Tips and ideas for fussy dogs

Read time: 4 minutes

Tips and tricks to get a fussy dog to eat

Getting a fussy dog to eat can be a time consuming but all too common experience for pet parents I speak to. It’s frustrating when they suddenly turn their nose up at a diet you searched high and low for. It can be extremely alarming when they go without food for some time, especially when we go above and beyond to offer our dogs as many choices as possible.

However, fussiness is often an adopted behaviour, stemming from our desire to give our pets variation. The principle applied to fussy human eaters unfortunately can’t be applied to dogs. Here are some important things to take into consideration when coaxing your fussy dog to eat!

Are they unwell?

My dogs are all great eaters, so if they go off their food, I will always consider their health and wellbeing as my number one priority. They could be feeling unwell for a number of reasons, anxiety, change of environment, a hot day, or a change within their diet can cause them to reject their food.

If your dog suddenly turns fussy, check their poop, as it’s one of the best indicators of a healthy dog. Be aware of any other signs they may be exhibiting. Lip licking, drooling and getting into the prey position may mean they feel sick, and taking a look at their stool consistency will tell you more. If there is cause for concern, a trip to the vet is best. 

Quality food: what to feed my fussy dog

Is your dog getting the best nutritional diet for their health and happiness? You might consider changing their food; however, don’t make a habit of this. Too much variety can exacerbate fussy behaviour.

Something that may put them off dry kibble is if it’s turned stale or rancid. Kibble is often sold in bulk bags, meaning it sits around for long periods of time, losing its smell and taste.

Raw food is great for fussy dogs because it’s a species-specific diet. I recommend sourcing human grade ingredients; this will help entice your dog to eat through top quality produce. 

Feeding my dogs freeze dried raw food means empty bowls at the end of each meal. My dogs have been eating the same diet for three years with no complaints. I like to add a splash of warm water to help bring out the natural flavours and aromas.

James middleton sat at table feeding treat to black cocker spaniel

Treats and chews in moderation

Treats can be great whilst training, but you can easily overfeed your dog. This can result in them turning their nose up at dinnertime.

If you’re needing to treat them consistently, such as through agility or obedience training, it’s a better idea to use their daily food allowance to do this. When I was training Nala, I took small amounts of her breakfast and dinner to use for treats throughout the day. 

Make it fun: food ideas for fussy dogs

Ditching the bowl can work really well for fussy eaters. If you feed a dry food, using a snuffle mat or scatter feeding can turn it into a fun game, making them work for food.

Lickimats are ideal for wet food, and you can mix other elements in like smelly fish to add different scents. Dogs have 20% fewer taste buds than humans, so smell is crucial. The aromas from extra toppers may be the push they need to entice them to eat. 

Black cocker spaniel licking lips with broccoli on head

Stick to a routine

Dogs love routine. Stick to a schedule every day and be sure to pick up their food if they’ve not eaten it within half an hour. Leaving food in their bowls will encourage grazing, attributing to bad eating habits. 

If dogs know they get a treat five minutes after going on a hunger strike, they’re more likely to continue this behaviour. Be patient with them and don’t treat them to human food if they’re refusing to eat. 

Walking your dog before meal time or playing fetch around the garden may help stimulate hunger. In the wild, a dog would have to hunt its prey before eating, so encourage this natural routine.

Create a calm environment 

There are things that can put your dog off their food, so it’s important to be aware of this. If they are noise sensitive, feed them in a quiet room. Eating around other pets might make them nervous, so feeding separately might help.

Encourage your dog at dinner time through praise. This will show them how to behave and what is expected. It’s important for you not to stress or worry, as dogs can pick up on this behaviour and it may put them off eating. Gentle praise and encouragement is always preferred.

James Middleton and dogs crouched on decking

Full bellies and happy appetites

It’s a satisfying feeling, finally finding the right food and seeing a full and happy pup licking their bowl clean. From my experience, I know it can take a lot of patience, resilience and trial and error. And don’t forget; a truly hungry dog will always eat!

James & Ella x


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Hi, I’m James, founder of James & Ella.

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