Dogs, like humans, can differ from one another when it comes to food. Some dogs will eat just about anything (you know the ones), where others' taste buds seem to change from week to week. But the question of how much can they really taste remains. Dogs mainly rely on their sense of smell and hearing in order to get through life, with seeing and taste to follow.
Dogs have approximately one-sixth the number of taste buds that humans do - 1,700 compared to 9,000. So while their sense of taste certainly isn't as discernible as ours, it also isn't the worst. However, they do have the same four basic taste sensations as humans: sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. This means that dogs can indeed tell the difference between something sweet and something savory.
Signs a Dog can Taste Savory Food
If you have a picky eater on your hands, you may be scratching your head wondering what to feed them next. Many dogs will seemingly love a food for a period of time, only to suddenly stop eating it. So what gives?
In order to understand this, it's important to look at dogs taste buds. Not only do they have the same four taste sensations as we do, but they also base their likes and dislikes on other factors, such as freshness. Dogs' taste buds live on the tip of their tongue and, even though they don't have a ton of taste buds, they usually show a preference for a meat (aka savory) diet versus a non-meat diet.
As food gets older, it can lose the aroma and flavor, making it far less attractive to your furry friend. Furthermore, the fats in the food can start to oxidize into peroxides, causing rancidity along with undesirable odors and flavors. So, if your dog is turning their nose up to whatever you are attempting to feed them, the first thing you should do is check the date and see how fresh it is. Dry food typically remains palatable for your pup for about one month after the bag has been opened.
So, how do you know if your dog is loving the savory, meaty diet you are feeding them? For one, they will eat it. Dogs can be picky eaters for a host of reasons, but when they like something, there's no beating around the bush. If they all of a sudden stop eating the food you were feeding them, there is probably a good reason for it. Take a look at the expiration date and also try and recall when you opened the food. If it's bad, they will be able to tell using their sense of smell and taste.
History Behind Dogs Tasting Savory Food
When it comes to understanding your dog's taste buds and the types of food they like to eat, it's important to look at their ancestors. As we discussed earlier, wild dogs were mainly carnivores, meaning they had a diet high in salt. Because of this, dogs did not develop the same salt receptors as we did, evolutionary speaking.
There are plenty of studies out there that look at the types of foods dogs are more likely to enjoy versus the flavor profiles they may turn their nose up at. As you may have guessed, savory food typically falls into the 'yes, please' category.
A lot of savory food is heavy on the meat, which we all know dogs love. There is just something about the smell and taste of a rich meat dish that dogs cannot deny. However, dogs do not like bitter foods, so if a savory dish goes in that direction, they may turn their nose up.
Science Behind Dogs Tasting Savory Food
According to studies conducted early on, dogs have the same taste receptors as humans, that trigger taste sensations. This is the case across the board, with the exception of salt.
While many humans seek out salty foods (we're looking at you, potato chips), dogs do not have the same highly developed salt receptors. This is due to the fact that the wild ancestors of dogs were primarily carnivores, so most of their diet was meat. Meat is naturally very high in sodium and dogs, therefore, did not develop a strong craving for salt.
Savory food, then, is hit or miss with dogs. A lot of savory food is inherently salty, and since dogs do not taste salt like we do, they may not be as excited as we are about a rich meal. However, meat often falls into the savory category, and we all know how much dogs love their beef and chicken!
The majority of dogs enjoy a wide variety of flavors and are open to trying new foods, although, there is of course that one picky eater from time to time. Furthermore, dogs' taste buds change as they get older (just like humans), so they may be more open to new foods when they are an adult.
When talking about savory food, we can't forget to mentioned canned food. Most canned food gives off a stronger, more savory aroma, which is quite enticing to even the pickiest of eater.
Training Your Dog to Enjoy Savory Food
You can't necessarily train your dog to taste certain foods, but you can help guide their preferences. Research shows that when dogs are exposed to certain foods early on in life, it may play a role in what they like down the road. Furthermore, if you feed a puppy a variety of foods (including both dry and wet) chances are they will be more likely to try other foods in adulthood. As mentioned, canned food gives off a stronger, more savory aroma, so if you have any question about how your dog feels about savory food, this is a good place to start.
While it is not recommended to throw too much into your dog's stomach (especially if they have a sensitive tummy), it won't hurt to try out a few different styles and brands of food and gauge Fido's reaction. Deciding what kind of food to feed your dog can be challenging and even frustrating for many dog owners.
We encourage you to be patient and try to put yourself in their shoes. Whenever you introduce a new food to your dog, be sure and ease them into it and start small. Too much of something new - especially if it is rich and savory - can wreak havoc on their system, which is undoubtedly the last thing you want.
By a Chihuahua lover Allie Wall
Published: 05/18/2018, edited: 04/06/2020