If you’re a pet owner DOGS (especially small dogs) or CATS you have experienced this at one time or another, it’s just part of the pet parent journey, trust me you are not alone. So what’s the next step when your furry family member is refusing to eat?

First make sure it’s not because something medical is going on, as I always say when in doubt schedule a vet visit. On average most pet owners wait too long to go to the vet and by then something simple or easily fixed has turned into something serious. If all is well and your pet is healthy then check and see if maybe your pets simply don’t like their food. Remember pets pets have particular tastes too and within reason of course try to get something they love and is at the same time nutritious.

Next if your pet is just being finicky and giving you a hard time, you may want to look at are you giving wayyyyyyy too many goodies and people food? If you are your pet may be holding out for options and something more delicious before they decide to go ahead and eat their food. Spoiling pets with an over abundance of treats or food is a common pet parent NO NO. I totally get it those cute little faces are hard to resist, but remember BALANCE is key in this situation.

Over indulging pets in this manner will number one cause obesity in pets, creates bad behavior of not minding in other areas and is an all around pain in the butt to get them to cooperate and eat what they should. Plus you’re killing the anticipation of a yummy treat if they get them all the time. You always want to keep treat time special it builds anticipation and makes the whole thing more satisfying for your pets.

Pets are similar to people in many ways but not in every way. Their systems assimilate & digest food differently from us, meaning their bodies aren’t not meant to eat everything we can eat… even though they are more than willing participants. Plus all the extra salt, sugar  and spices in our food cause health challenges for them not to mention the additives and preservatives.

Most importantly to mention here is pets do not need the variety that we do when it comes to eating. Keeping them on the same diet is far more beneficial for them than switching what they’re eating. This will cause very smelly gas and in many cases vomiting. I know you totally get me here right ? How many of you have been almost run out of the room when your pet is gassy?

Most pets at one time or another refuse to eat their food… especially if your pets are small dogs or cats. I swear I think bigger dogs would swallow a shoe if it were covered in gravy. The first thing to do with finicky pets is to not get frustrated. Just like most human parents getting their kids to eat vegetables you’ve got to get creative and think outside the box, and then if all else fails put your foot down.

Where to start

1. The best place to start is with a consistent feeding schedule. Pets behave better when they have schedules, it helps them know what to expect and gives them a sense of comfort. Most pets are fed 2 times a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.

2. I like to make ceremony around feeding time. What I mean is I always get my pet to look forward to feeding time by using “trigger words” like COOKIE. & then I usually give them a tiny bit of the food from my finger making Mmm Mmm sounds to start the momentum of eating.

3. Make sure while you’re preparing their food you do it in front of them, this builds anticipation. My pet watches me wash their bowls, and I talk to them saying “this is going to be sooooo YUMMY” (of course you can come up with your own but you get where I’m coming from).

4. Also I never feed my pet cold food (unless it’s hot outside) the best is luke warm so it’s easy to digest.

5. I always put the food down and stay in the vicinity while they begin to eat, at least until they get into it. Especially small dogs don’t like to be alone when they eat, this gives them a comfort zone while they are eating. Most rescues have some type anxiety around food and this will help them relax, feel safe while eating their food.

6. Also while they take their first few bites I praise them a bit with good boy or good girl, this encourages them to keep going. Don’t forget to smile, body language speaks volumes.

7. Lastly when they’re done eating I always go and check the bowl acknowledge and praise them for doing such a good job and give affection. This puts positive reinforcement on eating their food when they are asked to and they will be more willing next time to please you.

If you still are having a challenge getting your pets to eat try this…

1. To help your pet understand  that there is no other option, Set out your pets food for 30 minutes. If it isn’t eaten, take it away. Make sure you refrigerate it so it doesn’t spoil.

2. When it’s time for your pets next meal, set out the SAME food again (make sure it’s luke warm) and take it away in 30 minutes, whether it is eaten or not.

3. This may take a day or 2 for your pet to get a clue and then they may start checking around for extra treats. Maintain your strategy. Don’t give in! Your pet isn’t starving. If hungry, your dog will eat. The longest I have experienced was 3 days for stubborn pet to eat… but they did. What you are doing is out willing your pet and it works.

4. When they finally do eat remember to PRAISE them for it.

Going forward

I always believe it’s a good idea to feed the pets first before you eat. This helps because a full tummy usually helps to deter begging while you’re having dinner. Also have  a place designated for your pet to be while you’re eating. This place should  be away from where you are eating, like their bed or in another room entirely. This teaches your pets respect for you around your food and when you have guests over you will thank me for this one. Once you’re done eating always invite them over so they know they are included.

Also I like to cook one meal once a week for my pet and feed them cut up small veggies and fruit. My Daniele special is thin cut up Cucumbers, Carrots & Honeycrisp apples. These snacks are superior to pre-packaged ones because they are healthier and keep their digestive tracts moving smoothly… remember all health begins in the colon.


If you need any more assistance around this challenge I’m always one phone call away (310) 743-9643 until next time remember pets rule!




“How To Get FINICKY PETS To Eat Their Food…”