Can Dogs Taste Mild Food?

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Introduction

To many, the flavor of food is a lifestyle. Being able to match the perfect blend of salty and sweet for an exquisite-tasting meal is a talent that many chefs spend years perfecting and that those consuming the food crave.

Because many seek this mixture of flavors, often times, people will try to make up for a lack of taste in a mild food by adding salt after it has been prepared.

Have you ever wondered if your canine has similar tastes? Does mild food satisfy their taste buds or do they crave more? Let’s take a look at your canine companion’s taste in more detail!

Signs of Dogs Tasting Mild Food

An important aspect of how our bodies react to different foods is based on how food molecules are chemically registered by our brains. The way our brain catalogs these chemicals varies from one person to another which results in a different palate preference. For example, your best friend may love Oreo cookies while you think that they are unappetizing. Just like humans, dogs’ tastes also depend on a chemical reaction.

The chemical reaction of how a dog perceives food starts with their sniffer instead of their tongues. How something smells to a dog is the biggest determination on whether they want to huff it down or not. A lack of cultivated taste paired with heightened smell explains why your pup likes to dig in the trash, eat horse manure, chew on socks, and other nasty things.

Our canine friends can taste the same four food classifications that we do - bitter, sour, sweet, and salty; however, their sense of taste isn’t as developed. Our palate is six times more refined than our dogs; therefore, when we can’t even imagine eating the same food multiple days in a row, our canine is more than okay with eating identical meals, day in and day out.

With that, it is very unlikely that a dog will refuse to eat mild food. They may prefer a juicy steak over a piece of dog food; however, that is based on the aroma emitted by the two choices vs. how the cuisine actually tastes. 

As mild food doesn’t alert a dog’s smell or taste senses of “danger or harm,” the dog will ingest it, regardless of how bland it may taste. Signs of your dog eating a mild food may vary depending on if they are holding out for something better (if you have fed them steak after they refused to eat the dry kibble in front of them). Typical signs include sniffing, hesitation or delayed start to eating, staring, chewing, ears dropping, whining, and tail wagging. 

Body Language

Here are some signs you may notice if your dog is hungry for mild food:

  • Growling
  • Whining
  • Chewing
  • Wag tail
  • Sniffing

Other Signs

Other signs that your dog may show when they aren’t hungry or are more interested in something else include: 

  • Sniffing
  • Ears Dropping
  • Whining
  • Staring
  • Barking
  • Delayed Start to Eating

History of Dogs Tasting Mild Food

Canines’ taste dates back to the evolution of a grey wolf, approximately 20,000 years ago. Due to survival methods in the wild, a wolf’s sense of taste developed soon after birth.

Wolves relied on smell and taste to distinguish harmful, indigestible, or poisonous items (things that tasted unpleasant) from those that were useful and digestible (things that tasted good) in the wild. This instinct to distinguish what is okay for a wolf to eat is the reason behind taste being one of the earliest senses to begin operating in dogs.

In puppies, it takes a few weeks to fully develop a sense of taste. Exposure to various flavors and foods during the first few weeks of your puppy’s life may play a factor in how picky they are as an adult. If offered a variety of food early on, they may be more willing to try different foods when older. This may also mean that they won’t settle for ‘mild’ food if they have previously been offered other fares with more delicious aromas.

Responses to mild food can vary from dog to dog just as meal choices do for humans. For example, one owner tells her story of how her rescued Australian Cattle Dog loved mild food! He had been treated for a bad case of giardia that would cause intestinal inflammation when the dog ate anything other than a mild kibble. The dog’s instincts would kick in, knowing that any other food would be harmful to him, and he, in turn, refused to eat it. Whenever he would ingest the mild food, he would lick his lips, wag his tail, and chew rapidly. Another owner noted that his dog would completely ignore mild food and scratch at the bowl until given another source of nutrition. 

Science of Dogs Tasting Mild Food

It is important to remember that not everyone or every dog experiences the same taste sensations.

People’s tastes can vary depending on the number of papillae (bumps on their tongues that house taste buds). You would be considered a “supertaster” if you have a lot of papillae, making your taste abilities very sensitive. Those with less papilla (subtasters) have tendencies to drink black coffee, eat incredibly spicy food, etc. as it takes more for their taste buds to be satisfied.

Where we depend largely on our taste buds, a dog relies on their nose to be the determining factor of whether something is appetizing or not. Our canines’ sense of smell is about a million times better than ours and it is how they receive the majority of information about their food. A membrane inside of their nose captures the molecules that our taste buds do and transfers those chemicals directly to their brain and a special organ on their palate. Therefore, if it smells good, a dog is likely to eat it, regardless of how it may taste. 

Training Dogs to Eat Mild Food

If a human doesn’t like a certain type of food, we can train ourselves to ‘acquire the taste’ through repetition. If we eat the type of food enough times and eliminate other alternative chow, our taste receptors will come to like it. In a sense, this is true for our canine friends as well.

As dogs learned from evolution to use their senses to stay away from food that may prove harmful to their well-being, mild food will not alert them, yet they may not be excited for a mild food when something with a better scent is available as a substitute. In order to train your dog to eat mild food, eliminate all other favorable alternatives.

  • When your dog shows interest in your juicy steak that is on the table for dinner, don’t let them have a few bites as that can serve as a replacement to their main meal.
  • If your dog doesn’t show interest in a mild food at first, do not immediately provide another type of food (dog or otherwise). This will give them a reason to wait in the future for something better to come along when their bowl is placed in front of them.

Make sure to provide positive reinforcement, such as encouraging words and pets when your dog does take the first few bites of the new mild food. 

How to React to Your Dog Tasting Mild Food:

  • Realize that smell is far more important to them than taste.
  • Consider adding a fish oil for dogs on top of dry, mild kibble to make it more appetizing.
  • Do not add salt or spice to your dog's food.