Have a picky or fussy eater on your hands?
If so, you’re not alone.
Picky eating can be surprisingly common. (Especially with smaller dogs.)
But even though smaller breeds are often prone to fussy eating (they have smaller appetites), it can happen with any dog… regardless of breed or size.
So while most dogs happily devour their dinner as fast as possible… others are much fussier.
In fact, it can feel like a struggle to get them to eat anything at all.
Sometimes it’ll leave you worried about their weight… or whether they have an underlying health issue. In some cases, they may seem happy to eat your human food… but have little interest in their own meals.
In this guide, you’ll find the answers you’re looking for.
Let’s get started.
Is My Dog A Picky Eater?
The first thing to determine is if your dog is a picker eater or if there’s another underlying cause.
Smaller dogs have small appetites, so it isn’t unusual for them to leave food behind or seem uninspired by their dinner… especially if they haven’t been very active.
So, if your dog’s at a healthy weight, has a shiny coat, and is alert and happy, then occasionally leaving food behind isn’t something to worry about.
Of course, if your dog has always been picky with their meals… then you’ll have less reason for concern because you know their history.
However: If your dog’s losing weight and still not eating, then there could be an issue.
Is There A Health Issue?
Changes in your dog’s eating habits can be a sign of an underlying health issue.
If your pooch usually dives into their food bowl with gusto… but has recently lost all interest… then it’s wise to talk to a vet.
The key thing to look for will be any changes in their eating habits.
A common reason for a dog to stop eating can be tooth pain.
Other reasons can include hormone fluctuations and digestive issues.
Once your dog has received the all-clear from the vet… you’ll know if it’s just finicky eating with no underlying problem.
What’s The Best Tasting Dog Food For Picky Eaters?
Looking for the best overall dog food solution for a picky eater? We recommend Ollie Pet Foods.
In fact: When it comes to quality ingredients and unparalleled convenience (it’s a subscription service that delivers to your door), Ollie’s “human grade” dog food is hard to beat.
Their website walks you through a personalized questionnaire that recommends the best food option for your dog. The questions cover sex, breed, age, weight (and ideal weight), body type, activity levels, current diet (for transitioning), allergies, and more.
You can then choose from four main recipes which feature: beef, turkey, chicken, or lamb as the primary protein source.
Important: The formula uses only the best quality ingredients. So much so, that the food is considered “human grade”. There’s also no fillers or artificial flavorings added… and minimal processing is involved.
Which means your dog gets the best, nutrient-rich meals… and they taste great, too.
The company operates as a subscription service, so you won’t find them in stores. Instead, you have the food shipped to your door on a regular schedule.
You keep it in the refrigerator, and it’ll be good for up to 14 days (or 5 days after you’ve broken the seal.) And it comes with a resealable lid to keep it fresh. It can also be frozen for long term storage.
What Makes Food Irresistible To Dogs?
There’s no question about it: Dog’s love meat.
Ensuring your dog’s food comes with a high-quality protein source goes a long way toward triggering their appetite.
Dog’s also love fat.
Interestingly, dogs also enjoy fruits and vegetables.
However: Certain flavors, tastes, and textures appeal to dogs more than others.
Many dog food brands include a healthy selection of fruits and vegetables to provide the key vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to keep a dog happy and healthy.
Important: The things that are left out of the food matter, too.
Low grade fillers, additives, and artificial flavorings can affect with your dog’s appetite… particularly if they’re on the fussy side.
10 Ways To Encourage A Fussy Eater To Eat!
1. Make Sure You’re Not Overfeeding
A big culprit behind fussy eating is simply “overfeeding“… particularly for small dogs without high-calorie requirements.
It’s incredibly easy to fall into the trap of giving too many treats between meals, along with the occasional table scraps (just to spoil your dog.)
But as you’d expect, this can have a big impact on your dog’s (lack of) hunger.
2. Cut Down Those Table Scraps
When your dog’s used to enjoying your tasty steak scraps… a bowl of kibble might not seem as appealing!
As such, it’s wise to cut down on the table scraps if your dog isn’t eating their usual food.
3. Stick To A Regular Feeding Schedule
Another useful tip is to keep your dog on a feeding schedule.
Make sure it’s appropriate for their age, breed, and size.
Additionally, talk with the family to ensure everybody is on the same page. (And make sure nobody’s feeding them sneaky treats on the side!)
4. Upgrade Your Dog’s Food Quality
If your dog isn’t interested in their food, take a closer look at the food you’re offering.
Dog’s love high-quality meat-based foods… so examine the nutritional labels to ensure it’s giving them the quality nutrition they need.
You’ll want to see whole protein sources such as chicken, lamb, beef, or turkey (meat “meal” is okay too).
Important: Stay away from any food that has low-grade fillers and additives.
5. Add Some Wet Food To Their Kibble
It can be useful to serve some wet dog food with their kibble.
Because the added moisture makes the food more aromatic and appealing.
Your dog greatly depends on their sense of smell to experience the world… so making their dinner more aromatic can encourage them to eat more.
6. Warm Up Your Dog’s Food A Bit
Another useful trick is to warm up their food in the microwave.
This tactic is great for dogs who get excited about table scraps and human food. (After all, they think you’re giving them what you’re having!)
7. Try Feed By Hand
You may not want to make this a regular habit… but many dogs will be more encouraged to eat if you feed them by hand.
It’s time-consuming, but it works (in the short term) for many picky eaters.
You can also transition from your hand to your dog’s bowl over time.
8. Try A “Limited Ingredient” Dog Food Brand
Is there a certain ingredient your dog dislikes?
If so, consider a limited ingredient dog food formula.
These formulations come with as few additives as possible, and the simple, basic ingredients can help to restart your dog’s appetite.
9. Take The Dinner Away (If They’re Not Eating)
Leaving your dog’s food available at all times isn’t always a good idea, especially if you’re trying to establish a better feeding schedule.
Instead, leave your dog’s down during dinner time. And if they don’t finish, take the food away. Next time, they could become more motivated to eat when it’s available.
10. Give Your Dog More Activity
Giving your dog enough physical activity is very important.
Taking them for a walk or having a play session helps to increase your dog’s appetite.
The Best Dry Food Kibble For Picky Eaters
If you suspect your dog’s becoming a picky eater due to their current brand of food… then it’s worth taking a look at a few “premium” brands that use better quality ingredients.
They can be more expensive than budget kibble, but there’s no denying the improved quality is better (and healthier) for your dog in the long run.
When you’re dealing with a picky eater, it makes sense to focus on ‘real’ ingredients whenever possible. The real meaty chunks used in this high-protein blend encourage a picky eater to eat, and it also tastes great.
The blend comes with a high-protein formulation, along with sweet potatoes and pea to give your dog the carbs needed to keep their energy up… so it’s well-suited for an active dog.
Additionally, it comes with the exclusive ‘LifeSource Bits’, which further improve the blend by adding extra vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants your dog needs to stay fit and healthy.
This formula uses freeze-dried raw pieces… so it’s appetizing and improves the taste.
It’s also high-protein, free of grain, and freeze-dried raw to preserve the excellent nutrition value.
It comes with some healthy probiotics which aid digestion and there’s added omega 3 and 6 fatty acids which help to maintain the shine of your dog’s coat.
Furthermore, there are no low-grade additives or fillers. You won’t find any soy, wheat, corn, gluten, or anything else that’s likely to put off a fussy eater.
This Taste of the Wild formula uses real buffalo as the main ingredient, along with bison, roasted venison, and beef for an extra-meaty blend that should tempt a picky eater.
There’s added vitamins and antioxidants thanks to the fruits and vegetables used in the blend (sweep potatoes, peas, potatoes, and more.)
Plus, the blend features omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to support skin and coat health… along with a proprietary K9 probiotic blend which supports digestion.
The Wellness CORE Original formula uses turkey and chicken as the primary protein sources, and there’s enough to make it tempting and desirable for a fussy eater.
Importantly, the blend doesn’t use any low-grade additives, nor will you find any meat by-products, soy, corn, wheat, or anything artificial… so it’s generally a healthy option that won’t put off a picky eater.
The kibbles are coated with probiotics to support digestion, and there’s omega-3 fatty acids from the salmon oil and flaxseed… along with glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health and mobility.
This tasty food from The Honest Kitchen is an option that provides exceptional quality thanks to the premium ingredients.
You can choose from either range raised beef, free-range chicken, or cage-free turkey, and the formula uses dehydrated ingredients to ensure maximum nutrition and flavor.
There’s no preservatives or low-grade filler added either.
All you need to do to prepare it is add a little warm water and you’ll soon have an aromatic, flavor-packed meal to trigger your dog’s appetite.
This option from Merrick is a poultry-free kibble formula that’s useful if your dog doesn’t eat chicken. Instead, it features deboned beef at the main ingredient.
It uses a blend of 65% protein and fat to keep the nutrition quality high, along with 35% fiber, produce, minerals, and vitamins.
Importantly, it uses whole food sources from trusted farmers… and there’s no corn, soy, wheat, gluten, or artificial preservatives. So it’s a safe choice for most dogs.
This option from Rachael Ray uses U.S. farm-raised chicken as the main ingredient, and there’s no “by-product”, meal, or fillers used… so you can rest assured you’re getting the good stuff.
It comes with brown rice and beet pulp to provide some needed fibers, and the poultry fat gives the fatty acids required for maintaining skin and coat health.
Blue Buffalo Freedom formula is a choice that will appeal to many sensitive dogs… as it’s free from any low grade fillers… and there’s no wheat or gluten.
Furthermore, you won’t find any artificial colorings or flavorings, nor will you see any grain, soy, or meat by-product meals.
Ultimately, this means you’re left with a quality blend that features gives the nutrition your dog requires, along with a tasty chicken formulation that will appeal to most dogs.
The Best Dog Food Toppers
If you’re looking for a simple dog food topper to add to your dog’s kibble, then there are certainly many great options available.
Adding some tasty dog food toppers can be a great way to enhance the appeal of your dog’s food.
Toppers are designed to be tasty and full of aroma, so they’ll quickly encourage any fussy eater to eat their kibble.
Let’s explore a few options.
This dried meal mixer and topper is a popular choice for anyone who’s looking to improve their dog’s dinner.
The formula includes freeze-dried raw poultry that adds great appeal and aroma, along with ground bones and organs.
There’s also fruit and veg that add vitamins and minerals to the blend.
This ‘Simply Shreds’ topper from the Wellness CORE line uses only five ingredients… so you can rest assured there are no low quality additives.
These ingredients include: chicken, salmon, chicken broth, pumpkin, and pure water. Ultimately, this makes the topper tasty and nutritious… so it’s perfect for livening up your dog’s plain kibble.
These Blue Wilderness Wild Cuts Trail Toppers use real beef to add a flavor and aroma to any doggy dinner.
There’s no grain, nor will you find any wheat, soy, corn, or artificial colorings and preservatives. Instead, they’re simply tasty morsels of real beef that come in a handy single-serve pouch.
And the real meat chunks in a dog-friendly gravy will tempt any fusser eater.
The Instinct Freeze Dried Toppers come with extra fiber and live probiotics to aid digestive health. In fact, supporting gut health is one of the main priorities with this product.
It uses a grain-free, all-natural formula that makes for an excellent topper over kibble… and the blend of real chicken combined with pumpkin, sweet potato and chicory root make them tasty and healthy for your dog.
Of course, they’ll ideal for picky eaters as well.
These Honest Kitchen food toppers feature top-quality ingredients… and they’re dehydrated to seal in the nutrition and flavor.
This formulation also ensures high levels of real meat proteins without needing artificial additives and preservatives to keep it fresh.
Other ingredients include apple, pumpkin, blueberries, and chard.
The Meat Mates food topper increases the meat content of your dog’s food. As such, it’s sure to increase its appeal to a picky eater.
The product uses a single animal protein that’s been freeze-dried, and there’s no preservatives or unwanted artificial additives.
Most dogs will go wild for the taste of these toppers, and the healthy formulation means they shouldn’t upset your dog.
This all-natural dog food enhancer from TruDog adds some appealing aroma and protein that will increase your dog’s excitement for dinner time.
The topper adds a meaty taste to your dog’s kibble, and it only requires a light sprinkling to work.
Ingredient wise, it relies on a variety of beef such as tripe, lung, ground beef bone, liver, heart, kidney, blood, and fat, all of which are very nutritious.
Additionally, it uses herring oil as a natural source of vitamin D.
Just as important, the food doesn’t use any wheat, corn, grain, sugar, meat by-products, or added salt, so there’s nothing that could upset your dog’s overall health.
Best Wet Foods For Picky Eaters
If your dog eats kibble as their main meal, then adding some tasty wet food to the mix can be very useful for motivating them to eat more (and be less picky!)
Wet dog food offers added moisture, and it’s easy to mix with your dog’s kibble.
The Merrick Classic canned dog food comes in many versions… But the Grammy’s Pot Pie is one of the best.
It uses top quality ingredients, and doesn’t come with any unwanted artificial colorings, flavorings, or preservatives.
Deboned chicken is the primary ingredient, along with new potatoes, peats, carrots, and apples. Ultimately, this gives it a nutritious formulation that’ll be tempting to most dogs.
It can also serve as a topper, too.
This Blue Buffalo Wilderness canned food comes with high-quality ingredients throughout.
So, you won’t find any corn, wheat, soy, or meat by-products… but it does come with high levels of beef and chicken that’ll appeal to any dog.
You’ll also find plenty of key vitamins and minerals that add a nutritional punch to your dinner time. Again, it can be used as a mixer or topper as well.
Best Limited Ingredient Food For Picky Eaters
If your dog is allergic or sensitive to particular ingredients commonly found in dog foods, then trying them out with a limited ingredient formula could be a smart idea.
In fact, some dogs may simply not like certain ingredients and turn their nose up at any food that contains the veggies they don’t like.
In these cases, a limited ingredient product can be useful.
The Wellness Simple blend is an excellent limited ingredient formula that uses a selection of simple, high-quality ingredients to give your dog a tasty meal without causing any stomach sensitivity.
You can choose from salmon, duck, lamb, and turkey as the primary protein source, which is matched with either oatmeal or potatoes, and they’re both gentle and easy-to-digest.
There’s no low-grade fillers or additives, which can often cause sensitivity for some dogs or at least dissuade them from eating if they’re a finicky eater. It also contains a variety of probiotics and prebiotics which further aid your dog’s digestion.
The Natural Balance Limited Ingredient formula is a top limited brand, and it’s well-regarded by many dog owners with sensitive dogs.
It’s grain-free and doesn’t contain any artificial colorings, flavorings, or preservatives. But it still provides a tasty blend that uses ingredients your dog might enjoy.
There’s also plenty of vitamins and minerals, along with rich levels of potassium and fatty acids to support skin and coat health.
If you have a fussy senior dog, this limited ingredient formula from the Blue Buffalo Basic line could work for you.
It uses real turkey as the main ingredient, along with potatoes, peas, and pumpkins to further improve digestion.
There’s no dairy, eggs, or soy to trigger sensitivity, and there’s also no chicken, beef, corn, or wheat. And you won’t find any by-product meals or artificial additives.
Overall, it’s a good option that’s largely defined by what it leaves out… making it a safe choice for most senior dogs.
Here’s a limited ingredient wet food for senior dogs, and it’s part of the same Blue Basics line.
It uses real turkey as the key ingredient, and this helps to maintain your dog’s lean muscle mass without triggering stomach sensitivities.
There’s no dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, or artificial flavorings and additives. It’s a great companion to the dry food from the same brand.
Best Dog Food for Picky Eaters With Sensitive Stomachs
If your dog is picky and sensitive, this dry kibble from Purina Pro Plan is usually a safe choice.
It comes with prebiotic fiber to enhance digestion, and none of the ingredients are likely to cause bad reactions.
But it still offers respectable protein thanks to the salmon, along with easily-digested carbs like rice and oatmeal.
There’s also omega fatty acids to support skin and coat health, which comes from the sunflower oil.
Dealing with a picky eater can be tough… especially when you can’t figure out what’s causing the problem.
It’s wise to check for any underlying health issues with your vet first.
But afterward, apply the tips in this guide and see what happens.
And remember: Using a quality dog food brand really helps.
We recommend Ollie’s Dog Food. It’s highly rated, well-respected, and they have plans that’ll suit any fussy eater.