How to Train Your Dog to Eat His Food

Easy
5-110 Days
General

Introduction

You might think every dog should automatically know how to eat his food and be more than ready to do so as soon as you put his bowl down.  But, not all dogs will do so; some are fussy and will spend time sniffing the food, licking it, and looking at it, yet he still will not eat it. What's going on? Isn't he hungry or maybe he just doesn't like his food? If you are under the impression that the reason he won't eat is that he wants variety in his foods, it's possible that nothing could be further from the truth. The simple fact is, your dog will keep eating the exact same food day in, day out for the rest of his life.

It is your job to make sure you offer him a tasty nutritious meal. In fact, chances are good that the biggest reason he won’t eat his food is that you have probably been feeding him table scraps. When he gets used to these tasty morsels, he isn't going to want the dry or canned food you have been putting in his dish. Or perhaps you started him out by offering him several different types of food to see which one he liked the best, now he is simply holding out for a better food. No matter what the cause, now you have to teach him to eat the food you put out for him. 

Defining Tasks

In this particular case, there really isn’t a specific command to teach, such as "Eat" or "Chow Down". It is important that your dog learns to eat, but at the same time, if he takes a day off from eating, it is usually nothing to worry about. Not all dogs eat every day and some need to eat more than once a day. In most cases, training your dog to eat what you put in his bowl is nothing more than a matter of time and patience. You can teach a dog of any age to eat what you put out for him; in most cases, it could be no more than waiting until he is hungry enough to eat.

Remember, your dog will not starve himself to death, he will only go without eating until he can no longer stand being hungry. Be patient and in time he is sure to put his nose down in the bowl and start scarfing down his food. 

Getting Started

If your dog is being fussy about his food or seems to be refusing to eat what you put down, patience is the only real tool you need. Be sure to keep his food bowl in the same location at all times and pick it up when he is done eating.  Try to pick a quieter spot in your house such as the kitchen floor and choose a time when no one is likely to be in there to disturb him while he eats. Again, there aren't any real commands you need to use to make him eat, you just have to be patient. 

The Single Food Method

ribbon-method-1
Most Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Choose the food
Choose one food that you know your dog normally likes to eat
Step
2
Put his food down
Put a bowl of it down at the normal feeding time (try to find a different time than family dinner time).
Step
3
No more than 30 minutes
Leave the bowl in place for no more than 30 minutes.
Step
4
If he won't eat
If he doesn’t eat, take the bowl away.
Step
5
He will eat
It might take him a couple of days before he is hungry enough to eat. But you can bet when he finally gets hungry enough, your pup will eat. It might take a few sessions like this, but he will eventually get tired of going hungry.
Recommend training method?

The Schedule Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Start at three times a day
When your dog is a puppy, feed him two or three times a day.
Step
2
Cut back
Over time, you can whittle this down to once or twice each day.
Step
3
Same time every day
Be sure you always put his food down at the same time every day without fail. In time, he will associate the time of day with when his food comes.
Step
4
Same food, same everything
Use the same food and the same amount every time you feed your pup.
Step
5
Consistency is key
Consistency is the key to getting a fussy eater to eat what he is given when he is given it. Keep in mind that no matter what type of training method you decide to use to convince your dog to eat, there are going to be days when he simply won't eat because he may not feel well or he simply isn't hungry. If for any reason your pup won't eat for several days, you should take him in to see his vet for an examination to make sure his lack of appetite isn’t due to a medical condition.
Recommend training method?

The Time Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Half rations
Start by putting half of his usual amount of food in his bowl and putting it on the floor in his usual spot.
Step
2
Count to five
Count to five and see if he is eating, if not, remove the bowl and put it away without saying a word.
Step
3
Wait to try again
Wait for a full 12 hours and try again.
Step
4
Full rations
If he eats, then wait another 12 hours and put out his regular amount.
Step
5
Try again
If after he starts eating he stops eating his full amount, remove the dish and start the process all over again. Remember it is your job to make sure he has plenty of food to eat, but it is his job to choose whether he eats it or not. All you can do is teach him to take advantage of the food you provide.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Noah
Shih Tzu
2 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Noah
Shih Tzu
2 Months

He's not eating his dog food.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1013 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I highly recommend speaking with your vet. When a puppy this age won't eat, there could be a medical reason why and I wouldn't wait long to get pup check out. There are a number of common puppy illnesses and parasites whose symptoms can be a lack of appetite. I am not a vet. If pup wasn't weaned properly, pup might need to eat gruel for a while before transitioning to hard kibble alone also. Gruel is a mix of puppy kibble and puppy milk replacer formula, which makes a cereal type of meal for pup to practice eating with. If pup is simply picky, but is perfectly healthy (don't assume without checking though), then you can use something like freeze dried meal toppers, crushed into a powder and mixed with pup's kibble to flavor the kibble. Once pup is eating well again, you can slowly decrease the powder overtime so pup is eating just the plain kibble again in a bit. Goat's milk can also sometimes be used in the same way if your vet feels that's alright for pup to have at this age temporarily. I am not a vet though, so check with your vet. Having pup work for their food will also motivate some puppies. Using kibble to stuff things like kong wobbles, earn as treats from you, stuff kongs, stuff easy durable puzzle toys, or play treat hiding games. Sometimes puppies enjoy searching for their food. If pup is really overweight or being very overfed that could also effect pup being willing to eat more. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Hunter
American Pit Bull Terrier
10 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Hunter
American Pit Bull Terrier
10 Months

Hello! My baby hunter is such a picky eater, we are partly to blame coz we spoiled him since we got him when he was 3months. When he doesn’t want to eat what we prepared we always give him other variety just to make him eat. We changed his dogfood atleast 5 times before coz of his pickiness until he totally ignored his dogfood so we slowly tried to change again his diet to raw feeding. The first month of his raw feeding diet is good, he excitedly eats his food but recently it’s really hard to make him to eat.there are times that he would only if we hand feed him or times when even we hand feed him we will just spit out his food. What should i do to make him eat his food? Tia. Godbless.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1013 Dog owners recommended

Hello Hunter, First, I would actually speak with your vet. Picky eating can be related to something medical going like, like a lack of stomach acid, food allergy, bacterial imbalance (think probiotics being needed), infection, ect...Some dogs are uncomfortable eating so a new and exciting food motivates them to eat even though eating itself is unpleasant. For other dogs it really is behavioral, especially in situations where pup was given something else when they refused to eat, like this case. I suggest mixing his food with something he likes the night before feeding him. Start with a higher quantity of food he likes and a bit of dog food, then gradually increase the dog food and decrease the food he likes overtime. Test out freeze dried meat dog food toppers, like stella and chewy or nature's variety first. If he likes those, crush them into a powder in a ziplock bag, then place that and some of his dog food in the bag overnight to flavor and scent the food. Feed that regularly if he will eat it, then gradually decrease how much powder you use and increase the dog food slowly in place of it - go slow so that eating the new food has become habit and he doesn't think about it changing gradually so keeps eating it. If he likes the kibble topper, you can also feed something like Ziwi peak or nature's variety raw boost long term - which is composed of freeze dried food or has it mixed in, if that's in your budget. If pup doesn't like the freeze dried stuff, then do the same thing but use things like minced chicken, liver paste, or goats milk mixed with the dog food and refrigerated overnight (you may want to do the goats milk last minute because it will get soggy though). Another option, is to have pup work for all of their kibble. Have pup perform commands and tricks and use the dog food that has been mixed with freeze dried powder from a ziplock bag, as rewards for pup obeying commands. Many dogs are actually more enthusiastic about their food if they have to earn it and consider it a treat. Feed pup entire meal amounts this way so that he is hungry during training in place of the bowl for a while. When you do so, act like the food is treats - you should act like you have a great prize not like you have to temp pup to eat. It may seem opposite but what a dog can't have without working for it, often makes it even more appealing. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Ellie
Maltipoo
8 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Ellie
Maltipoo
8 Months

Puppy wont eat when feed and does not go on puppy pad or outside to potty

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1013 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jennifer, I suggest mixing her food with something she likes the night before feeding her. Start with a higher quantity of food she likes and a bit of dog food, then gradually increase the dog food and decrease the food she likes overtime. Test out freeze dried meat dog food toppers, like stella and chewy or nature's variety first. If she likes those, crush them into a powder in a ziplock bag, then place that and some of her dog food in the bag overnight to flavor and scent the food. Feed that regularly if she will eat it, then gradually decrease how much powder you use and increase the dog food slowly in place of it - go slow so that eating the new food has become habit and she doesn't think about it changing gradually so keeps eating it. If she likes the kibble topper, you can also feed something like Ziwi peak or nature's variety raw boost long term - which is composed of freeze dried food or has it mixed in, if that's in your budget. If pup doesn't like the freeze dried stuff, then do the same thing but use things like minced chicken, liver paste, or goats milk mixed with the dog food and refrigerated overnight (you may want to do the goats milk last minute because it will get soggy though). Another option, is to have pup work for all of their kibble. Have pup perform commands and tricks and use the dog food that has been mixed with freeze dried powder from a ziplock bag, as rewards for pup obeying commands. Many dogs are actually more enthusiastic about their food if they have to earn it and consider it a treat. Feed pup entire meal amounts this way so that she is hungry during training in place of the bowl for a while. When you do so, act like the food is treats - you should act like you have a great prize not like you have to temp pup to eat. It may seem opposite but what a dog can't have without working for it, often makes it even more appealing. Finally, it would be worth consulting your vet about this if you haven't done so lately, especially if pup is still not eating well after doing the above. There are many medical conditions that can be underneath picky eating, from food allergies, bacterial imbalances, infections, gut damage, low stomach acid, parasites, ect...I am not a vet, so speak with your vet about anything medically related. For the potty training, I recommend switching to outside potty training only if you are open to pup going potty outside. The inside potty training will be more confusing for pup if they are already having issues, and doing both also confusing. Check out the article I have linked below on potty training. The method I have linked below was written for younger puppies, since your dog is older you can adjust the times and take her potty less frequently. I suggest taking her potty every 3 hours when you are home. After 1.5 hours (or less if she has an accident sooner) of freedom out of the crate, return him to the crate while her bladder is filling back up again until it has been 3 hours since her last potty trip. When you have to go off she should be able to hold her bladder in the crate for 5-7 hours - less at first while she is getting used to it and longer once she is accustomed to the crate. Only have her wait that long when you are not home though, take her out about every 3 hours while home. You want her to get into the habit of holder her bladder between trips and not just eliminating whenever she feels the urge and you want to encourage that desire for cleanliness in your home - which the crate is helpful for. Less freedom now means more freedom later in life. Crate Training method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside If she is not already used to a crate, expect crying at first. When she cries and you know she doesn't need to go potty yet, ignore the crying. Most dogs will adjust if you are consistent. You can give her a dog food stuffed hollow chew toy to help her adjust and sprinkle treats into the crate during times of quietness to further encourage quietness. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Tephy
Pomeranian
3 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Tephy
Pomeranian
3 Months

My 3 months puppy is suddenly distracted during meal times, and sometimes she doesn’t finish her meal, she will just leave it. What can I do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1013 Dog owners recommended

Hello Stephanie, I highly recommend feeding pup their meal in a closed crate in a quiet area at this age. I would also make sure that pup is eating the correct amount of food for their age because food amounts are constantly changing during puppyhood. You can also try switching pup to a different formula, especially one that contains different primary protein or carb sources, in case pup is sensitive to one ingredient. Finally, having pup work for their food via Kongs, kong wobbles, use in training, puzzle toys, and other things that engage pup mentally can actually make some dogs like their food more. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Sam
Beagle
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Sam
Beagle
6 Months

He is very choosy regarding his food. He does not eat his food on time. Please give me a solution

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1013 Dog owners recommended

Hello Bhavya, There are several things you can try. First, you can try feeding him three times a day in a quiet location without other people or animals around. Give him 45 minutes with the food, and if he isn't actively eating at the end of the 45 minutes, remove it and repeat at lunch - giving lunch plus whatever amount was left from breakfast. At dinner, repeat the same thing, give 45 minutes, dinner plus whatever lunch or breakfast amount pup didn't eat. Once pup is eating well, you can remove the lunch meal again and simply split pup's daily kibble amount your vet recommends feeding into breakfast and dinner. With the above solution, you can also try mixing his food with something he likes the night before feeding him. Start with a decent amount of the food he likes and regular dog food, then gradually increase the dog food and decrease the food he likes overtime. For food he likes, you can test out things like freeze dried meat dog food toppers, like stella and chewy or nature's variety. If he likes those, crush them into a powder in a ziplock bag, then place that and some of his dog food in the bag overnight to flavor and scent the food. Feed that regularly if he will eat it, then gradually decrease how much powder you use and increase the dog food slowly in place of it - go slow so that eating the new food has become habit and he doesn't think about it changing gradually so keeps eating it. If he likes the kibble topper, you can also feed something like Ziwi peak or nature's variety raw boost long term - which is composed of freeze dried food or has it mixed in, if that's in your budget. Make sure whatever you choose is formulated for his age, which often means puppy or all-life-stages. If pup doesn't like the freeze dried stuff, then do the same thing but use things like minced chicken, liver paste, or goats milk mixed with the dog food and refrigerated overnight (you may want to do the goats milk last minute because it will get soggy though), then gradually phase those out again to transition to only kibble. Another option, is to have pup work for all of their kibble. Have pup perform commands and tricks and use the dog food that has been mixed with freeze dried powder from a ziplock bag, or plain dog food, as rewards for pup obeying commands. Many dogs are actually more enthusiastic about their food if they have to earn it and consider it a treat. Feed pup entire meal amounts this way so that he is hungry during training in place of the bowl for a while. When you do so, act like the food is treats - you should act like you have a great prize not like you have to temp pup to eat. It may seem opposite but what a dog can't have without working for it, often makes it even more appealing. Finally, it would be worth consulting your vet about this if you haven't done so lately, especially if the picky eating is recent or there are other issues like vomiting, decreased urination, watery stools, pooping more than 3x in 24 hours, or not pooping at least once per day. I am not a vet. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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