Can Dogs Taste Bittersweet Food?

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Introduction

We've all seen it; our pooches will eat everything from scraps in the trashcan, bugs in the grass, or a T-bone steak from your plate. One may wonder whether dogs really have a palate like us humans. 

Is it worth heating up that hotdog or bringing home those leftovers to give to your furry friend? Read on to find out!

Signs Your Dog Likes Bittersweet Food

Generally, dogs are not very picky eaters (remember the trashcan diet). If you have a picky eater, consider that smell matters way more to dogs than taste, so dogs will pretty much eat anything that smells good. 

Animal behaviorists believe that most problems with picky eaters are not an issue of taste or smell, but rather a smart dog in defiance. Your pup may simply be playing you, knowing that if your pup refuses to eat, you will offer something more delicious. Even so, dogs can definitely taste and just like dogs have different personalities, dogs will have their own preferences when it comes to favorite food, snacks, and treats.

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice if your pooch likes bittersweet food:
  • Ears up
  • Drooling
  • Pacing
  • Wag tail
  • Whining
  • Head tilting
  • Barking
  • Alert
  • Staring

Other Signs

Some other signs might include:
  • Begging
  • Pawing at your leg or plate
  • Seeking out that specific food

The History Behind a Dog's Taste

While our pups can surely taste the four taste sensations (sour, salty, sweet, and bitter) they respond differently to these tastes than us humans. Researchers believe that this is due to nature's development with our pooches. 

For example, dogs do not have a natural liking for salt. This is likely because our dog's ancestors, wolves, had a diet that consisted of roughly 80 percent meat. And... meat is a very salty food. Making salt less palatable is an example of nature’s way of limiting excess salt intake, similar to the way many bitter foods are the result of rancidity or poison.

Since dogs are omnivores (in that they eat both plants and meats), they have also developed a liking to sweet flavors—likely developed from the natural fruits and vegetables their wolf ancestors ate in the wild as well.

The Science Behind a Dog's Taste

While us humans have about 9,000 taste buds, our furry friends only have about 1,706 taste buds. This means that our pooches have a palate six times inferior to ours! Our dogs have taste buds on the very tips of their tongues, giving them the same taste classifications that us humans have:  bitter, sweet, sour and salty flavors.

Even further dogs also have special taste buds that are designed for tasting water. While us humans lack this special tasting capability, dogs, cats and other carnivores have these taste buds. These taste buds are located on the tip of the tongue - the spot where it curls as your pooch laps water. While this sensory pad reacts to water at all times, it gets heightened and sensitive after your pup ingests salty or sugary food. Researchers believe that this is because when dogs roamed wild and free, they would need more water after eating certain foods that may dehydrate them.

The most important part of your dog's palate, however, is its sense of smell! Taste and smell are closely related and because dogs have such highly sensitive noses, it makes sense that they receive more info about their food from smelling rather than tasting. 

Doggos have about 25 times more smell receptors than us humans do. To put it simply, dogs can smell about 100,000 times better than we can. Dogs have a membrane inside of their noses which captures molecules and sends impulses to their brain. This, combined with a special organ on the dog’s palate, gives dogs the ability to taste certain smells. So, regardless of how something tastes, if it smells good to a dog, your pup will be into it.

Training Your Dog to Not be a Picky Eater

Eating habits are learned rather than innate. As the owner, it is your responsibility to teach your pup to have good manners and feeding behaviors. Nobody likes a pampered pup who has picky eating behaviors and bullies the owner or friends into sharing foods that make the dog fat, spoiled and unhealthy.  

Teaching good habits from the get-go is important. Young puppies, less than 4 months of age, need to be fed 3 times a day. Once your pup reaches 4 months, two meals a day is healthy.

Some trainers and animal behaviorists believe that humans should eat their meals before the dog to demonstrate leadership. Teach your dog to stay away from the table while you are eating your food and do not share your table food with your dog. While it might seem tempting to share with your adorable begging pooch, you are only reinforcing bad behaviors, bad manners, and possibly, giving your pup foods that are not good for your dog's health. 

If your dog already has bad feeding behaviors, you can correct their manners:

  • Teach your dog to understand that no other options exist. 
  • Set out your dog’s food for 30 minutes. If it isn't eaten, take it away. 
  • When it’s time for your dog’s next meal, set out the food again and take it away in 30 minutes, whether it is eaten or not. 
  • In a day or two your dog may start checking around for extra treats. Don’t give in! Your dog isn’t starving. If hungry, your dog will eat.

Safety Tips When Feeding Your Dog:

  • Feed your dog fresh food.
  • Store foods where your dog will not be able to get into it (including a lid on your trash can).
  • Keep your pup away from salty human foods, like chips.

We Want to Hear About Your Dog's Taste Preferences!