Dogs have about 1700 taste buds, a fraction of the 9000 taste receptors that humans have. Our furkids do not taste the same way we do, yet, they do seem to have preferences when it comes to their food. We have all observed how our dogs refused a meal after a while, preferring a different flavour. It certainly looks like they do get bored with their dog food. If we ate the same thing every day, we’d get bored of it too. Is the same true for dogs? Is Fido genuinely bored of his food, just being fussy, or are there other issues to watch out for?
How do dogs decide what to eat
Dogs use their sense of smell more than their taste buds. They will smell something before deciding to eat it. Once decided, most dogs will wolf everything down and clean their bowls! Most dogs do not even chew their food. Since they don’t process the taste of the food as we do, their decision on whether to eat something is based primarily on the smell.
The dog's sense of smell is way more powerful than ours, and it plays an important role in whether a dog gets bored of his food. The smell is a critical part of how dogs perceive food. It’s a reasonable conclusion to say that if your dog still likes the smell of his food, he will still eat it.
Most of you would have also noticed that your pooches prefer a stronger, meatier smell. The meatier the smell of the food, the more the dogs will want to eat it. If your dog has been exposed to other better-smelling food – fresher, meatier - he may turn his nose up and walk away from his current diet. So, dogs can get bored and refuses to eat the same smelling dog food over and over, preferring something new and exciting!
Why your dog is not eating
When a dog suddenly stops eating his food, it might be because they are bored of the food, or it might be for another reason entirely. Some dogs might refuse stale kibbles, preferring kibbles in a newly opened bag, but others lose their appetite as the first sign of illness.
Expired dog food
First, check the food to see if it may have expired. Expired food often loses its flavour.
Improper dog food storage
Proper dog food storage is another important factor to consider. Dog kibbles that are not properly stored can become stale and lose their flavour. Ensure that dry kibbles are tightly sealed in the original bag, and place the bag inside an airtight dog food storage container like this Stefanplast Cat & Dog Food Container.
If the dog food is not the problem, check your dog for any underlying health or behavioural issues. Stress, dental disease, diabetes, and other bodily pain can cause loss of appetite. If you see signs of ill health, please consult your veterinarian soonest possible.
Boredom and attention-seeking
Confirm whether your dog’s boredom is with his food or with life in general. Sometimes, a bored dog may be looking for attention, and refusing to eat is one way for your dog to get your attention. If you have been busy with your work or chores, and fido suddenly stopped eating, this may be the reason for his loss of appetite – he is bored and seeking your attention. Do spend some time with him and see if that helps to improve his appetite. Using food puzzles and treat dispenser toys such as this Ruffwear Gnawt-a-Cone™ Rubber Treat Dispenser Fetch Dog Toy may help to encourage fido to start eating again. Toys do make mealtimes more fun and exciting.
- Finally, if none of the above holds and it appears that fido is simply tired of the same old food, you might want to try adding meal toppers or mixers to enhance the flavour of his meals. Sprinkle some cooked meat on your dog’s food or feed a commercially available meal topper. Commercially available meal toppers, on top of the proteins, would often come with added vegetables for fibre, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. Some even have added probiotics and prebiotics for gut health.
The Primal Freeze Dried Raw Toppers For Dogs & Cats is a meal topper made with high-quality meats and certified organic produce. It boasts superior levels of amino and essential fatty acids. If your dog prefers a wet dog food topper, give this Instinct Healthy Cravings Grain Free Variety Pack Wet Dog Food Topper a try. It’s made with grass-fed meat in savoury gravy.
Rehydrate fido's dry kibble with a broth topper can improve the smell and taste of his kibble. Try this Stella & Chewy’s Broth Topper Grass-Fed Beef Bone Wet Dog Food Mixer. Unlike other broths, Stella & Chewy's add real grass-fed beef to their 100% human-grade recipes for a rich and hearty taste that your dog will go wild for.
How to transition your dog’s diet
Before you attempt to switch your dog’s diet to a new diet, understand that dogs can become bored with either the smell or texture of their food. Try adding meal toppers to their existing food. If that doesn’t work, try swapping to a different flavour. Change his chicken-based food for a fish or lamb flavour. Typically, this should work. A new smell means an exciting new flavour and this should stimulate your dog’s appetite.
Sometimes though, a total diet change is necessary. If this is the case, a gradual transition is best to avoid an upset stomach. Some dogs can handle a sudden transition, but if this is your first time switching your pup’s food, take it slow. Suddenly switching may give your dog a terrible tummy upset.
Here’s how to switch:
- Days 1 and 2: Feed 25% new food, 75% old food
- Days 3 and 4: Feed 50% new food, 50% old food
- Days 5 and 6: Feed 75% new food, 25% old food
- Days 7 onwards: 100% new food
Finally, our dogs can learn to manipulate us into giving them new food. Dogs that are used to getting table scraps may refuse their dog kibble, begging you for human food instead. Each time we give in, we are reinforcing their behaviour, and eventually, it will become a bad habit. Do not allow the habit to take hold. Avoid giving them your leftover dinner. Allow your dog thirty minutes to eat, then remove the bowl after 30 minutes regardless of whether he eats or not. Repeat this process at the next mealtime, until he gets the idea that he needs to eat what’s offered when it’s offered.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.