Dog not food motivated? Trainer reveals three reasons why

Hand offering treat to two dogs lying on forest floor
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Are you struggling with your dog's lack of food motivation? If so, you're not alone. Many pet parents report their dog won't take food when training outside, and it can make teaching your pup a new skill or behavior that much more difficult.

Even when the best dog treats or longest lasting dog chews are on offer, some dogs will refuse when you're outdoors, only to gobble it down the minute you set food back inside. 

It's a confusing, but common scenario. Thankfully expert dog trainer Adam Spivey, who is also the founder of Southend Dog Training, has put together a handy Instagram video to shed some light on things.

In the clip, Spivey can be seen working with a German Shepherd who is apparently not food motivated. Yet in no time, the dog is happily taking treats.

So, what's going on? Keep reading to hear Spivey's take on the three most common reasons dogs refuse food and how you can turn things around...

1. Your dog is anxious
Anxiety in dogs is more common than you might think and this can absolutely impact their food drive. "A dog that is anxious or hyped up often won't take food," explains Spivey. 

If your dog gets nervous or overly excited when you take them out walking, you may find that they're constantly pulling on their leash. 

When this happens, the environment has become more interesting than you, meaning food is no longer the focus.

"When you slow them down and teach them what the lead means, the dog starts taking food," Spivey says. 

2. Your dog is over-indulged
It knows it’s getting fed as soon as the walk is over or the food is left down all day for the dog to graze at like a cow, so your dog has no desire to work for food," says Spivey.

3. You've accidentally made your dog fussy
You've unintentionally taught them to ignore food by constantly changing the food and using high value treats. Constantly changing the food can lead to a dog ignoring food in hopes you will provide something better," Spivey explains

"Hand feeding will put a stop to this. Forget set meal times, stop changing the food, put the dog on a decent and tasty food, like raw food or cold press or a very good kibble and feed from a treat pouch every time the dog does something you like or ask."

All dogs are primarily driven by food. If you're finding your dog isn't food motivated, it's worth implementing Spivey's tips above.

If the problem persists, we recommend speaking with your vet, who will be able to give your dog a full health check-up to rule out any underlying medical issues and offer tailored advice and guidance. 

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.