Dear Labby | Treats vs. Food
The other day a friend asked me a question about their dog and I thought it was a good question for Dear Labby. Here’s the situation, her dog will only eat treats, she won’t eat her regular food. What’s up with that?
That is a good question and I think that there are a couple of different reasons so if she really wants to get to the bottom of it, it might take a little work. Here’s what I’d recommend:
- Check the ingredients. Treats typically have fewer ingredients and so less artificial fillers & preservatives, etc. Her dog may just prefer the taste of the treats. The treats may be beef and her food primarily chicken and she just doesn’t like the taste of chicken.
- Check the texture and hardness of the treats vs. the kibble. Sometimes the kibble is too hard for a dog’s teeth or hurts their gums. Our Maggie doesn’t like hard chews, only soft ones – so check that and then…
- Check her teeth – there might be a reason in her mouth that she prefers the texture of one over another. You can always add water to kibble to soften it up and make it easier to eat.
- If she used to eat her meals and recently stopped, you should also check in with your vet and make sure there’s no underlying medical cause of her sudden dislike of her regular food.
Once you rule out a taste, teeth or medical reason, try hand feeding her the kibble and see if it’s just the dinner ritual/bowl/time or whatever she doesn’t like. Does she refuse the food when it’s given to her as a treat? If not, then you know she doesn’t like the food. If she does take it, then you know it’s not the food, but the circumstances of the feeding.
If it turns out she only eats when you hand feed her, then you may have a “Prima donna” problem on your hands and you will need to work on changing her behavior. To do that, we suggest:
- Stop feeding her treats. Yes, stop – completely.
- Feed her regular food with a few of her treats that she likes on top of her kibble. Be sure and reduce the amount of kibble as you don’t want to overfeed.
- NO in between meal treats.
- Slowly replace the treats in her meal with all kibble.
A healthy dog is not going to starve themselves. When they get hungry enough, they will eat no matter what. But if you give in and always feed her what she wants in the manner that she wants, well then that’s what she’s going to hold out for.
Good luck and let us know how it goes.
- When Your Dog Is a Picky Eater
- Eight Ways to Deal with a Finicky Eater
- Why Won’t My Dog Eat His Food?