Finding the best dog food for picky eaters can test the patience of even the most dedicated pet parents. But when faced with a dog who snubs their nose at what's in their bowl, it's not just a matter of frustration – it could impact their health.
So how do you win your picky dog over? And how do you choose the best food to feed your dog? In this guide, we’ll look into practical solutions to encourage better eating habits. From exploring different food options to establishing a disciplined feeding routine, these changes can make a world of difference for picky eaters.
Dogs’ eating behaviors are primarily influenced by their senses. Smell, taste, and texture all play a role in how much your dog is attracted to a meal — and for picky dog eaters, it’s the right combination of these things that motivates them to eat.
A dog's sense of smell is about 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute as ours, 1 making aroma a very important factor in their willingness to eat. Surprisingly, dogs have fewer taste buds than we do — 1,700 taste buds compared to humans’ 9,000. Still, taste tests have shown that “they also prefer warm, moist foods over cold, dry foods,” according to the American Kennel Club.
Texture also contributes to a dog's eating preferences. For example, dogs are more likely to enjoy the moist texture of fresh food over the dry, duller taste of dry kibble. Keep in mind that every dog is different, and understanding these differences is key to addressing the challenges of feeding a picky eater.
When dealing with a picky dog eater, creativity can make all the difference. To make mealtime more appealing and nutritious for your picky canine companion, take a look at the following ingredients and techniques.
A bit of discipline will go a long way at feeding time — and establishing a regular feeding schedule can be a game-changer for picky dog eaters. The key is to serve your dog’s meals at consistent times each day, allowing about 15-30 minutes for them to eat. If they haven’t finished in this time, remove the food until the next mealtime.2 If you’re feeding wet or fresh food, it's best to discard any uneaten portions to prevent potential health risks. You can minimize waste by starting with smaller meal portions, gradually increasing as your dog begins to eat more consistently.
At Cola’s Kitchen, we believe in the importance of a distraction-free feeding environment. Avoid giving treats or table scraps between these structured meals, especially when working to resolve feeding issues. This approach has been successful for many of our canine customers, but keep in mind that it might take a few days for your dog to get used to it.
Bone broth’s savory aroma and taste are often irresistible to dogs. Just mix it with regular food or moisten dry kibble with it and you likely have a winner. In addition, bone broth is rich in minerals and nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, and can be beneficial for dogs' joint health and digestion. According to the American Kennel Club, incorporating bone broth into a dog's diet can also improve hydration and appetite. 3
Treats can be a powerful motivator for picky eaters but should be used carefully. In fact, experts agree that treats should not exceed 10% of a dog’s total daily calories.4 For healthier treat options, try lean meats, carrots, or apples. You can crumble these treats over your dog’s regular food to enhance flavor and texture, encouraging them to eat their meals.
Always give your picky eater dog options when it comes to their food, including different ways to eat. Puzzle feeders can turn mealtime into a stimulating game, which can be especially beneficial for dogs that need mental stimulation to eat. Choosing the right puzzle depends on your dog’s size, intelligence level, and eating habits — from slider puzzles to treat balls to snuffle mats, there’s plenty to keep your dog entertained.
Fish oil is an excellent supplement for dogs, offering benefits like improved coat quality and reduced inflammation. Plus, its strong smell can make food more appealing to picky dogs. The American Kennel Club points out that omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are beneficial for canine health, plus “research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can help to treat canine arthritis and chronic kidney disease.”5 When adding fish oil to your dog’s diet, always start with a small amount and increase slowly. Stop if you notice signs of gastrointestinal upset. At Cola’s Kitchen, we include high-quality organic Salmon Oil in all of our recipes.
Selecting the right dog food for picky eaters can significantly improve their appetite and overall health. Among the many options, fresh food stands out as an ideal choice for picky eaters for several reasons: it’s usually tastier, has a more appealing smell, offers variety, and provides significant nutritional benefits.
When it comes to flavor, fresh food holds a significant edge over traditional kibble. Many dogs have a distinct preference for meats and fats, which are easier to taste in fresh foods. The processing of kibble often involves high temperatures, which can degrade the natural flavors and nutrients found in the raw ingredients. Fresh foods, on the other hand, retain their natural flavor and smell, making them more appealing to dogs. For picky eaters who might be turned off by artificial flavors or the boredom of dry kibble, the enhanced flavor of real fresh food might be all they need to start eating.
Smell plays a major role in a dog's eating behavior. Dogs have an olfactory system that is incredibly sophisticated, allowing them to detect very specific details in the food they’re eating. Because fresh foods have strong smells, they are more likely to stimulate a dog’s appetite than the more subtle scent of kibble. This might be all a picky eater needs to decide whether the food is worth eating.
The moisture content in fresh dog food is a game-changer for taste and hydration, especially for picky eaters out there. Dry kibble has a moisture content of only about 10%, while fresh food can contain up to 70-80% moisture.6 Because of this, fresh food not only tastes better due to its natural moisture but also helps keep your dog well-hydrated, protecting kidneys and supporting overall digestive health.
Variety is not just the spice of life for humans – it's essential for dogs too. Fresh food diets allow for an easy rotation of protein sources (like chicken, beef, and fish) and a wide range of vegetables, offering different textures and flavors in each meal. This variety can combat mealtime boredom and keep picky eaters interested in their food.
If your dog is a picky eater, finding the right balance of nutrients and taste is essential. Fresh dog food diets provide superior nutrition compared to traditional kibble, and a recent study on human-grade dog food confirmed that by noting that whole, fresh food is highly digestible and can offer higher levels of essential nutrients like proteins, vitamins, and minerals, which are vital for a dog’s health.7 These diets are less likely to contain preservatives, colorants, and fillers, which are common in commercial kibble. In addition, fresh food diets can be tailored to a dog's specific nutritional needs, including age, weight, activity level, and health conditions. This personalized approach ensures that dogs are not only enjoying their meals but also receiving the nutrition they need for optimal health.
Fresh food, often considered the best dog food for picky eaters, offers a blend of flavor, variety, and health benefits, making it an excellent choice for those with a finicky palate. Add to that a few strategies – whether it’s bone broth, treats, puzzles, or fish oil – and you can make mealtime both enjoyable and nutritious.
At Cola’s Kitchen, we work hard to provide you with the best dog food for picky eaters in Canada. Our range of fresh food options is designed to appeal to picky eaters, ensuring your dog not only enjoys their meals but also receives the nutritional benefits they need.