Getting Frustrated with Our Dog!

Updated on November 10, 2010
R.S. asks from Upper Sandusky, OH
15 answers

We have been having problems getting our dog to eat since we got him in April. He is (from what they could tell at the shelter) about 2-3 yrs old and a Hound and St. Bernard mix. They also assured us at the shelter when we got him that he'll eat any type of dog food as they only fed their pets with sponsored food and it was always a different type. Well, he'll go 2-3 days without eating his food! He'll scavenge my sons snacks if it's left unattended even for 30 seconds. He eats the cats food on a regular basis, tips the trash can over nearly night if we don't put it on the back porch in the evenings. We've tried nearly every dog food offered (except the vet office foods- I'm not willing to pay more for our dog's food than I do ours!)- even holistic.
Has anyone else encountered a picky eater for a pet? What did you do? Or does this even sound like he's being picky? Could it maybe an underlying problem? (Not that I expect anyone answering to be a vet, but if your pet has had this problem, was it something more?)
Just looking for some advice! Thank you! :)

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So What Happened?

Wow, thank you for all of the responses! I had forgotten to mention that our dog was a Prison dog- meaning he was sent to a local prison by the shelter members to be trained by a prison mate (who was trained to train dogs). Steve (our dog's given name) graduated the program learning basic verbal commands and hand commands. It was just shocking to us when he first got into the trash knowing that he was a trained dog.
We tried mixing wet canned food with his dry but he would spit out the kibble to the floor and eat only the gravy and meaty pieces. We tried beef broth over his dry food but he'd lap up the broth again spitting out the kibble. I've not thought of trying tomato juice- that might work better!
We block off the cat's area at night but he always manages to move the bench and get to it. We'll put it atop the dryer tonight to see if that helps!
He was cage trained, but I'm not particularly found of the idea of caging our pets. I suppose if it came down to it however, we could try that as well.
I think an appointment to the vet is warranted to make sure there is isn't anything going on internally, and then I'll begin the dog food juggle again! Perhaps mixing a few brands together in his food bin would make it more exciting? I might give that a try!
Thanks again mommies!
Oh- and the comment about my son needing to know not to leave his snacks unattended: He is 2.He does not need to have any responsibility to the pets yet. I should know not to leave the room while he's having a snack rather. And Steve will walk right up to the table and eat whatever Matthew is munching on right off the plate! He's a sneaky little doggy!

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answers from Los Angeles on

sounds like a psych problem - I was watching "it's me or the dog" the other day, and they put a weight in their trash can - like a 20 lb weightlifting weight, so he couldnt tip the trash over - you could try that.
sounds like he needs to "steal " food for whatever reason, so maybe you could put his bowl in a secret spot, so he will think he is pinching it.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Columbus on

I agree with the other posters that this is a behavior issue, most probably. You could have him evaluated for ulcers/digestive problems. However, since he's more than willing to eat other foods than his dog food that doesn't seem as likely a culprit as it being behavior issues. Depending on his size, he might need to eat 2x per day (most dogs, unless they are really large, only eat 1x per day). If it's he's needing to more than 4 cups per day to maintain a healthy weight, then 2 feedings per day is better, but for our girls (65# retriever/hound mix, and 75# GSD mix), they get 3.5 cups of food once per day.

Feed him at the same time you're eating, and whatever he doesn't eat within 20 minutes, remove. Remove all temptations -- put the cat's food up where he can't possibly get to it (like the top of the fridge if need be! Cat food is higher in fat which is why dogs love it so much, more than their own food), invest in a bear-proof garbage can or be very diligent about making sure the garbage is out of the house and out of harm's way; get the kids on board and let them know that he needs to eat his own food, which is made specially for him, and that people food is strictly off limits and police it.

So that is all the "stick' part of it. Now for the carrot part. Institute a 'nothing in life is free' training regimen--this will help keep him stimulated and also help reinforce that in your house, you are the alpha and he is not. (Google "NILIF" & "dogs" or "nothing in life is free" and "dog"--it's really easy to do). Then teach him some games/play with him, run him in the backyard or take him to the dog park and let him run & play. Pick a kind of dog food he likes (or guess if you can't tell; something higher end will probably be more palatable, than, say generic kibble; on the other side, my friend swears her 3 Mastiffs won't eat their high dog food unless she mixes a cup of dry Pedigree (the cheapo, not actually really very good for them dog food). Anyway, pick a dry dog food he likes, then mix in a couple of tablespoons of the wet dog food. Dogs love that wet food, and it is incentive for him to eat the rest of the food.

I like the Kong toys, and the Nylabones (not the edible ones, but the "durable" ones) if he likes to chew, or the pressed rawhide if you prefer something not plastic for him to chew.

In some ways, he's a lot like a little kid (smart dogs are supposed to be about the same intelligence and ability to learn as a 4yo child, I've heard), but bigger and better able to muscle his way into stuff....

Good luck & keep your chin up--he can be trained, with patience and persistence!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

We had a dog who was a rescue dog, and he had some eating issues.

He would outright refuse to eat if he couldn't see a member of the family.

Our (and our vet's) best guess was that his previous owners would leave him for days at a time, without replenishing his food. He would only eat if he knew he hadn't been left alone. If he couldn't see us, he was rationing.

My dad developed the routine of feeding him as soon as he got up in the morning, and sitting with him while he drank his coffee and the dog ate his breakfast. We also moved his food bowl so that he could see into the kitchen window while he ate dinner. After a while, he was okay, but if we had a dogsitter, he would revert and needed the sitter to sit with him while he ate.

It sounds like your dog is trying to find and hoard food, too. Is he eating everyone else's food, and saving his own for what his experience tells him is inevitable abandonment?

Maybe try sitting with him while he eats? Don't approach him, of course, but let him know that you're there. At the shelter, there was always someone around during mealtime, so maybe that would account for his willingness to eat there.

I like the idea of weighting down the trashcan, too.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

poor thing... try some boiled hamberger and rice mixed with his regular dog food. then after a week slowly start to wean him off the hamberger and rice to wet dog food mixed with dry. good luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Hi. I would really suggest not catering to this behavior by trying to find something he will eat. It's boredom. I would suggest bringing some kind of a challenge for him to get his food. Buy a Kong toy and fill it with treats. Also put food all over the house in different bowls. If you don't want to hassle with this just keep the food out for a specific time, like 20 and then pick it up. I would offer it once at most twice a day. Don't leave the food sitting all day. He should begin to understand that he needs to eat when the food is available. Also some exercise is good to perk a dog up. Most dog with this behavior seems depressed or lazy and getting them stimulated helps with outings and exercise.
Best Regards,



answers from Cleveland on

Our black lab is 11 and most of the time would be trying to get table scraps from us or getting in the trash while we were not home. We have to put the trash up on the counter so he can't get to it while we're gone.
This year he ate some cat food (which he would do on a regular basis) however, this time he ate enough that it gave him pancreatitis. He was SO sick. I've never seen an animal throw up so much.
The vet said cat food is very high in fat and that caused the pancreatitis which also inlarged his gallbladder. (the vet also mentioned they normally have animals come in after the Holidays with pancreatitis because people feed them table scraps that cause them to get sick)
Our dog was in the vet hospital for a week and had several ultrasounds and had to see an Internal Medicine Dr. for animals.(We thought we were going to have to put him to sleep) One of the meds he had to take was $150.00 a month. We ended up spending over $5,000. He got in the trash a month ago (I forgot to put it up) and his pancreatitis came back. He's back on his meds . He had no throwing up this time because we caught it early enough.
When he gets the pancreatitis he doesn't want to eat his dog food. We end up trying other brands but this time he won't eat them either. So, we are giving him chicken and rice. (It's like when we get sick from eating something bad or drinking too much we don't want whatever made us sick for a while) dogs can be the same way.
The vet said it is very painful for dogs causing their belly to be very sore.
If it continues, I'd talk to your vet and see what they recommend doing. They can also do bloodwork that will test for this...with pancreatitis some things are elevated and show up on the blood test.
I would try to stop him from eating the cat food or from getting in the trash. I know sometimes it's easier said than done! lol :)
A friend of mine had a dog recently that didn't want to eat and she took him to the vet and they found that he had a tumor in his belly that was causing the problem.
Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

Try mixing a tablespoonful or two of canned dog food in with his most favorite dry food. We've been doing this for years. It's cheap, easy, and as he got older and needed daily pills it made it easy to hide them in the canned food. Also try dividing his daily food into two meals a day.

Also, try more exercise to keep him happy and hungry. Just don't feed him too close to exercising or you run the risk of bloat. Also don't let him run on a full belly of food or water, wait about 2-3 hours.

It doesn't sound like a health problem because he is eating other things. He might just have gotten spoiled with the cat food and snack stealing. Good luck! He sounds adorable. I wish we could see photos on this site!



answers from Tampa on

We got our dog from a rescue and she likes Evo dog food. She was given that before we adopted her. Her bag of food cost $16.00 it lasts a month as she gets fed twice a day 1/2 cup or less per vet. She has treats and snacks and plenty of water and exercise. Plus feeding better food means less poop from cheap food. Our dogs fur is shiny and she is happy with her food. She is part beagle, cala-hola (sp) and blue tick. She's a med. size dog about 3/4 years old. She too goes in spurts where she won't eat as much but then want to eat more. We too thought it was crazy to spend so much on her food but it works and she goes #2 less then if she ate cheap food.



answers from Indianapolis on

My mom's dog is getting to be a picky eater but we think it is just because he is jealous of the cat and rabbit. He won't eat his food until my mom sprinkles some of the rabbit's dry alfalfa pellet food on it. My dog I had before my dog I have now would go into spurts where he wouldn't eat- and he always ate! I would put some canned dog food in with his dry food or chicken broth. I think he just got bored with the same food all the time.


answers from Oklahoma City on

for starters feed all pets seperately, cats dish inside, his dish out side, etc get a cage for him at night "a bed" so he's not free roaming the house (have one for each of my dogs and all we say is 'go to bed' and off they go to their seperate cages and normally even if one of our kids accidentally leave the cages opened at night my dogs don't normally wonder the house), of course he's going to go after people food, what dog wont? your son needs to know to not leave his food unattended and up high like the kitchen table or counter when he needs to leave it alone for a minute, and each time your dog even sniffs at something on the table or counter top, slap his nose. eventually that will teach him, what's on the kitchen table is off limits. give him accesst to eating nothing but dog food if you have to send him outside, put it in a cage, etc, that way he'll learn i eat/sleep here.

if you have to leave during the day put him in his cage our out prepared for a barking dog at first...mine bark up a storm if we put them to bed when they know it's not bed time, other than that all, you hear from them at bed time is their nails scratching against the bottom trying to get comfortable



answers from Shreveport on

If the sitting with him idea fails you might want to consider a raw diet. There are tons of wonderful sites that can help you through it. Now it isn't costly and it is actually better for your dog than kibble foods are.
Here are a few sites to let you read over.

We had a picky eater. We had to convince her to eat and every kibble we tried wasn't to her liking. She was already sickly so I had to dive into raw diet. I had read about it off and on for a couple of years. It was teh best choice we ever made. No more picky eating.



answers from Cincinnati on

I havent read the other responses but my beagle was like this and gets like this every now and then. I noticed it at first when we would give him a taste of our food (like a french fry or something) and I noticed it again when my daughter likes the toss her dinner over the side. your dog is not a picky eater, he just knows that your sons snacks and other things taste better so he sticks out in hopes to score that vs eating his plain jane dog food. What helps me get my dog to eat is I put a little bit of tomato juice over his food. If you dont want to keep running to the store of juice you and put a little peanut butter around the bowl before putting the food in.


answers from Kansas City on

my dog does the same thing - often when she is bored. she LOVES cat food, and will pass up hers to eat the cat's. also loves scavenging in the trash. GRRR!! all i can do is put the cat's food out of her reach, make sure all the people food (and trash!) is out of reach, and leave hers and hers alone. it's annoying. but it's a dog thing. see what happens once you know for sure she isn't getting ANYthing else, i bet she eats more than you think.



answers from Anchorage on

sounds like normal dog behavior to me. Most dogs prefer human food if they can get it, so it is our job as pet mammas to be sure they don't. I have a child lock on my garbage cabinet for the dog, not the kids. The boys have all their snacks at the table. If he still is not eating, you could try putting a small amount of chicken broth over the food, it does not add a lot of extra calories to the food and will encourage him to eat. As for the cat food, we had to start feeding our cat smaller amounts whenever he was hungry so that the dog would not be eating all the cat food.



answers from South Bend on

I don't know if this is particularly helpful, but my dog was always a weird eater. Although, she was small so we didn't have to worry about her knocking down trash cans or getting into anything and causing much destruction.
Against everything we read, we just kept her food bowl full of dry dog food for a long time. Then my mom (this was my childhood dog) got the brilliant idea that she would prefer that canned dog food. GROSS smelling and even worse leaving. Anyway, when I moved out (with the dog) we put her on a raw dog food diet, which was specially made (for dogs) patties of raw meat. It requires a bit more food-safe caution, but she loved that for a while and it was much more efficient in the BM department! Even so, she would sometimes go a day or two without eating much, and the next be much more enthusiastic. As long as the vet seems to think he is fine, I wouldn't stress out too much. Perhaps you can find a balance between the cheap dog food and a more wholesome one. The really cheap ones do have a lot of filler and create much more stinky, big, and soft messes to clean up from the yard.
If you are really desperate - my aunt and uncle cook up a bunch of ground beef and mixing a small amount in with the dry dog food - hard for a dog to resist!

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