Many owners will never know the trials and tribulations of caring for a dog that's a picky eater. In fact, they might have the polar opposite problem – a dog that inhales their food before it touches the ground!
Fussy eaters can be frustrating, however, but thankfully there are feeding methods and certain foods that are known to encourage even the pickiest of pups.
At a Glance: Our Top 5 Choices of Best Dog Food for Picky Eaters
- Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Canned Dog Food
- Rachel Ray Nutrish Natural Dry Dog Food
- Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free
- Nature’s Variety Instinct Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
- The Honest Kitchen Human Grade Dehydrated Organic Grain Dog Food
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Dry Dog Food
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Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
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Dehydrated Dog Food
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*The above links lead to current prices and customer reviews on Chewy.
Read on to discover why we chose these particular foods, and for tips and advice on getting your picky eater to enjoy more food.
Table Of Contents
- 1 At a Glance: Our Top 5 Choices of Best Dog Food for Picky Eaters
- 2 The Top 6 Dog Foods for Picky Eaters
- 2.1 Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Canned Dog Food
- 2.2 Rachel Ray Nutrish Natural Dry Dog Food
- 2.3 Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free
- 2.4 Nature’s Variety Instinct Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
- 2.5 The Honest Kitchen Human Grade Dehydrated Organic Grain Dog Food
- 2.6 Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain-Free Wet Adult Dog Food
- 3 What Makes a Dog a Picky Eater?
- 4 Things to Try to Encourage Less Picky Eating
- 5 What are Good Dog Foods for Picky Eaters?
- 6 Conclusion
The Top 6 Dog Foods for Picky Eaters
Natural Balance is one of the most popular and highest quality dog food manufacturers operating right now. This particular formula is designed for dogs with dietary sensitivities and allergies, so it has minimal ingredients. It’s also nutritionally complete and full of natural flavors.
- Free from grains, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives
- Complete, balanced nutrition
- Comes in lots of different flavors: Chicken & Sweet Potato, Duck & Potato, Fish & Sweet Potato, Venison & Sweet Potato, Buffalo & Sweet Potato, and many more
- Minimal ingredients: great for allergies
- Contains Vitamins A, B6, B12 and D3
- Meets the AAFCO standards for nutrient profiles for all life stages
- Natural Balance has been established since 1989
- Although moist, the consistency of the food errs marginally on the dry side
Rachel Ray is a celebrity cook who has diverted into the dog food industry to the benefit of picky eaters worldwide!
While it may not be quite as nutritionally perfect as some of the other foods on this list, it’s undoubtedly delicious with plenty of great reviews from fussy dog owners.
- Made with US farm-raised chicken
- Contains natural prebiotics to boost digestion
- Also contains Vitamins B12, C, D3, E and K, folic acid, niacin, and calcium
- Free from artificial flavors, preservatives, poultry by-products, fillers, wheat or gluten
- Plenty of flavor options: Turkey, Brown Rice & Venison, Real Beef & Brown Rice, and Real Chicken & Veggies
- Made in the USA
- A portion of the sales proceeds is donated to the Rachel Ray Foundation to help support animals in need
- Good for dogs with allergies and digestive issues
- Does contain some soybean and corn
This is another hugely popular dog food brand with picky eaters that is widely regarded to be one of the best in terms of flavor, taste, and nutrition.
It is one of the more expensive brands, so it's best to see the purchase as an investment into your picky pup’s health and eating pleasure.
- Contains no corn, wheat or fillers
- Full of flavor: made of fresh Wisconsin duck, hand-trimmed USDA chicken, low-ash lamb and real Wisconsin cheddar cheese
- Also contains chicken cartilage full of naturally occurring glucosamine, as well as salmon oil with Omegas 3 and 6, which are great for boosting joint function
- Great for managing sensitive stomachs and skin allergies
- Has a crunchy texture which helps to naturally floss your pup’s teeth
- Also contains Vitamins A, B12, D3 and E
- Does contain a little grain – some flavors include brown rice, pearled barley, and oatmeal
We’ve got yet another manufacturing heavyweight here with Nature’s Variety, which are known for their high quality, delicious and nutritious dog food. The food is actually freeze-dried, which keeps it moist and the flavors fresh – picky eaters won’t be able to resist.
- Composed of natural ingredients that are close to what dogs would eat in nature
- Free from artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, grains, gluten, corn, wheat, soy or fillers
- High in protein
- Comes in a variety of different flavors: Beef & Lamb, Chicken, Duck & Turkey, Rabbit and Salmon
- Contains Omegas 3 and 6 fatty acids to improve joint and cognitive function
- Also contains probiotics and antioxidants, for digestion and immune system support respectively
- Freeze-dried raw coating for freshness and flavor
- Suitable for all age levels from puppy to senior
- Nature’s Variety is the pet food partner of the Best Friends Animal Society
- Easily digestible
- Made in the USA
- Comparatively quite expensive
- Has a bit of a strong smell (good for picky eaters, less so for humans!)
The Honest Kitchen is a relatively new and revolutionary dog food (and human food!) manufacturer that create products just as nutritious and delicious as the other foods on this list but in a dehydrated form. This means you need to add a little water to the formula before you feed it to your pup.
- The dehydrated formula is budget friendly: 10lbs of the food makes a total 40lbs
- 100% human grade – just like those table scraps!
- Organic, all-natural, nutritionally complete and balanced (meets the standards of the AAFCO)
- Made of whole foods, whole grains, and responsibly sourced meats: cage-free turkey, free-range chicken, cage-free duck and range-raised beef
- All the meat is hormone and antibiotic free
- Contains no corn, soy, rice, beet pulp, wheat, poultry by-products, preservatives or GMOs
- Very moist and minimally processed
- Made in the USA within a family company
- Heals dry skin and runny eyes, and is great for digestion – in a study of over 6,000 customers, 75% saw their digestion problems improve
- Suitable for puppies through to mature adults
- Dehydrated foods can take some time for your dog to adjust to so make the change gradually
Blue Buffalo is another popular dog food brand with many owners, with this canned wet formula one of their favorites for picky eaters. Not only is it moist and delicious, it’s also super nutritious and positioned to support a healthy lifestyle.
- Contains only the finest natural ingredients, formulated with high-protein and complex-carbohydrate products
- Full of chunks of real meat – delicious and irresistible to all pups
- Free from grains, gluten, poultry by-products, corn, wheat, and soy
- Contains absolutely nothing artificial
- Comes in a variety of flavors: Beef Dinner, Grillers Beef, Chicken Dinner, Grillers Chicken, Lamb Dinner, Grillers Lamb and Grillers Turkey
- Made in the USA
- Comes with extra vitamins and minerals for added nutrition
- Some dogs might be sensitive to wet food. If so, make the change gradually and combine it with dry food
What Makes a Dog a Picky Eater?
Often, the reason behind a dog’s faddiness when it comes to food can simply be boiled down to the obvious – personal preferences. Just like we humans can prefer certain food over others, so can your dog.
Some dogs will prefer certain brands, or will choose wet food over dry, or will only like meaty flavors. When they don’t get their favorite foods, they might refuse to eat what’s in front of them in a bid to show their owners what foods they do like.
Equally as important: some dog food just simply isn’t that tasty. Some of the cheaper, low-quality commercial foods might be stuffed with tasteless fillers, be too dry, or be high in hard-to-digest grains. If you’ve got a dog with a more discerning palate, they could well turn their noses up at low-quality kibble.
More often than not, however, picky eating in dogs is actually the result of human behavior, rather than the dog’s. If your dog enjoys plenty of delicious table scraps, their daily kibble is going to seem less and less appetizing as an alternative. The more human food they eat, the less satisfied they are likely to be with their dog food. In effect, you can spoil your dog through feeding them your meal under the table!
Can Picky Eating Indicate a Medical Problem?
If your dog has always been a fussy eater yet otherwise shows all the signs of being healthy – a normal weight and shiny coat – then it would seem that they are simply just that: a picky eater.
However, if your dog suddenly starts eating less or starts turning their nose up at their regular kibble, it could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Conditions like allergies, dental diseases, and cancer can all diminish appetite in dogs.
If you notice a sudden shift in your dog’s eating habits, or if they unaccountably drop a few pounds in a short space of time, make sure to take them to the vet at your earliest opportunity for a check-up.
Things to Try to Encourage Less Picky Eating
If you're feeding your dog a lot of table scraps, stop. Instead, stick to a consistent feeding schedule so your dog can predict exactly when and what they’ll be eating come feeding time. It’s also a good idea to put a limit on how long you leave their bowl out – say, 30 minutes – so that they’ll get used to the idea of having to eat at a set time every day, instead of having the luxury of eating dinner whenever they feel like it.
Another good way to kickstart your pup out of picky eating is to start treating them to some variety. Again, just like humans, dogs benefit from eating different sources of nutrition and trying out different flavor profiles on their palate.
Start small with diet changes: your first act could be to simply change up the main ingredients of their regular food. If they usually are given chicken and vegetables of a certain formulation, try them out with beef and liver, for instance, from the same brand.
You can, of course, also change up the brands and formula that you feed your dog, and even alternate between wet and dry food. The key here is to make the change gradually, slowly decreasing one food source while upping the new food in parallel. It should take about a week to completely change from one food to another.
If you change your dog’s diet drastically with no warning, you should prepare yourself for some digestive problems, including diarrhea.
Of course, one of the best and easiest ways to encourage your dog to eat is to buy food specially designed for picky eaters…
What are Good Dog Foods for Picky Eaters?
Regardless of how picky your dog is, the two major principles of what makes food delicious are flavor and taste. This holds true in the human world as well!
There are certain flavors and tastes that are particularly irresistible to dogs, and formulas suited to fussy eaters will contain at least a few of these.
Firstly, the best dog food for picky eaters will always be formulas made with high-quality ingredients. We all know that cheap food stuffed with fillers and artificial preservatives taste bland at best. On the other hand, responsibly sourced, nutritionally complete and balanced food promises to be both more delicious and more nutritious.
Moist foods are also appealing to the canine palate. This doesn’t necessarily mean that wet, canned food is the way forward, but it's worth avoiding food that is too dry. Moist kibble will taste and feel more like real meat, whereas dry food will taste like cardboard – yuck! Look out for wet, canned and freeze-dried formulas for the moistest dog food.
Dogs love the taste of meat, so it’s well worth choosing a meaty formula for your picky pup. Thankfully, there are a huge number of varieties of flavor on offer: anything from chicken, beef, and turkey to more exotic foods like venison, wild-caught salmon and buffalo.
The best dog foods for fussy eaters will also be either free from or low on corn and other grains. They might bulk out a meal for your dog but they can cause digestive problems and put your dog off eating in the future. Grains are actually in the top 5 foods that cause pet allergies, so it is a widespread issue.
What’s the Difference Between Food for Picky and Regular Eaters?
In truth, there isn’t a whole amount of difference between the best foods for picky and regular eaters. The best dog food is simply the best dog food, period.
Having a picky eater dog makes us more aware of the importance of taste, flavor, and nutrition in our dog’s diet, so we’re more likely to research and invest in the best dog foods. When we have a dog that gulps down anything put in front of them, we’re less likely to invest the time and money in finding the best food.
But really, all dogs will benefit from our favorite foods for picky eaters – what dog can resist meaty, moist and delicious when it’s laid out in front of them? The best dog food can even rival your much-treasured table scraps when it comes to flavor!
Should I Make My Own Kibble?
Some owners with picky dogs are tempted to try out making their own dog food at home in a bid to try and convince their pup to start eating.
While it’s likely that even the pickiest of dogs will be tempted by fresh, moist and succulent homemade kibble, there’s an important argument to be had that you could actually be doing your dog more harm than good by feeding them it.
Homemade dog food certainly delivers on the taste and flavor front but – unless you’ve been working with a canine nutritionist – it’s unlikely that it will provide the complete nutrition your dog needs to stay at optimal health.
So, unless you’re an expert (or working with one), we’d recommend you save the time and simply invest in the best commercial dog foods for picky eaters instead.
No matter how picky your dog is when it comes to food, they’ll be unlikely to resist the nutritious and delicious formulations above.
Remember to introduce some variety into your dog’s diet – just like us, dogs like to mix things up. And cut down on those table scraps too in order to keep your dog excited about the food in front of them.
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