9 Tricks to Feed Your Picky Eater

Author’s Note: Hey cat owners! If your cat is a picky eater check out my article on dry vs. wet food to see ways to get your picky kitty eating the right food to keep them healthy!

9 Tricks to Feed Your Picky Eater

Most dog owners wonder if their dogs even taste their food as they inhale it. For these people, dinner time is over in the blink of an eye, but for some, dinner time is a daily struggle to get their picky dog to eat. While some dogs are set in their ways and won’t stray no matter how hard it’s raining when you run out of applesauce, others don’t know what they want but they won’t eat without it. If you haven’t figured out what it is your dog will eat or if that’s a moving target here are some ideas you can try:

Moisten the kibble

Warm kibble with tap water

Use warm water or canned dog food to help moisten the kibble making it more palatable. If you use water you won’t have to worry about weaning them off or reducing their kibble. Don’t forget! Feeding your dog canned or moistened food can really do a number on their teeth, so be sure to brush them regularly! 

Check the protein source

Meat protein is always better than plant protein

Dogs (and cats) prefer protein from animal sources like beef, chicken, pork, lamb, and fish. Check your dog’s kibble ingredients to see where the main proteins come from. Avoid foods that mainly source their protein from soy, corn, and wheat.

Warm it up!

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Warming up food can enhance the flavor. If this ends up being something your dog likes, get a plastic dish to make dinner time easier. Be careful not to heat it up too much! A burned tongue can’t taste and your dog’s already a picky eater! 

Smother it!

There is an entire section for picky eaters at the pet store. Check out some of the gravies and broths available for dogs. Don’t use human broths and gravies as they’ll have too much sodium and fat, which can wreak havoc on your pup’s liver, pancreas, and kidneys.

Cooked garlic 

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Wait! Don’t get mad! Garlic in large amounts is toxic, but in very small cooked amounts it can be appetizing. Believe it or not, this is a vet recommended picky eater tip! If this makes you nervous, there are tons of other things you can try. I for one have to agree that garlic can make just about anything taste better! 🙂 

Add more protein

You can try adding in freshly cooked proteins like ground beef, liver, chicken or fish. Never add salt or extra fat. You should slowly wean them down to the lowest amount they’ll continue eating. Hopefully, you’ll be able to wean them off entirely.

Dress it up!

Fruit puree kibble dressing

Try using a fruit purée like applesauce, mashed bananas, or pumpkin as a kibble dressing. Sometimes a little fruit can cure a sweet tooth. Be sure the purée is unsweetened! 

Limit snacking

No snacking before dinner!

Snacks can fill dogs up just like humans. Don’t fill your dog up before dinner and then expect them to eat their kibble. Never give treats after they refuse dinner because it’ll teach them that they can hold out for better, tastier food.

Keep it consistent

If you end up switching up their diet to a different brand or flavor that your dog enjoys but then stops eating don’t switch it up again. By changing out the flavor every time they don’t eat it anymore you’ll teach them that they can hold out for a new food and you’ll eventually run out of options. Instead, try out one of the options above to get them interested again. Sooner or later, you’ll break them of the habit of not eating their food. 

If you don’t want to have to work to wean your dog off of a method you use to get them eating again, I recommend sticking to the first three options. If you do choose to add anything to their food like wet food, gravy, or purée you’ll need to cut back on how much kibble they get to keep them from getting fat. It’s just as unhealthy for your dog to be fat as it is for you! It’s also important to remember to brush their teeth regularly, especially if you feed them moistened food. I hope that one of these tips works for you and your picky dog! Good luck!

28 Comments

  1. All good ideas. I add warm water to kibble and also add a “topper” of wet food. I add pumpkin as well but for reasons other than just flavor.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  2. Rachel

    Interesting, I am surprised about the garlic, but that’s something worth researching more for sure! Thankfully, our dog is not a picky eater. But we do use a topper.

  3. These are all awesome ideas! Simba isn’t picky at all though LOL I haven’t found anything that he doesn’t like yet! I will definitely keep this in mind for a friend/family member’s dog or if we add another dog to our family that happens to be picky.

  4. I’ll definitely try some of these tips, since Pippa is a very picky eater! She only eats if James enters the room, because she is scared he might steal it from her! I add a little bit of meat to her dry food, which she loves, but she has to eat more! Thank you!

  5. Hindy Pearson

    All great ideas. When one of my dogs goes through a fussy stage, I add some vegetables, sometimes I warm it up a bit, but I hadn’t thought of apple sauce. Thankfully my picky eater realises I can outlast him in the stubborn department, and he’s fine now. Good tips to remember though.

  6. becasue we travel internationally and can’t travel with dog food and for other reasons as well … We make Monte’s food for every meal based on what we are having. So he doesn’t eat two meals the same. In our case, when we do give him the same thing twice he’ll look at us like “excuse me but … what the….?” Best way to switch it up? put a tiny bit of cheese on top!

  7. In my honest opinion, there is no such thing as a picky eater when it comes to dogs. Barring any medical problem, if a dog isn’t eating when it’s his/her time to do so, then the owner is feeding them too much or the dog has successfully trained the owner!

    I’ve always lived by the 10-minute rule. I’ll leave a foster’s food out for 10-min, after that it goes away until the next feeding time, rinse, repeat.

    • Amber

      That’s an interesting take on it! I have to agree that picky eating is really just knowing that they can hold out for something tastier.

  8. Wow! I had NO idea about small amounts of garlic being OKAY! That makes sense because my pup LOVES garlic and I am forever having to keep it away from her! I also swore I had seen treats with garlic in it before so I was confused on this subject! Thank you for clearing that up!
    My Lyla eats EVERYTHING she can get her mouth around! She is a human garbage disposal!
    I have to make sure she gets ONLY healthy foods for her.
    LOL I do not have this issue but you gave TONS of great advice here!

  9. Miss Picky here says thanks for the info and I use garlic powder (a little) on her home made jerky so I know it is ok (My vet also said so) – Its been a long haul finding what she will eat without a fight and she is now loving her food.

    • Amber

      I’m so glad to hear that you’ve used garlic successfully! What a lucky dog! Homemade jerky! When can I come over!? 🙂

    • Amber

      He’s a pro picky eater! When we first adopted Gremlin he was very sick and didn’t eat much, so we added an over easy egg to his kibble. He loved when the yolk would coat the kibble like a gravy. Thankfully, he’s never just sucked the kibble clean lol!

    • Amber

      I’m not sure if there are breed exclusions for the garlic tip. When in doubt, call your vet, but I have no reason to believe that it can’t be given to any dog breed.

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