Why is My Dog Not Eating his Food but Will Eat Treats

Why is My Dog Not Eating his Food but Will Eat Treats

A dog is a living animal that must be cared for and nurtured. And one of the most underrated costs of owning a dog is the food costs.

Many pet owners consider themselves "pet parents." And along with not fully considering pet food costs to indulge their pets, they may also feed their pets human food to indulge them.

And like all living things, dogs can develop eating habits, become picky eaters, or disguise a personal issue with their eating preferences.

First, let's examine the average costs to feed and care for a dog.

New and long-time pet owners may not fully appreciate how much money they must shell out annually for pet food. The typical pet owner may spend $700 or more annually on dog food. 

And if your dog requires specialty food, or food items specifically prescribed by a veterinarian, that can increase your annual food costs by $100 or more.

Speaking of veterinarians, taking your dog to the vet can cost $50 to $250 per visit. And those costs can increase incrementally depending on the health of your dog.

It's essential to know these statistics in case your dog develops adverse or eccentric eating habits.

For example, will your dogs happily eat treats but not their food? 

There could be numerous reasons to explain such picky eating behavior.

Your bad habits of indulging your pet could be to blame. Or your dog may have undiagnosed behavioral and medical issues. 

Additionally, your dog may just not like the food you are serving it.

We will explore why your dog eats treats and not its food. And we will discuss strategies to train it to start eating its food again.

Need to learn new training strategies for your dog? Check out Runball today.

Related: Why Does My Dog Bring Me Toys?

Learned Bad Habits

Many dog owners call themselves dog parents and care for their pets as if it was a human child. Some people view their pets as if they were close human friends.

And when pet owners do that, they treat a dog like it is human. They may indulge their pets with good intentions, which results in unwanted outcomes.

For example, a dog "treat" is a relative term. It can refer to treats specifically made for dogs. Or a dog treat can be human food.

Do you regularly feed your dog human food like chicken, hamburger, pizza, or scraps from your plate? Put yourself in your dog's place – why would you go back to dry dog food if you can eat at the table?

Feeding your dog food meant for humans or frequent table scraps will only enforce bad habits. After filling up on high-calorie human food, it may not want its food later.

Inquisitive dog watching people eat salad on pizza on the couch.

You may also be enabling your pet to trick you psychologically. Your dog may realize that if it refuses its food, you will probably relent and give it what it prefers.

Also, feeding dogs human food is bad for their health and potentially dangerous.

Safety Tip #1

Your dog's digestive system is not similar to a human's. Human food is too rich, fatty, and savory for a dog to digest appropriately.

Feeding human food to your dog can make it overweight, hypertensive, or give it digestive issues. Providing your dog food containing yeast can make it bloaty and gassy. You could be the reason why your dog refuses its food and why your veterinarian bills increase.

Your dog can develop serious behavioral problems. It could become moody, manipulative, or angry if you try to wean it off human food.

Also, if you don't know what's in the food you are feeding it, you could be endangering your pet's life.

Grapes, raisins, garlic, candy and chocolate, mushrooms, salt, walnuts, avocados, rhubarb leaves, and many other common human foods are poisonous to dogs. 

Know what you are giving your dog to eat if you feed it treats. Better yet, stick to dog food.

Behavioral Problems

Changes in a dog's regular routine, the presence of strangers, or chaotic environments can adversely affect a dog's appetite.

Visitors in your home can cause extreme anxiety and stress in your pet, primarily if they are not used to it. Your pet may stop eating while worrying about the future and new strangers.

If you have multiple pets, then your pet may be stressed and intimidated by other pets at mealtime. Some breeds of dogs don't like to eat too close to each other.

Living somewhere where unexpected and loud outside noises are familiar, like construction work, car horns in traffic, and so on, could be disrupting your dog's eating routine.

Safety Tip #2

If you have multiple pets in the house, you may want space feeding areas apart. There may be intimidation and competition amongst the pets you don't notice.

Your dog's lack of eating may be a sign of worsening antagonism between pets, so pay attention.

Medical Problems

Your dog may have undiagnosed and untreated medical problems that prevent it from eating its food. Doggie treats and some soft human foods may be easier to eat than their food.

Your dog may have dental problems, intestinal parasites, cancer, inflammatory digestive disease, heart disease, or a host of other issues.

And your dog's regular dog food may be causing nausea, vomiting, or intestinal issues.

Picky Eating Habits

Dry dog food is very high in protein but light on fat. It may not be tasty to your pet. It also may be hard to chew if your dog had dental problems.

Dry dog food can be stored for a long time and is cheaper than wet dog food.

But wet dog food may taste better for your pet, look more pleasing aesthetically, and may feel more filling. 

And since some human food may resemble the texture of wet dog food, it may not take much for your dog to begin preferring human food over its dog food.


It may seem cruel, but you should train your dog only to eat its food. If it refuses to eat, take away the food and present fresh dog food at the next feeding time. It has to learn to eat only its food.

Sleeping dog laying next to bowl of dry dog food.

Have your dog thoroughly checked out by the vet to ensure there isn't an underlying medical issue preventing it from eating.

Ask your vet the correct amount of food to feed your dog per serving.

Since dry dog food is cheaper than wet dog food, buy a few different brands for your dog to try. Maybe mix a little wet dog food or water in the kibble to entice it to eat. 

If you can afford wet dog food, perhaps consider switching to wet.

Exercise your dog daily to help it build an appetite.

Cut out all human food from your dog's diet. Feed it dog treats when appropriate.

Give your dog a safe space area to eat in peace if it is stressed.

Develop a daily routine and exact time for your dog's mealtime and stick to it.

If you need more tips for dealing with your dog's picky eating habits, check out Runball today.

Related: Are Your Dog Toys Covered in Dog Slobber? Here's How to Wash Dog Toys