If your dog is picky about eating, it can be a pain at breakfast and dinner. Read more about a young dog who is picky about meals, and what you can do to alleviate the problem and get your dog starting to enjoy meals more.

I have an almost 2 year old 5 pound (give or take) Chihuahua is just too picky about his food! He’s been eating from the same small bowl of food for 2 days now. I’ve tried a few varieties, and I’m willing to try more, but I don’t know what to try! There’s no common denominator about the dry foods that I’ve tried. Some were for small dogs, some for whatever. I’ve tried the regular old stuff Wal-Mart offers that has the chicken by-product meal that I disapprove of, thinking that may just be what he wants. Nope. He was eating Pure Balance, which is a reasonably priced by-product free brand that Wal-Mart carries, but he’s stopped eating that. Any thoughts or suggestions about varieties to try?

What to do if a dog is picky about eating

A great question! Some dogs are definitely pickier eaters than others. Out of the shelter and rescue, I often had to sort out issues with food preferences and allergies. It can sometimes take a bit of time, trial, and error to get it right.

A couple of suggestions when it comes to food:

If it’s a sudden change, it’s a good idea to have a general checkup to make sure it isn’t related to health.

You can try adding something to the food you purchase to make it tastier, such as a sprinkle of parmesan cheese or a gravy or a bit of meat-only baby food (you can purchase ones made for dogs). If you do add stuff made for humans, just make sure it doesn’t contain any ingredients that are toxic to dogs (like onions).

Try foods with different textures, such as soft foods or fresh foods (you can purchase these in major stores now, ones designed for dogs). You could also try foods where a different protien is the primary ingredient, it may be a flavor issue.

When switching foods, I tend to follow the 3-3-3 rule of 3 days where it’s 1/3 new and 3/4 old food, 3 days where it’s half and half, and the last three days are 2/3 new and 1/3 old. This helps reduce the chance of tummy upset while you’re switching.

Good luck!

About Author

Jen deHaan is graphic designer, small business owner, and dog person living in Bay Area, California. Jen enjoys learning about dog training and behavior, and has taken several courses and seminars since 2010. She also contributes articles to leading websites, such as Victoria Stilwell's Positively . It all started with a great dog called Mikey (aka "dude"), loved and lost but remembered forever. Jen also runs a freelance business focusing on graphic, web, and UI design at FoundPixel, and a small business creating hand crafted dog products at Stylish Canine.

  • Dealt with this with Dante and I was greatly humbled when I read an article online telling me that I had essentially spoiled my dog. LoL

    The bottom line? A hungry dog will eat, no dog is going to starve himself.
    Fussing and switching food constantly, bribing, and adding treats to the food can spoil a dog into expecting that all the time (This was true in Dante’s case) which then can lead to snubbing the food. It’s possible that they also just aren’t hungry or getting enough exercise to burn through the calories.
    First thing though would be to rule out any health issues. If they have a clean bill of health and you are feeding them good food then offer the food, give them 15-20 min to eat and take it away. Repeat for the next meal time, no free feeding and not treats between meals unless they eat their food. Just like parenting.
    Dante skipped a couple meals and then went right back to eating, we stick to the routine and so far to good! It’s been a whole year no more picky eating issues. If he eats then he can have a treat during the day, if he doesn’t eat a meal then he goes hungry until the next meal time.
    What i’ve learned about him is that he isn’t a “food hound” he loves peanutbutter, and cheese but food generally doesn’t excite him no matter the brand. He’s a toy/work driven dog.

    • Cass Markovich

      Great advice!

  • My male is extremely fussy I think because he was blind when born, but now has full sight after cataract operations but the first year was a nightmare as he just wouldn’t eat meals. I’m not talking about missing one meal I mean 5-7 days without eating and getting 2 x 1 hour walks daily which include chasing a ball as well as playing in the house and garden in between walks! The vet said the same as the previous comment that a dog won’t starve itself but if he had continued at this rate he most certainly would have! I tried different dry and wet foods and ended up cooking for him, I changed from a stainless steel bowl to a ceramic one so there is no metallic smell, stopped giving treats except whilst training, I tried absolutely everything I was advised to and had thought of myself but with no luck. Now he eats his breakfast biscuits from inside a toilet roll tube, hidden around the house so it is a game and since having my last foster dog he is now cleaning his plate every night and the foster dog was rehomed a month ago and mine is still eating well daily, whereas with the other foster dog, his eating would improve for the first couple of weeks but then revert back, so fingers crossed it sticks this time but so far so good!