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

Effective
0 Votes
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

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

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
Brownie
Pomeranian
5 Months
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Question
0 found helpful
Brownie
Pomeranian
5 Months

Actually sir my puppy wont eat his food him self if ifeed him by my hand then he eat his food but it took more and more time in a day So what can i do for that. Plz sir help me

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
419 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, make sure that you are feeding him the right amount. Some overweight puppies and dogs are picky eaters if they are being fed too much. If his weight is good, try feeding him three times a day. Place him in a crate or calm room with his food bowl for thirty-minutes. If he does not eat the food during that time, remove the food again. Repeat this three times during the day. Make sure that the room is very small and completely calm so that he will relax enough to focus on eating if he is hungry. Give this 24 hours to work. If he is just being picky, he should get hungry enough to eat within 24 hours and will eat on his own eventually. Some dogs don't like to eat first thing in the morning and won't finish all their food until night - if he doesn't have a blood sugar issue this should be alright as long as the food is being offered often enough. Second, if placing the food down and taking it up for 24 hours doesn't get him eating on his own, then I would look into a possible food allergy or him not liking the food you are feeding. Gradually switching to another dog food may help. Look for a dog food that uses a different meat or different grains than what you are currently feeding in case their is a sensitivity to something in the food. Ask your vet for further details. Make the switch over the course of a week or two to avoid upsetting his stomach. Third, if the issue isn't the food either, and he is simply a picky eater, then you can mix something into his food to make it more enticing. Place his meal kibble into a ziplock bag and crush up dog food toppers - usually freeze dried meat treats, into the ziplock bag with his dog food. Shake the bag and treat powder up, then let the food sit in the powder overnight. The next morning feed him in his bowl like normal - but this time the food should taste like the powder to help tempt him to eat it. You can also try mixing a little goats milk or low sodium chicken broth into his food if your vet okays it. (I am not a vet). Finally, if non of those things work or he is getting worse quickly, then go see your vet immediately. A number of medical issues can be related to him not eating well. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Joy
Poodle
4 Years
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Question
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Joy
Poodle
4 Years

My dog won’t eat his dog food. He’s already 4 years old and never ate his dog food. Last couple of months we tried mixing the dog food dry and wet with meat ( beef and chicken) he only eats the meat and leaves the dog food. How can we teach him to eat his dog food? And is it safe to leave him hungry for couple days so that he will start eating the dog food?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
419 Dog owners recommended

Hello Meri, As far as the medical side of things - I would ask your vet. Some dogs can easily go 2-3 days safely and will eventually learn to eat simply by only offering them the dog food. Other dogs get low-blood sugar and that's not a safe option for them. Consult your vet on what to do based on health questions (I am not a vet). Purchase a freeze dried kibble topper such as stella and chewy's or nature's variety - see if pup likes the freeze dried meat. If he does like they, crush the meal topper into powder, place it in a ziplock bag with pup's dog food overnight - so that the powder flavors and makes the kibble taste good, then feed pup that dog food. If pup likes freeze dried kibble toppers, you also might want to look into switching pup's food to something like Ziwi peak - which is a dog food brand that's based on freeze dried meat - but with the convenience of a kibble. Another option is to soak pup's food in goat's milk in the fridge until the kibble tastes like the milk but pup has to eat the kibble to get that flavor - how well this works will depend on whether pup likes the goats milk - many dogs do. Ask your vet about pup's weight too. If pup is overweight or you are feeding too much that can lead to picky eating. If pup is underweight or generally seems to have a sensitive stomach, then there could be a medical reason for the picky eating that needs to be discussed with your vet - even something like a lack of digestive enzymes, lack of good bacteria, food allergy, low blood sugar from going too long between meals, parasites, or pain could cause a low appetite. (I am not a vet though so ask your vet if you suspect something medical). Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Joy
Poodle
4 Years
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Question
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Joy
Poodle
4 Years

My dog won’t eat his dog food. He is already 4,5 years old but never ate a dog food. Last couple of months we tried to mix the dog food dry and wet with meat ( beef or chicken), he eats only the meat and leaves the dog food. How can we teach him to eat his dog food? And is it safe to leave him hungry for couple days and will he start eating the dog food? I know that poodle is very cranky breed, but we need to teach him to eat the dog food. How should we do that?

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