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Canine Cuisine: Do Dogs Really Like Dog Food?

Last Updated: December 10, 2023

Whether you’re getting dog food for the first time or the hundredth time, you will probably wonder how much of it is formulated for you and how much of it even matters to your dog. An erroneous assumption would be that dogs can’t even taste their food. So, do dogs like dog food?

Dogs like dog food and can taste its flavor profile and detect its texture. Their sense of smell can make the experience arguably more enjoyable than that of humans. That said, dogs aren’t as specific about novelty and can keep eating the same food over and over.

In this article, you will learn more about your dog’s ability to taste his food and his preference for different types of food.

I will also cover cycling practices and methods to introduce new food without surprising your dog too much. By the end, you will know how to make food more appealing and what you can do if your dog keeps rejecting his food.

Do Dogs Like Dog Food?
My dog Willow – “Do I go for the kibble or the wet food?”

Do Dogs Like The Taste of Dog Food?

Dogs like the taste of dog food and can actually differentiate between different types, flavors, and makes of dog food. That’s why they can be so excited about treats and fussy about specific kinds of dog food.

That said, one must remember that dogs have fewer taste buds than humans, so they cannot taste food as intensely.

At the same time, they have a better sense of smell. In fact, a dog’s sense of smell is 1,000 times more powerful than a human’s. Our canine friends have more than 220 million olfactory receptors in their nose, compared to our mere 5 million.

If you’ve had a cold and lost your appetite, you can tell how aroma can be tied to appetite. Moreover, hunger can make food taste better.

So dogs can find a broader range of food more appetizing than humans but cannot actually taste it as intensely. They enjoy eating food perhaps more than we do but can taste only 1/5th of the flavor.

Take this study on food-odor preferences in dogs, for example. It is already known that olfaction is important in food preference in dogs and this study highlighted that 89% of dogs who took part in the experiment ate food that they liked the smell of first.

Do Dogs Like The Taste of Dog Food? A dog eating a bowl of dog food.
My German Shepherd eating dry food with added warm water

Dogs’ Tastebuds vs. Human Tastebuds

Dogs and humans both taste food because of their tastebuds. However, the average number of tastebuds on a dog’s tongue is 1700, while the average number on a human’s tongue is 9000. Both humans and dogs can taste the sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and bitterness of their respective food.

But dogs have tastebuds that specifically pick up the taste of water. Humans don’t have those. So pet owners must understand that while dogs like the taste of dog food, they do so based on not just the taste factors that humans judge food by but also because of the food’s water content.

This is very relevant to kibble, which comes pretty dry and can be served dry, especially to young adult dogs.

Do Dogs Like The Taste of Kibble?

Dogs like the taste of kibble but not all dogs like all kibble. Moistening the kibble helps because dogs can pick up the taste of water, and moisture also unlocks dormant flavors in kibble. If your dog doesn’t like any type of kibble, even when it is moist, you can try wet dog food.

Dogs can tend to get bored of food, though not as frequently as humans do. But that can sometimes be taken for granted by dog owners. For the most part, dogs eat from a position of hunger, and their hunger contributes to the enjoyment of eating. 

“That’s why they can appear excited about the same type of food over and over. If they get bored with said food, then they can be picky, especially when they aren’t as hungry.”

World of Dogz

Some dogs can go over a day without getting hungry. But if you maintain a daily feeding schedule, you will notice them getting increasingly picky. It is somewhat similar to our hierarchy of needs. The more of our needs are met, the more we can focus on our wants. This ties into whether or not you need to worry about the flavor of your dog’s food.

Below is my dog Willow. I feed her dry dog food but often add water to it to enhance the aroma and change the texture. I also like to add a wet food topping. Now she’s confused as she wonders which to choose! Kibble or wet?

IS YOUR DOG NOT EATING HIS KIBBLE? Check out my article if your dog has stopped eating his kibble, 9 Reasons Your Dog Won’t Eat Dry Dog Food (And What To Do!)

Does Flavor Matter To Dogs?

When wondering if dogs like dog food, we need to consider the food’s flavor and whether taste plays a part.

Flavor matters to the dog, especially when they aren’t starving. The less food a dog needs, the more he can focus on the flavor and get picky about different types of dog food. Aside from flavor, dogs care about food texture, too, especially with their heightened ability to taste water.

If you’re wondering which flavors of food dogs like more, you’ll be glad to know that dogs don’t have preferences too alien to human tastes. You might even notice your dog not touching his food yet working up an appetite the moment you offer him any leftovers or treats.

Dogs love sugary flavors and meat-adjacent flavors the most. Their treats can have a sugary lean, but most of their food is meat-backed. The more meat there is in a certain type of dog food, the higher the likelihood of your dog enjoying it.

Many owners overthink their initial dog food purchases when dogs are very accepting of a wide range of food items. So, if you ever run out of dog food, check out my seriously ridiculous guide, Run Out Of Dog Food? 31 Safe Foods To Feed Your Dog (& Recipes).

Do Dogs Get Bored of the Same Food?

Do Dogs Get Bored of The Same Food? A GSD Looking Disinterested in Its Food
“Jeez! Any chance of a steak?”

Despite having a broad acceptance of different foods, dogs can seem complicated to feed for two reasons. Firstly, they might not register some food types as food, making first-time feeding hard. Secondly, they might stop eating food they previously loved because of boredom.

Dogs can get bored of food after eating it repeatedly with no variation. Their way of communicating said boredom is by eating less or not eating entirely. Many dog owners might erroneously assume their dogs’ boredom with a lack of appetite.

But before we discuss the signs of food boredom, I want to simplify dog food problems for you. The table below covers how you can handle almost any preference-related issue regarding dog food.

Dog’s attitude towards foodPotential ReasonAppropriate Solution
Your dog likes almost all the food he getsHe is a dogEnjoy it while it lasts
Your dog doesn’t like dry foodHe dislikes its textureAdd water on top to make the texture more preferable.
Your dog doesn’t like new food1. The food is bad
2. He can’t register it as food
3. The food’s texture or flavor 
1. Replace it with fresh food
2. Try adding some of the new food with his old food to get him accustomed
3. Add water or a treat-topper
Your dog doesn’t like his old food1. He is bored with the food.
2. He has a dental problem
3. He is sick
1. Replace the dog food
2. Take him to the vet
3. Take him to the vet
How to handle your dog’s food preference

All in all, if your dog dislikes his food, it’s either the old food, the new food, or all the food. Disliking all food is an issue but not liking old or new types of dog food is perfectly normal.

Let’s first address how you can handle your dog’s boredom with his old food, starting with confirming the cause.

Signs That A Dog Is Bored Of The Same Food

  • He eats the food, but only if he is really hungry 
  • He shows more interest in your food while leaving his bowl untouched
  • He is pretty healthy and doesn’t seem in pain, but he is disinterested in food

What To Do If Your Dog Is Bored Of The Same Food

If your dog is getting bored of his old food, you can mix meat chunks into it or top his bowl up with more flavorful food. Once your dog starts eating, he will not notice the subtle switch in taste and will continue eating until the bowl is empty. Check out this post for some great food ideas to add, 15 Easy Foods To Mix With Dry Dog Food (For Fussy Eaters).

You can eventually swap his food with a different type of food entirely, or you can mix dog food brands. But a gradual introduction allows your dog’s digestive system and expectations to align with the new food. Dogs can get diarrhea and digestive issues if the diet switch is too drastic.

This brings us to the second context, where a dog might refuse food.

What To Do If Your Dog Dismisses New Food?

Switching your dog from an old food type to a new one always carries the risk of rejection. Dogs are the very definition of creatures of habit. If your dog is not interested in the new food you got, you have two options:

  • Trick him into eating it 
  • Resell/Donate his food

You can bamboozle your dog into eating a new type of dog food by adding it to something he loves. But if your dog shows a serious dislike for a specific type of food, you might have to sell it off on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. You can also donate it to a dog shelter.

Pro tip! Before you buy a different type of dog food, get a small sampler. Most pet stores offer small sample packs that you can use to determine if your dog will be okay with the new type of food.

Is Variety Important In Dog Food?

Variety isn’t important for preference or taste reasons but can be critical for nutrition. Sometimes, cycling protein levels can help a dog lose weight. At other times, your dog might need specific supplements. But you don’t have to prepare a schedule of different meals for your dog. You need to find the food he likes and continue feeding it to him, provided it is healthy.

Final Thoughts

Dogs like dog food but more so because of their hunger and its aroma than the taste or flavor of the food. Dogs can taste different flavors that humans can pick up, but their sense of taste is dimmer. That’s why you can mix whatever they prefer (new or old food) with a bit of the food they would otherwise reject, and they would not know the difference.

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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