There is a growing epidemic among Dallas dogs. Month after month, week after week, customers have been coming into the store with one prevailing complaint. The dog won’t eat. I’ve been in the training business for 14 years and as such I’m no stranger to the hunger strike as a power play by the dog. But as I get deeper into the dog food business I’ve noticed there seems to be something else going on here. There was a time when no dog was more stubborn than me. Upon asking the dog to eat his meals in his crate as part of discipline during a boarding and training program hunger strikes were common. Within three days of refusing meals the dog would give in and eat. About seven years into my training career I adopted a new dog of my own and he refused to eat for ten days whether he was crated or not. It wasn’t until I served him commercially prepared raw food that he ate with unbridled enthusiasm. I logged that experience as a one-off and mostly forgot about it.

Nitro is not interested in lamb.

Nitro is not interested in lamb.

My business has always been concerned with the relationship between human and dog. In the past, I listened to my clients explain to me how their dog refused to eat, whether given the choice of dining location or relegated to his crate for dining, the dog just would not eat. I was certain, all other indications matching up, that the dog had its owner’s number, so to speak, and was playing a game with him for control. These owners would find themselves at the dog food store weekly trying to find something the dog would eat. I would advise them to find something the dog seems to like and stick with it, no matter what. When an owner would introduce a new food the novelty seemed to entice the dog to eat but within a week the dog would grow tired of the food. Nevertheless, I insisted, he liked it once, he can like it again. I assured the clients the dog would eat when he got hungry and that was true. The dog would eventually eat.

He prefers beef

He prefers beef

Dogs refuse their meals for numerous reasons. Sometimes they don’t feel well, sometimes they are distracted, sometimes they are mad about having to eat in their crate, sometimes they are not hungry (usually a side effect of receiving too many treats and not enough exercise) and sometimes, I’ve learned as of late, they simply do not like their food. I don’t feed kibble to my dog but my assistant, who has fed kibble in the past, assured me that some of the high-end brands I had chosen for my store were much more palatable than other brands (most likely the high meat content). Upon her suggestion I sent many customers home with samples. To our delight almost all of the dogs enjoyed the food. Problem solved.

If your dog won’t eat you have to play detective. First, you want to be sure there are no medical issues that would hinder your dog’s appetite. Make sure they are not distracted by other things going on around them. Having them eat while isolated (in their crate) can help if this is the case. Let’s assume you’ve determined they are, indeed, hungry. If this refusal to eat goes on day after day it’s time to consider a new food. One clue your dog does not like his food is that he won’t eat in the morning but will eat in the evening. In a case like this the dog is not hungry enough to eat what is served in the morning but by the evening he is hungry enough to eat whatever is put in front of him. Consider a high-end kibble containing more meat, what dogs were born to eat above all else. Some samples should help you determine if your dog enjoys the food before you make an investment. If your dog doesn’t seem to like any kibble, as my dog and a few others don’t, consider a wet food.  Dogs have to eat two meals every day, every year of their life. It seems right that they should enjoy their meals. Refusal to eat is one dog-problem easily remedied.