Is your dog a picky eater? Expert shares three reasons why your pup may be off their food (and how to coax them back to their bowl)

brown dog lying near its bowl full of meat food looking at camera
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Is your dog off their food? If so, we understand how worrying this can be. 

Most dogs can't get to their food bowl quickly enough to chow down on the best dry dog food, which is why a sudden behavior change can feel so concerning. 

There are lots of things to check when your dog is not eating, but expert trainer and behaviorist Nikki Mather says there are three key areas you want to pay attention to. 

She explained each of these in detail in a recent Instagram post, plus shared some of her favorite tips that you can use to help coax your pup back to their food bowl. Let's take a look...

1. Medical: If your dog has suddenly become picky with their food, it's important first to rule out any underlying health issues that could be causing your pup's loss of appetite. Mather says a dog may go off their food when they have a stomach upset, dental issues, have recently had a vaccination, or have an infection. If your dog isn't eating, be sure to get them checked over by a vet. 

2. Behavioral: "From anxiety to their learning history, there are various reasons your dog may not be eating," explains Mather, who adds that travel, fireworks, and separation from their humans can all cause a dog to lose their appetite. Learning history also plays a role. "Do they get given high-value foods if they don't eat a meal?," Mather asks. 

3. Environmental: "Our dogs can be extremely sensitive to changes in their environment, leading to a loss of appetite," says Mather. House moves, loud and unsettling homes, and busy eating areas can all lead to a suppression of hunger. 

If your dog is off their food, Mather says there's lots you can do to coax them back to their bowl. 

Warming their food, using treats as toppers, creating a quiet environment at mealtimes, swapping out their bowl for scatter feeding, and using interactive feeders can all be helpful. 

If you've noticed your pup has become picky around food, check out our guide to how long can a dog go without eating which contains more helpful tips and speak with your vet who will be able to offer plenty of helpful advice and guidance. 

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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.