My dog won’t eat

Well, actually, my dog will eat anything. He has been off prednisone for a year, but the “side effect” of “hunger” never went away.

The only time Ace isn’t interested in food is when we travel. There is too much going on, and he doesn’t want to take the time to eat. God forbid he misses out on someone walking from one room to another.

So, what do I do when my dog is a picky eater?

I give him five minutes and then I put the food away. I don’t give him treats, scraps from my plate or other goodies. I don’t mix canned food or yogurt with his kibble. He simply does not eat.

Ace might skip two or three meals in a row while we travel, and that’s his choice. A dog will not starve himself. He will eat when he’s hungry. That’s what animals do.

I know of many dogs who are much pickier than Ace when it comes to eating kibble. I recommend the owners of these dogs follow the same plan I follow with Ace.

Don’t mix extra goodies in your dog’s food.

Adding treats or canned food or people food rewards the dog for not eating his regular food. Stick to regular meal times for the dog once or twice a day, and give the dog no more than 10 minutes to eat. Then, put the food away. Don’t leave food out all the time. Food should be used as a reward.

If you are traveling or have new animals in the house, there is a good chance your dog won’t eat. He may be stressed or excited. The same may be true if someone has moved out or passed away. Don’t cater to the dog’s stress by offering him extra goodies. This will not help the dog. Instead, stick to the dog’s usual eating schedule and increase his exercise.

Dog and cat wearing Santa hats

22 thoughts on “My dog won’t eat”

  1. First of all – great picture! Haha!

    Great advice! Often times a person will panic if a dog refuses to eat one meal.

    We should also be mindful if a dog does not want to eat for an entire day or two. This is many times a sign of a serious underlying health issue. This would be especially true if the dog is always ready to eat and suddenly loses their appetite.

  2. Lindsay, I am on the road right now (at the hotel) and Glory also won’t eat! After skipping 3 meals and showing no interest in her dry kibble, I finally mixed in about a dozen little pieces of cheese. Ooops! Hey I was getting worried about her…..I wish I’d found your post earlier!

  3. Christina, oh well! I don’t think your dog minded that she got some cheese! 🙂

    Nancy, Scout and Ace both hate dressing up and basically sulk the whole time. The only reason Scout can’t get out of that Santa suit is because it has a belt around the middle.

  4. I did some research about moving with cats before we trekked to Oregon. I found the same to be true of traveling with felines. We offered them food, but they weren’t interested. They did eat in the hotel rooms while we were stopped each evening, but had zero interest in food, water, or litter box during the actual travel in the car. It was worrisome, even though I had prepared myself for it!

  5. I agree with the advice. Trust that unless there is a medical problem, your dog will eat when he or she is hungry.

    The only exception I’d make is if you believe that your dog does not understand that the food is his or hers. Some dogs are submissive around food, and this can be exacerbated if there are strange people or animals in your “new” place or if the bowls are different. It has to be clear to your dog that the food you’re giving them is meant for them & now is the time to eat.

    I had a hard time over our Thanksgiving travels with this issue, especially because Lady was not watching me prepare her dinner or hearing the food clang into the bowl (the natural cues that she’s going to get fed). She was off in another room getting attention with relatives. Then I put the food down for her in a quieter place and called her in, but after all the other food at this “strange” place that she wasn’t allowed to eat all day, she didn’t seem to *get* that this food was hers. We know that she gets submissive with food and people in different ways, even in our own house, so it wasn’t that surprising. I grabbed a few bits of cheese, put some in her bowl (while she watched), offered her one for obeying a command, gave our equivalent of a “take it” command and then she went straight to eat the dinner.

    Bottomline: Don’t reward a dog who is too “busy” to eat with treats and goodies. Do make sure your dog understands when it is time to eat in a strange place!

  6. Tammy, I find that my cats won’t use their litter box when we are traveling either. They hold it for what seems like a really long time!

    Shay, that is something I did not think about. Very good point. My dog always knows what food is his since I always practice a command or two with him before he eats. Once he’s released, he has no problem eating!

  7. Great tips, Lindsay and Shay. We don’t have that problem with Biggie, haha, since he always seems to be hungry and it’s hard for him to turn down raw meat. But your point is a good one – as long as you can rule out a medical problem, it is ok if your dog skips a meal or two. Haven’t we all had times when we were so busy or so engrossed in something fun or interesting that we forgot to eat?

  8. Lindsay Stordahl

    Yeah, I think we have all skipped meals ourselves from time to time. If the dog is acting really tired and lethargic, he is probably sick or simply not feeling well or stressed. If the dog is running around like a nut having fun or checking out new dogs or visitors, I wouldn’t worry.

  9. HI. I have a skittish female Schnauzer and changed her food to continuous feeders for food and water. It’s was made for small pets and the bowls are a little small.Smaller than the prior dishes. Does that matter? I also set both food and water feeders on a ergonamic stand. My younger Schnauzer has no problem with them so the mama dog sees what to do but wont go near it. How long should I let her go without using them. She can get water outside but no food.
    Thanks

  10. Lindsay Stordahl

    When I have dogs that won’t eat because of a new environment, a change of food, etc., they will usually start to eat again within four days. I’m certain this will be the case with your dog unless you are giving her additional table scraps, treats or raw hides. Then she would have no reason to eat her regular food.

    I don’t recommend a continuous feeder for a number of reasons. For one, you won’t know for sure if the dog has eaten. If she does eat, you won’t know how much.

    Second, food should be used as a reward, not something that is always available. A dog wants to work for its food, so its a good idea to feed dogs after a walk or at least after making them sit and stay for a few seconds.

    Third, dogs like a routine. If a dog is fed a small amount at the same times every day she will learn that this is when she should eat. If she chooses to skip this meal, then she will be hungry for the next meal. This also makes it easier for house training, sticking to an exercise schedule and even preventing separation anxiety.

    You may be interested in my post on what to do when your dog is a picky eater:

    http://www.thatmutt.com/2008/04/23/what-to-do-when-your-dog-is-a-picky-eater/

  11. Hi! I like all of the advice given about finicky dogs. However, if my guy doesn’t eat, he’ll throw up in the morning. And, that can’t be too good for him. Not sure what to do. Yes, we are very guilty of trying to enhance his kibble, and now the puppy is doing the same things. Help!

  12. Lindsay Stordahl

    I would follow the above advice and clean up the throw-up. He’ll eventually learn to get on YOUR schedule. The throwing up is a sign that he is hungry. Don’t give in, and eventually you won’t have a picky eater and you won’t have to deal with throw-up either.

  13. Thank you!! It’s rough to see your baby do that. He (Jak) starts to get a little skinny and that makes us nervous. This morning I fed him on an old plate after he stuck his nose up at the delicious chicken I made for them. He came right over and ate! The other issue is now the puppy(Mojo) is acting like Jak. At least he still eats – just not in a fury like he used to.

  14. Lindsay Stordahl

    Increase their exercise and only give them 10 minutes or so to eat and only at specific meal times at the same times every day. If they don’t eat, their loss. They’ll eat the next day or the next.

  15. We have a little 2-1/2 to 3 pound Yorkie Poo and lately we can seem to make her eat? We do have other pets and they of course will gooble up anything they can but our little Demi has been acting stange in that when we put her food down she begins to shake and wont come up to the bowl. So we began trying different things cuz we noticed she got so skinny. We of coursed enhanced her food that didn’t work, feeding her alone with no other dogs, putting her in a cage to eat and the funny thing she did then was to rub her nose on a blanket in front of the food dish as if trying to cover it up. We are at a loss as to where the nuerotic behavior is comming from and why? In every other way she seems fine. No throwing up, no diarreaha? And is drinking water. We have caught her eatting her poo a few times? Don’t know what to do and she doesnt have much weight on her to loose? Help!

  16. Lindsay Stordahl

    If something is medically wrong with a dog, it could cause her not to eat. Humans don’t feel like eating when they are sick, either. But it sounds like your dog is acting fine otherwise, correct? She isn’t lethargic or vomiting or anything?

    Honestly, I wouldn’t worry too much. A lot of dogs will go without eating for three days when they visit me. She will eat when she is hungry. She is a dog. If it has been more than five days or so, then you should contact your vet to see if there is a medical problem.

    I would increase her exercise and stop giving her treats, table scraps and embellishments to her food of any kind. Make sure she also has enough water.

  17. hey great pic …my dog leo is a 1 year old red fox labrador retriver just lately he wont eat his kibble out of the bowl if i put the food in my hand or skim it across the floor he will chase and eat it, thing is i have put some tasty chicken slices in his bowl and he runs straight to it eating it without a problem…..but if its kibble and i have changed the type of kibble 4 times he will not bother,i even tryed dog meat but no joy he just turns his nose up, if i go by his food bowl and call him over he runs off shaking and cowering, i have no idea why, its only me and my partner in the house so i know there is no violence or anything that might make him scared of it , i have even brought him a new food bowl and he is still doing the same thing thats why i cant understand why he is cowering as if he is frightend that we will shout at him if he goes by the bowl , i regually see the vets and hes wormed regually and everything else, if he was sick he wouldnt eat anything but he will eat chicken and little treats mabey he is just really fussy but i am starting to notice he is loosing weight and i really dont know what to do im sorry for the spelling can anyone surgest anything,,,,,, i am at a loose end here the vet says hes fine… but i cant hand feed him everyday for the rest of his life (THANKS charlene )

  18. Lindsay Stordahl

    Give him ten minutes to eat out of his bowl twice per day at the same times every day. If he does not eat, then put the food away. He might not eat for up to three days. That’s fine. Then he might only take a few bites when he does eat. But then after that he will eat if he’s hungry. He’s a dog and an animal and he will not starve himself. Stop catering to him by feeding him by hand and giving him chicken and other treats. The vet said there is nothing wrong with him, so as long as you offer him food twice a day, he’ll eat when he’s hungry.

  19. My dog won’t eat and it’s the first time and we’re not doin anything and she wants to come in to the house eagerly

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