Rethinking The Finicky Dog


Dog food bowl

Most dogs aren’t picky eaters – they are well known for big appetites and less than discerning ‘taste’ about what they will chow down on, but “most dogs” does not mean “all dogs.” So what do you do when you have a dog that is finicky about what it eats?

One of the things getting in the way of humans understanding our dogs is our habit of imposing our own logic or rationale onto them. When it comes to food, we humans rely far more on our sense of taste than we do on our sense of smell, so we tend to overlap our own feelings about food onto our canine companions.

Most humans know that their dog has a sense of ‘smell’ that is far superior to ours, but what many people don't know is how their dog's ability to taste compares to ours.

Scientists have estimated that humans have approximately 9,000 taste buds, but did you know that dogs have considerably fewer? Would it surprise you to find out that they are believed to have approximately 80% fewer taste buds than humans? Not only do they have fewer taste buds than humans, but canine taste buds are 'tuned' differently than ours.

Human taste buds are grouped into five different categories:

  • Salty

  • Sour

  • Sweet

  • Bitter

  • Umami (which can be thought of as ‘meat’)

A dog’s taste buds are grouped differently than ours:

  • Salty

  • Sour

  • Sweet

  • Bitter

  • Two groups for ‘meat’ (one for fat and the other for flesh)

  • A group right at the tip of their tongues for water.

So now, keeping in mind how much more prominent a dog’s sense of smell is than it’s ability to taste, the first step to solving the ‘picky eater’ problem is to appeal to the dog’s nose instead of it's taste buds.

Back in the ‘old days’ there seemed to be much more reliance on canned (often called ‘wet’) dog food, and if you have ever fed your dog canned food I won’t have to remind you about the strong smell.

That smell is like a magnet to a dog, but if you don't want to change to a 'wet' style of food, the best place to start is moistening your dry kibble food with some warm water before serving it to your dog. Let it stand for about a minute and then stir to allow the water to penetrate and release more aroma (better to start with 'damp' than with 'soupy').

There are certainly a number of other ways to enhance the attractiveness of your pooch's meal, which could include a 'raw' diet or a mix of wet and dry dog food but, if you are considering using 'human' food you need to be aware of the harmful foods for dogs that must be avoided.

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