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Refusal to eat

Dogs stop and start eating for all kinds of reasons, many of them being completely normal.

If your dog has been problematic with eating for more than one week, please see your Vet to confirm they are healthy before you embark on working on the behaviour which may mean playing hard ball with them. Let your Vet know your plans to ensure they are onboard.

Cute Puppy

New puppies - when we take a puppy away from everything they know, this can be very stressful, they may go off their food for short periods of time after arriving, they may also get upset tummies and may not want to eat.  Try and maintain the same diet the breeder has been feeding for at least a week (unless it is a terrible diet) and then slowly transition over to a fresh food diet. Using My Doggie Dump Dust or a similar product can be helpful for these upset tummies.


Young dogs under 12 months of age - It is completely normal for young dogs to go on and off their food, growth spurts come in waves, and then there is also the introduction to hormones.  If your young dog is not underweight and seems otherwise healthy and happy then these moments in times are typically nothing to be concerned about.

Young undesexed males can be particularly painful, some large+ breed young males can be frustrating with their food until physical maturity at around 3 years of age.

Undesexed bitches coming into season, being in season, or having a phantom pregnancy can all experience disruptions in their eating routines.

Our advice to you would include:

  • Don't waste food, only put in their bowl what you know they will eat i.e. a spoonful - you can always add more once they have finished that.

  • Don't stress your dog out - move away and out of the room when you give your dog their meals, your anxiety can cause them not to eat.

  • Go for a walk / have a good play before you offer them their meal.

  • After chatting to your breeder/vet, consider dropping out a meal, this may mean you go down to 2 meals per day, or for dogs over 6 months of age go down to 1 meal per day. Some small active dogs can have issues with glucose drops so they require regular calories, if you have such a dog, consult with your breeder/vet.

  • Use their meals as training rewards or in a game, this can change their headspace.  You can always pop on some rubber gloves to handle the food if it's a bit sloppy.

  • Whilst we do not recommend pandering to a dog during these times as it can create life long issues with food, you may like to try lightly cooking your dog's meal and offering it warm, this can often provide motivation to eat.

  • There are some foods that can act as natural appetite stimulants that may or may not assist your dog such as: Garlic, peppermint, celery seed, ginger, and chamomile - how much to add is a common-sense approach, you can always ask your Vet, Nutritionist or similar.

  • Complementary approaches such as acupuncture and CBD oil can be very helpful to stimulate the appetite. 

  • A digestive enzyme can be beneficial when playing the long game with really painful dogs but can give early results as well.  You can speak to your Vet about a product called Creon. Creon is also available in Australia from Chemist Warehouse, you may like to compare prices once you know the appropriate dosage rate. Your Vet may not see the relevance between a digestive enzyme and motivation to eat but in the end, it's not going to do any harm so can be worth a try - Creon is typically used in dogs with Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). Other products containing digestive enzymes include Dr. Mercola Digestive EnzymeSynbiotic 180-S Probiotic & Enzymes & NaturVet, Digestive Enzymes.

  • Tough Love is where you say to the dog, "this is what you have to eat, and if you don't eat it, tough luck buddy".  Learn about the "Fussy Dog" program here.  In growing dogs, get your Vets ok to participate and confirm how many days your Vet is ok with your dog turning their nose up at food before changing tactics.

Dog Eating Dog Food

Things to avoid - There are things you can do as a worried pet parent that can further ingrain fussy behaviour, we recommend you avoid them.

  • Hand feeding

  • Swapping and changing foods

  • Sooking the dog

  • Continually offering meals i.e. more than 3 times per day

  • Hanging around when they are eating

Dog in Action

Adult dogs - Refusal to eat in adult dogs can be a behaviour formed from puppyhood when the dogs was pandered to but it can be related to other situations such as:


  • Stress

  • Hot weather

  • Hormonal influences

  • Undesexed males who can smell bitches in heat

  • Undesexed bitches, coming into season

  • Undesexed bitches being in season

  • Undesexed bitches experiencing a phantom pregnancy 

  • Changes in the environment

  • Moving house

  • An upset tummy

  • Reaction to vaccination, worming, flea treatment, etc.

  • A Medical condition

​Please have your Vet clear your dog of a medical condition and get the ok from them to participate in a tough-love program that we refer to as the Fussy Dog program.

Have a read of the section on dogs under 12 months of age for things you can try as well as information on digestive enzymes.

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