There’s always a degree of trepidation involved in changing your dog’s food. Even if you’ve switched to the most premium, well-respected brand available, there’s always that niggle at the back of your head that makes you wonder if your dog likes the change, or if they’re simply eating it for lack of viable alternative. Fortunately, there are a few surefire ways to tell if your dog does (or doesn’t) like what you’re dishing up at mealtimes.
Are they paying you as much attention as you’re paying them?
Gaging just how much your dog likes their food doesn’t just involve you watching them (although it does help, as we’ll find out shortly). As you’re measuring out your dog’s food into their bowl, cast a sideways look in their direction. Are they waiting by your feet in obvious anticipation of the treats that await? If they’re monitoring your every move, there’s a very good chance they’re impatient for the moment you set their bowl on the floor and give them the order to tuck in. If, on the other hand, their lack of interest in what you’re doing is palatable, you can probably take it as read they’re not overly excited about what you’re doing, or what the end result of what you’re doing is going to be.
Do they wolf their food or nibble it?
Dogs aren’t known for their elegant table manners. Set a tasty bowl of titbits in front of most dogs, and it’ll be gone before you can say “Bon Appetite”. If you’re in any doubt as to whether your dog approves of your food choice, pay attention to just how quickly they wolf it down. If they dig through the food gingerly, sniff it repeatedly, take an age to finish (sometimes even leaving some to come back to later), or look around the bowl to see if there’s anything tastier lurking out of sight, there’s a good chance they’d prefer a different food altogether. Test the theory by offering them an alternative: if they gulp it down without hesitation, you can be pretty confident their reluctance to eat at mealtimes is down to the contents of their bowl, rather than a worry about their waistline.
Do they think of it as a reward… or a punishment?
We all know dogs generally respond well to food and can be coaxed into performing a score of tricks if they think it’ll get them a tasty titbit or two. If you want to see whether they view their usual food as a treat or a punishment, see whether they’ll perform simple tricks using it as a reward. If they’re willing to play endless games of high five in return for a taste, you’re onto a winner. If not, you may need to revisit the pet store for another option.
Do they stalk you when you eat?
While some dogs are naturally inclined to hound anyone who carries even the whiff of food about them, pay close attention to a dog that seems constantly hungry. As Nutapooch notes, dogs should be getting all the nutrition they need to feel sated from their own meals, not from yours. If they’re constantly on the beg for extra food, it could be because they’re not getting everything they need at mealtimes.
Do they eat their food if the flavor’s disguised?
If you think your dog’s taken a dislike to their new food, a sure-fire way to prove your theory is by putting it to the test. Mix their favorite wet food or treat into the food and watch how they respond: if they suddenly regain their appetite, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s the new food that’s caused them to lose it in the first place.
What to do if you think your dog doesn’t like their food
- Check the contents – If your dog turns their nose up at their food, it doesn’t necessarily mean that particular foodstuff is off the table for good… it could just be a bad batch. If you’re feeding them from a large bag of kibble, check the bag’s content for any signs of mold or insects, both of which can put your dog off tucking in. As well as carrying out a visual inspection, take a good long sniff of the food; while dog food rarely smells of roses, toss it out immediately if It smells downright rancid. The best way of avoiding the problem in the first place is to transfer the contents of the bag into an airtight container the first time you open it.
- Monitor the amount – The fact your dog isn’t finishing their meal might have less to do with the food itself, and more to do with the amount you’re feeding them. Even though dogs can seem like bottomless pits sometimes, there’s a limit to even their appetites; overfeed them regularly enough, and they’ll naturally start to turn away from the bowl at mealtimes. Cut back on all snacks and treats during the day, and keep their feeding to mealtimes only – you’ll be surprised at the difference it can make.
- Don’t overwhelm them – If you’re making a change to your dog’s food, do it slowly. As Daily Puppy notes, dogs (and their digestions) like routine- a principle that applies just as much to the contents of their meals as to their timings. If your dog’s refusal to eat their food coincides with a chance in food type, it could just be their digestions are having a hard time adapting to the sudden change. Stop the problem before it starts by introducing new foods slowly; mix a very small amount of the new food into their old one, and over time, gradually up the quantity of the new and decrease the quantity of the old. By the time their meals are made up exclusively of the new food, their taste buds and digestions will have had plenty of time to get used to it.