is determine whether the food has become “off ” to your dog. Dry dog food is a mixture of different low quality ingredients, and they should never become “off”. However, the low quality is the issue with the poor-quality ingredients. Dry dog food should be eaten within a certain period of time because it spoils quickly, but it should never have an “off” smell and taste.

If your dog’s food seems to have gone bad or if you notice any other changes, throw the food away. If your dog smells the food and then turns away, the smell is probably bad. If your dog refuses to eat the food after it has been sitting out for a while, the food is probably bad.

Your Dogs Have a Food Preference

What Can You Do?

Have you ever wondered why most dogs will eat healthy dog food but only certain dogs eat treats?

There are many factors that come into play when your dog decides what’s on their menu.

A dog could be allergic to a certain kind of dog food. Your dog could have a food allergy. If your dog has a food allergy, eating a particular food will cause an allergic reaction, which will manifest itself as either diarrhea, vomiting, or both.

For some dogs, your dog may be bored with the dog food that they have and are ready for something different.

They may simply love human food more than the dog food that you give them.

You can offer them a treat to keep them busy as well as give them a reason to get excited about meal time.

If you have more than one dog it could be a problem if one dog eats slower than the others.

It could be a dominance issue if one dog likes to eat slower than the others.

So it’s important to try and keep the meal size the same for each dog.

If you have more than one dog, they can fight over the food. You may need to feed them separately and at different times.

If you think your dog is eating more dog food than they want to, then you should learn more about feeding your dog.

Behavioral Issues

Most dogs will readily eat dog food. So when a dog won’t eat dog food, you should immediately ask yourself why this is happening. Some behavioral issues that may cause a refusal to eat include:

Your dog might not know what dog food is and why it’s good. Most dogs will recognize rubbish and know that it’s not something you eat. You have to teach your dog what dog food is and how it’s good for him.

Dogs are creatures of habit and they want a routine to follow. When you change the condition of your dog or the routine that he is accustomed to, he will most likely resist or even be confused. So if you have recently changed your dog’s food or if he feels upset because you’re away from home too often, he might refuse to eat.

Health Issues

The first thing you want to establish is whether the problem is being caused by health issues. If you dog isn’t eating because it’s sick, the first thing to do is to ensure is to take it to the vet for a check up. It’s possible that it will not be able to eat and drink without feeling nauseous. Also, you don’t want a new dog to pass up important nutrients if it’s unwell.

Dogs Are Eating Enough Already

There are people, dogs and cats alike who would be quite happy to eat all day long. I, for one, do not know why we have to limit our eating to two meals a day. However, if your pet is not feeling 100% physically healthy you should certainly consult your veterinarian. If you can safely say that your dog is healthy, then there might be some other reasons why he is not eating his food.

It is not as simple as dogs not eating. It could be the specific food you are providing. The biggest reason dogs turn up their nose is that their mouth is watering for something other than food. For example, dogs are famous for thinking that the next house over is better than yours. Your neighbor's dog might be outside, barking, and begging for attention. Or the scent of rabbits could be calling from the yard, begging to be chased. No matter what the reason, your dog is distracted by his hunt for other things, not food. The problem is that dogs are focused by what they desire most, so unless the desire to eat food takes over, he is is ignoring his food.