Cracking the Code: How to Find the Best Dry Dog Food for Picky Eaters

Dry Dog Food
October 3, 2023
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Cracking the Code: How to Find the Best Dry Dog Food for Picky Eaters

Every dog is unique, and some may have more discerning tastes than others. Picky eaters are dogs that have a selective appetite and may refuse certain foods. Because a balanced diet is crucial for a dog’s overall health, many dog owners worry about how they’re going to provide a picky eater with adequate nutrition, including vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

Throughout this comprehensive guide, Kibbies aims to help dog owners who struggle to find the best dry dog food for picky eaters at home. 

We understand how frustrating it can be to have a dog that turns their nose up at mealtime, so we've done the research and gathered expert advice to provide you with valuable tips and insights. 

From understanding your dog's preferences and nutritional needs to deciphering food labels and exploring different brands, we'll guide you through the process of finding the best dry dog food that your picky eater will love. With our help, you'll crack the code and ensure your canine friend gets a nutritious and delicious meal every time.

Identifying the Causes of Picky Eating

In some situations, a dog may be picky simply because he or she wants to enjoy a specific type of food, but that’s not always the case. There are several factors that may lead to a dog becoming a picky eater and some of the most common reasons for this are as follows. (4)

  • Medical conditions: Some dogs may have underlying medical conditions that affect their appetite. It's essential to rule out any health issues that may be causing your dog's picky eating behavior. For example, if your dog is allergic to an ingredient in his or her current blend of food, it might cause gastrointestinal upsets. Because vomiting, gas, or diarrhea is uncomfortable, your dog may be avoiding his or her food in order to prevent triggering these health issues.

  • Past experiences: Previous negative experiences with certain foods can lead to picky eating habits. Dogs may associate a specific brand or flavor with an unpleasant experience, which may cause them to reject it in the future. As humans, we often recall the last thing we ate before becoming ill, and when we do, we may associate the negative memory of getting sick with the food itself. Dogs are not terribly unlike us in that way.

  • Behavioral issues: Anxiety, stress, or changes in the environment can also contribute to picky eating. Dogs are sensitive creatures, and any disruptions in their routine can affect their appetite in a negative way. Take some time to observe how your dog is acting and look for potential signs that he or she may be stressed. From there, you might want to make adjustments to their eating routine in order to calm your pet. If your dog eats with his or her housemates, you might want to try letting your more anxious dog eat alone. If your home is typically active and loud during feeding times, consider taking your dog to a quieter, more private location so that they can eat in peace. 

Reading the Ingredient Label

The quality of your dog’s food may also be causing them to avoid eating it. To be sure, take a look at the ingredient label on your dog’s food packaging to learn more about what went into making your dog’s food. 

Once you understand the label, try taking the following steps to ensure that you’re buying the best dry dog food for your picky eater. (5)

  • Avoiding fillers and by-products: When choosing dry dog food, it's important to avoid products that contain artificial fillers and by-products. These ingredients offer little to no nutritional value and may contribute to digestive issues in dogs.
  • Identifying high-quality protein sources: Look for dry dog food that lists high-quality protein sources, such as real meat, as the main ingredient. Protein is essential for muscle development and overall health.
  • Looking for natural preservatives: Opt for dry dog food that uses natural preservatives, such as vitamin E or rosemary extract. Artificial preservatives can be harmful to your dog's health in the long run.

Understanding Different Types of Dry Dog Food

Not all dry dog foods follow the same methods of preparation and the way your dog’s food is prepared may affect the way it tastes. Let’s take a look at three common types of dry dog food so that you can be fully aware of what your dog is eating.

  • Kibble: Kibble is the most common type of dry dog food. It is convenient, affordable, and comes in a variety of flavors and formulas.
  • Dehydrated: Dehydrated dog food is made by removing the moisture from raw ingredients. It retains more nutrients compared to traditional kibble and can be rehydrated with water.
  • Freeze-dried: Freeze-dried dog food is created by freezing the ingredients and then slowly removing the moisture through a process called sublimation. It maintains the nutritional integrity of the ingredients and can be rehydrated if desired.

Considering Texture and Size

In addition to the preparation methods your dog’s food undergoes, there are other characteristics that he or she may find bothersome with certain foods. Let’s examine two brands of dry dog food that are formulated with the same flavors and ingredients. Given these similarities, there are still several factors that may make the two brands significantly different from one another. One key example may be the size and texture of the dry dog food pieces. One may be sized and textured in a way your dog prefers, while the other may be sized or textured too differently for them to truly enjoy. (1)

  • Soft and chewy: Some dogs prefer softer textures that are easier to chew. Look for dry dog food that offers a soft and chewy consistency. Dogs with dental health issues may need softer food, as the crunchy texture of other kibble types might be uncomfortable or even painful to chew through.
  • Crunchy and textured: Other dogs enjoy the crunch and texture of dry dog food. These varieties can help promote dental health by reducing plaque and tartar buildup. Dogs that prefer crunchy dog food may find softer food unpalatable due to how little effort it takes to break the pieces apart.
  • Small, medium, or large kibble: Different breeds and sizes of dogs may have different preferences when it comes to kibble size. Consider your dog's size and dental health when selecting the appropriate kibble size. Smaller breeds tend to enjoy smaller pieces of food that are easier for them to chew. 

Introducing New Flavors Gradually

Dogs can be cautious about trying new foods, especially if you’re introducing a blend that has a completely different flavor profile than what they’re used to. To help your picky eater adjust to a new flavor, introduce it gradually by mixing it with their current food. Increase the proportion of the new food over time until they are fully transitioned. Keep an eye out for any signs of stomach upsets during the transitional period, and speak with your dog’s veterinarian if you notice your dog is gassy, has diarrhea, or vomits after eating. (3)

Tips for Feeding Picky Eaters

A couple of simple tricks might help if you’re struggling to get a picky eater to finish his or her food. Try these steps when implementing the best dry dog food options for picky eaters. (2)

  • Try Routine Feeding: Feed your dog at a specific time during the day instead of free-feeding. For example, feed your dog one large feeding in the evening or two smaller feedings, one in the morning and one in the evening. 
  • Introduce Food Toppers: Try adding low-sodium broths or cooked vegetable pieces to your dog’s food in order to get them more interested in their food.
  • Pretend Before Feeding: Sometimes, a dog will respond to games surrounding their food. Hand-feed a couple of pieces to pretend you’re feeding treats, or prepare your dog’s food on the kitchen counter so that he or she thinks you’re giving them human food.

Seeking Professional Advice

Finally, if you find that your picky eater is still struggling to eat and enjoy his or her food after you’ve taken steps to mitigate your pet’s food issues, it might be time to speak with a professional. 

  • Consulting a veterinarian or animal nutritionist: If you're still struggling to find the right dry dog food for your picky eater, it's always a good idea to seek professional advice. A veterinarian or animal nutritionist can provide personalized recommendations based on your dog's specific needs.

  • Exploring specialized diets: In some cases, dogs with severe picky eating habits may benefit from specialized diets. These diets are formulated to entice picky eaters with unique flavors and textures.

With the tips and insights provided in this blog post, you'll be well-equipped to find the best dry dog food for your picky eater. Remember to consider your dog's preferences and nutritional needs, and consult professionals when necessary. By cracking the code, you'll ensure that your canine friend gets a nutritious and delicious meal every time.


  1. Groshek, N. (2023). 11 tips for feeding a picky dog. Stella & Chewy’s.

  2. 23 Tricks to get a picky dog to eat his food (Every last bit!). (n.d.).

  3. Kerns, B. (2021). 12 Tips and Tricks for Getting A Picky Dog to Eat Their Food. The Honest Kitchen.

  4. What to know when your dog is a picky eater. (n.d.). WebMD.

  5. Reisen, J. (2021). How to read a dog food label. American Kennel Club.

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