Cute brown Dachshund staring at food bowl full of dry kibble.

Do Dogs Like Their Food? How You Can Tell

Last updated on December 22nd, 2023 at 08:15 pm

The abundance of different kinds of dog food that is available today can seem overwhelming. How can you tell what your dog will like best? Most owners either rely on dog food recommendations from their vets or trainers or do their own research regarding nutrition and quality. But how will you know if your dog will like the taste of the food you pick?

Most dogs generally like their food if they are hungry and if it smells good to them. If their food has a quality meat source and is not spoiled, they will usually like it. Dogs have good noses and will sniff their food first to determine if it will be tasty. They can also detect when food has gone bad or contains mold and will avoid it spoiled food.

Keep reading to learn more about why dogs usually like their food, and how they will let you know if they don’t.

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Dogs Smell their Food More than They Taste it

To determine whether or not your dog likes their food pay attention to how much he sniffs it. If he spends a lot of time smelling the food then backs away, chances are he is not enjoying the scent of it. A dog’s sense of smell is much stronger than their ability to taste. Therefore, how much a dog enjoys their food depends on how good it smells to them.

According to, “An average dog has a sense of smell that is about 100,000 times more sensitive than his owner’s partly because dog noses contain 150 million olfactory receptors while human noses only have 5 million. And dogs devote about 30% of their brain mass to the detection and identification of odors, while humans use a mere 5% for olfactory purposes.”

Even though dogs are ominivores, meaning that they eat both plants and meat, dogs prefer meat when they can get it. A study done in India of free-range dogs, which you can read about at, demonstrated dogs’ preference for meat.

The dogs were given two different bowls of of bread and kibble. Sometimes the kibble was soaked in gravy or a strong chicken broth and sometimes the broth or gravy was added to the bread. Each dog would first sniff the food then eat whichever food was covered with the most chicken broth. The researchers noted that dogs “Choose the food that smells the most intensely of meat first.”

So, if you are feeding your dog dry kibble, make sure you add a little warm water or broth to bring out the aroma of meat. Your dog will be much more likely to enjoy his food when it smells meaty.

Do Dogs Even Taste Their Food When They Eat So Fast?

My dogs absolutely love to eat, and meal time is a really big deal! They literally inhale their food especially if it is something really yummy like homemade chicken and rice. But even when I feed them their usual kibble, they gobble it up as if they will never eat again. And, they are not skinny dogs!

So how do dogs know if they like their food when they eat so quickly? Again, dogs mostly enjoy their food through their sense of smell. Yet, despite a dog’s smaller number of tastebuds, 1,700 compared to a human’s 9,000, they do taste their food. But that is probably a secondary pleasure following how the food smells to them.

Swallowing food quickly will undoubtedly reduce the time they can savor a good meal. But it also makes dogs a little less picky about what they eat since they cannot discern different tastes as much as we can.

Do Dogs Ever Get Bored With the Same Food?

Dogs have a wide tolerance and even preference for bland diets. Dogs cannot eat most spices and will experience gastric upset if they do. Also, dogs are creatures of habit who feel most secure with the same routines.

Even so, a dog can get tired of the same food every day. My dogs are visibly more excited and eat much faster when I give them home-cooked food. I often do this when I am roasting a chicken or making a beef stew. I take a portion and set it aside for the dogs before I add seasonings. Then I add some of it to their kibble as a topper. You can learn more about this by clicking here to get my free eBook Homemade Food and Kibble.

But if your dog sniffs his food and walks away, he may be more than bored. He may really not like it. Dogs can detect all sorts of things through their strong sense of smell, and if the food is spoiled or toxic in some way your dog probably won’t eat it. Or if it just does not smell good to him, you may need to change brands to see if your dog likes something else better.

You can often get free trial size packages of various dog foods from the pet store or you can buy a small 5 pound bag initially. Then pour different options into two different bowls and see which bowl your dog seems to prefer.

Always make sure you are giving your dog a high quality dog food that has not had recalls. Poor quality foods may not taste all that great to your dog, especially if the protein source is poor. You can check with Dog Food Advisor to get read their reviews and recommendations. You can also sign up for their alerts about dog food recalls. Also be sure to see my post, Why Feed Your New Shelter Dog Kibble, At Least Initially, to learn more about quality dog.

How to Know if Your Dog Does Not Like Their Food

Cute brown and white lying on the floor, licking his lips, stops eating his dinner--full or taking a break?

Your dog may show signs that they are not happy with their food. I had to try three different dry dog foods for my dogs before I found something they really liked and that did not upset their stomachs. Here are some signs that your dog does not like their food:

  • Sniffs the food and backs away
  • Eats really slowly and does not finish
  • Does not seem to get excited when you pour food into the bowl
  • Tries to eat another dog’s food (or worse, the cat’s food!)
  • Always seems hungry but won’t eat
  • Ignores dog food but begs for table scraps

If your dog smells his food then walks away, it is possible that it may be rancid or spoiled with toxic mold. Due to a dog’s keen sense of smell, they are able to discern odors that humans cannot. Dogs can be trained to find survivors in disasters, aid police officers in finding illegal drugs, and they can even detect cancer in humans. So, it is no wonder a dog can tell if his food is bad.

Some Dogs May Just be Picky Eaters

Although most dogs will eat just about anything of reasonable quality, some dogs, like people, may be picky eaters. Some dogs be less interested in food and and more focused on playing or snoozing. Certains breeds such as Dachsunds, French Bulldogs, and Poodles tend to show less interest in eating than other breeds such as Labrador Retrievers and Beagles who are known for their ravenous appetites.

My sister has two small mixed breed dogs who will eat what they want from their bowls then walk away. At times she has to encourage them to eat and sometimes handfeeds or offers additional wet dog food to get them to eat. They simply are not not big eaters and often enjoy barking at the squirrels more!

Know Your Dog’s Eating History

Some dogs who are used to wet dog food, may turn up their nose at dry kibble. So, if you adopt a dog, it is important to find out what the shelter has been feeding them. Stick with the same food and then try to make a slow transition if needed.

Table Scraps

If you have been in the habit of giving your dog table scraps every night after dinner, don’t be surprised if his dry kibble loses its appeal! Dog’s think our food is better because it probably smells really good to them.

But I strongly recommend that you do not give your dog table scraps. Many human foods are not good for dogs and the spices, salt, and additional fats can cause significant gastric distress.

Health Problems

If your dog shows no interest in food at all he may have a health problem. He could also have dental issues which may cause discomfort when eating. Some senior dogs may have a lower appetitie as they age, but even so, they should still be hungry unless they are sick.

So be sure to take your dog to the vet for a check up if your dog has no appetite. Healthy dogs usually like to eat even if they are a little bored with their food.

How to Make Your Dog’s Food More Interesting

Pug gobbling down his dinner and making a mess!

When feeding my dogs a high quality dry kibble, I always add a small amount of warm water and stir it to create a little gravy and enhance the smell. Another option that my dogs enjoy is the addition of some bone broth soup with minimal spices and low or no salt added.

I recently discovered some healthy liver sprinkles that can be added to kibble or any other food with a little water to offer some additional flavor. My dogs love them, especially the beef flavor! You can also add a healthy topper such as Portland Pet Food which are my dog’s favorites. They come in a variety of foods often with rice plus beef, salmon, chicken, or turkey.

Home cooked meals are probably the best way to entice your dog to eat. However, this should only be offered when it meets all of the requirements of a dog’s daily nutirition needs. Cooking for your dog is a little more involved and will take some commitment on your part. But if you have the time and desire to cook your dog’s meals refer to the BalanceIt website to learn how.

Alternately, you can top your dog’s already well-balanced commercial dog food, with a small portion of home-cooked food. Just keep it to a 20-80% ratio of cooked food to dog food to make sure you do not upset the nutritinal balance. Click here to get my free eBook about combining home cooked meals with dog food for more information.

Final Thoughts

Dogs usually enjoy their food whether it is commercial or home cooked. Most dogs are not as picky as humans as long as their food smells good and they are hungry. However, dogs do enjoy a little variety now and then and appreciate fresh, home-cooked food when available.

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