Why Is My Dog Not Eating Their Food But Will Eat Human Food? (Trainer Explains)

Why Is My Dog Not Eating Their Food But Will Eat Human Food

Sitting in my home office, I can smell the roast my husband put in the slow cooker. And let me tell you, it smells amazing and I cannot wait for dinner!

To my dogs, that piece of slow-cooking beef probably smells and tastes way better than their boring kibble. If I gave them a choice, they would pick human food over their dog food.

Many dogs are exceptionally greedy for food and will eat your human food and their dog food, but they are likely to eat the better-smelling human food first. Some dogs will start to only eat human food and stop eating their dog food entirely.

So why is your dog not eating their food but will eat human food?

Some dogs may prefer to eat human food over their food because it is probably more interesting than dog kibble. Eating the same thing every morning and evening can be boring, and human food smells and tastes better. Dogs love food in general, and they are hardwired to love sharing food with you. 

In this article, we will discuss why your dog is not eating their food but will eat human food not only because they think human food is tastier, but because they like the community aspect of scavenging and sharing human food.

We will also talk about why it might not be a good idea to let your dog only eat human food and what you can do to get your dog to eat their food.

My Dog Only Wants To Eat Human Food

Thousands of years ago, dogs were domesticated from wild wolves because of food. There was no dog kibble or tasty canned food, wolves lingered around human settlements scavenging garbage and leftover food until eventually, they started taking food straight from the humans.

Thus, through eating, the domestication of dogs began. Sharing food has been an integral part of our relationship so it is no wonder your dog only wants to eat human food.

Humans continued to share their food and leftovers with their new canine companions for centuries. It seems ingrained in our dogs to love human food and they often beg instead of eating their dog food.

In fact, manufactured dog food was not even created until the 1800s. Then it was not until the mid-1950s that commercial dog food (kibble and canned food) started becoming popular, eventually developing into the massive market that we see in modern-day pet stores across the globe.

Having store-bought dog food makes feeding our dogs easier than saving them leftover scraps, but what is the point when your dog will not eat their food but will eat human food?

Reason 1. Human Food Is Richer And More Tempting

Because of their wolf ancestry, dogs are natural scavengers and love food in general. Most dogs are extremely food motivated and you teach your dog a lot by using tasty treats, especially if the treats are human food like tempting bits of chicken or cheese.

You might not be giving your dog human food on purpose though. Whether they get on the counter or get in the trash for human food, it is not only a behavioral problem but instinctual for them. Dogs do get full, but that does not mean that they know when to stop eating. This can lead to them overindulging themselves, especially with human food.

When they have gorged themselves senseless, your dog probably has an upset stomach and does not want to eat their dog food after eating so much human food.

Human food is often much richer with fats and oils, and higher levels of spices and salt can be heavy on their digestive tract. So if your dog eats human food and then will not eat their dog food, it could be too much for their stomach to handle.

Reason 2. Human Food Tastes Better

Just because dogs have fewer tastebuds than humans (about 9,000 versus 1,700) does not mean that dogs do not find food any less delicious, especially human food. Dogs can taste sweet, sour, salty, and bitter like humans, and since humans add seasonings to our food, it is going to taste better than dog food.

When your dog is not eating their food and only eats human food, there is a good chance they think human food tastes better. While I have never actually tried dog food, I am sure that most human food tastes better than dog food.

The dog in the video below probably agrees with me!

Furthermore, something does not have to taste good to us to taste good to dogs. Their palates are not as refined as humans, which is why some dogs are tempted by things like cow poop. Hopefully, your dog only prefers human food and not animal poop to dog food.

Reason 3. Human Food Smells Better

Humans have more tastebuds than dogs, but dogs are the champion smellers. With an olfactory sense over 10,000 times more powerful than human noses and a large part of the brain dedicated to smelling, dogs are masters at tracking and odor detection.

Dogs are so good at smelling, that they are used as scent dogs for the police, like these hard-working K-9s who catch fugitives.

Their powerful nose also means that they can smell food better, and with all the seasoning, fats, and oils used in our cooking, human food is going to smell much better than dog food. If your dog is not eating their dog food and will only eat human food, the human food probably smells better.

Reason 4. Dogs Want To Share

Dogs and humans are natural best friends. We share a very tight bond with our dogs; feeding, training, walking, and sleeping together at night. So it is only natural that your dog might think that sharing a meal is allowed as well.

To be fair, dogs were domesticated from wolves because we shared our food with them. It is almost instinctual for them to want the human food we have, and to ignore their boring dog kibble. Even the pickiest eater will prefer to share human food with you and not eat their food.

Begging can become a problem not only because your dog is pushing boundaries, but if they get their way they might stop eating their dog food. Why eat boring dog food when you know you can beg for much better human food? Unfortunately, they might have all their nutritional needs met if your dog only eats human food.

I know how hard it can be to resist temptation when you have such accomplished beggars as in this compilation.

Reason 5. They Are Tired Of Their Dog Food

Dogs who will not eat their food or are burying their food with their nose might have no appetite, or they could be tired of their food. Many dogs get the same food every day while watching their humans eat different kinds of food for every meal.

That sounds pretty boring. If your dog is not eating their food and will only eat people’s food, maybe they need a bit more variety. Switching dog food has to be done carefully so that you do not upset their stomach, but transitioning dog food brands or even just the protein (beef to chicken) can make a big difference in your dog’s interest in eating food.

Later on, we will give you some other tips to make dog food more interesting so that they eat their food instead of human food.

Reason 6. You Have Reinforced The Behavior

It seems dogs have perfected the big-eyed begging technique. And if you give in every time, you have trained your dog to beg and want human food over dog food. As soon as you feed them, the begging behavior has been reinforced, and why would your dog eat their plain dog food when they know they can get delicious human food from you?

There are lots of behaviors that dog owners accidentally reinforce. This includes jumpinglicking, and of course, eating human food instead of their food. Dogs are intelligent and pattern very easily, so they learn that if you give them human food they do not have to eat their food.

Generally, if you stop reinforcing the behavior, dogs will learn that they do not get the reward pretty quickly. This is called extinction. When the begging behavior is ignored, they no longer get the reward of human food and will start eating their food instead.

Is It Okay For My Dog To Eat Human Food?

Everything in moderation right?

Not always. While dogs can enjoy human food as an occasional treat, it is not always the best choice for an entire diet. Dog food has been specifically balanced for dogs to meet all their nutritional needs, and a lot of research goes into completing that process.

All the salt and fat that is in human food can make your dog sick, especially processed and preserved food like lunch meat

Plus, certain human foods are toxic to dogs including, yeast dough, avocados, grapes and raisins, anything with the sweetener xylitol, chocolate, and onions, as well as alcohol.

If your dog is suffering from stomach pains, vomiting, or diarrhea, please take them to the veterinarian immediately.

How Do I Get My Dog To Eat Dog Food Instead Of Human Food

First and most importantly, stop giving them or allowing them access to human food and only give them dog food. Typically dogs will not starve themselves unless they are sick. Once you have stopped reinforcing only eating human food, most dogs will start eating their food again.

On that note, a dog not eating their food could be a cause for a visit to the veterinarian. They could be suffering from allergies or another illness. There is plenty of dog food on the market formulated specifically for dogs with allergies or sensitive stomachs

If you suspect your dog finds their food boring, try changing their food. Find food or protein that tastes and smells more interesting to your dog. My dogs eat a fish-based kibble that smells incredibly fishy and they love it (even though it reeks to me)! As a plus, their coats are very shiny from the extra fish oil.

At the pet store, you can find a variety of toppers and add-ons like bone broth and freeze-dried raw food that will make your dog’s food more enticing. Nevertheless, the foremost thing you can do is work with your vet to help figure out the best diet for your dog or puppy.

All dogs have different nutritional needs depending on their size, breed, age, and activity level. This scientific guide is a great place to start before you talk to your veterinarian about it.

Finally, think about making your dog’s eating experience more enriching. There are tons of dog puzzle toys on the market that will make eating their food more mentally stimulating than eating human food.

You don’t have to break the bank on store-bought toys; here is a video that gives you some good do-it-yourself food enrichment ideas too.

Final Thoughts

Our ultimate goal as responsible pet owners is to ensure that our dogs are living their healthiest, happiest lives. We spend a lot of time exercising, grooming, training, and petting them. We love them so much and it is easy to fall into the trap of overindulging our fluffy canine companions with human food.

As long as it is not on the list of toxic food, the occasional human food treatment is not a big deal. However, it can be a big deal if your dog stops eating their food and will only eat human food.

Honestly, who can blame them? Dogs love being and sharing food with humans; it is instinctual because of the way they were domesticated. Human food also smells and tastes better. Once we start sharing, it becomes a habit since you are reinforcing them by begging and eating human food.

The best thing you can do for your dog’s diet is to only feed them a veterinarian-approved diet. Occasional human food treats are fine, but your dog will live a longer and healthier life eating complete dog from puppyhood into adulthood. On a healthy complete dog food, you and your dog will have years of adventures and snuggles!

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