Why Does My Dog Not Eat Treats?

Adrienne Farricelli

A dog not eating treats may feel disappointing for dog owners eager to start training their dogs. Their high hopes of their dogs learning new obedience behaviors and cool tricks therefore goes down the drain as they feel helpless as they're not sure what they can do to go over this hurdle. Why does your dog not eat treats as many other dogs do? There are various possibilities.

Many dogs are eager to eat treats and will gulp them down like there's no tomorrow. However, sometimes dogs may act in odd ways and a dog not wanting to eat treats may be one of them. What's up with these dogs? And most of all, what can be done to encourage a dog to eat treats? Let's start by a taking a look at some common and not-so-common causes of dogs not eating treats during training. 

A Possible Medical Problem

Before assuming dogs who don't takes treats are spoiled dogs, it's important to rule out potential medical problems. A loss of appetite is often one of the first signs of illness in dogs. It could be a matter of tummy troubles, a painful tooth or some underlying medical disorder that is causing a dog to feel a bit "off."

If your dog normally takes treats during training, and now, out of the blue, he's no longer interested, suspect a medical problem. Dogs don't just stop taking treats for no rhyme or reason, so give him the benefit of doubt. 

If your dog has always been a bit weird or finicky around food or treats, still have him see the vet just to make sure there's nothing going on in the health department. 

A Possible Emotional Problem

Stress, fear, anxiety or excessive excitement may too play a number on a dog's appetite levels. Here's the thing, when dogs are in a fight or flight situation, stress hormones circulate through the dog's body, leading to a variety of physiological changes.

Among such physiological changes are included increased heart rate, increased respiratory rate and increased blood flow to muscles (so the dog can sprint into action). Affected dogs also undergo changes in their levels of blood sugar (it surges for a burst of energy). while also experiencing an inability to focus, lack of impulse control and a  lowered threshold for aggression and biting.  

Also, since during a dog's fight and flight response, blood flow transfers from the dog's skin and intestines to their muscles for action, appetite suppression is a common consequence.

On top of this, dogs who are stressed or fearful are too occupied to focus on the source of their fears and eating may be the last thing they may want to do since they don't feel safe. After all, would you feel like sitting down and eating a sandwich if you just met a tiger in the Savannah?

So if your dog is refusing treats, assume he your dog is too over threshold to want to eat. If you are in group classes, maybe other dogs near him are stressing him out, or perhaps he's worried about you looming over him or using an intimidating tone of voice. Some dogs may not like to take treats from our hands. If you're out in the yard, perhaps the place is too exciting or overstimulating for him.

A Problem With the Treats 

Sometimes, the problem may be the treats being used for training. Suspect this if your dog has been deemed healthy by your vet, and now out of the blue, he's refusing them. 

A Problem With Your Dog

Of course, your dog has no real fault on his own for not eating treats, but there are things us humans may do that can make your dog particularly finicky of treats when training. 

For example, it could be that your dog is full and he doesn't feel motivated to eat. How eager would you be to eat after dining at your favorite buffet? 

Or perhaps, you have spoiled your dog offering him pieces of juicy steak and filet mignon every time you're at the table and he looks at you drooling with his languid eyes. Now, other foods may look like garbage to him now since he got to savor the wonderful flavors, smells and textures of human foods!

Now That You Know....

As seen, dogs have their own valid reasons for not wanting to eat treats. One important clarification to keep in mind that, in general, all healthy dogs are food motivated - they need food to survive. So you next step is finding out what may happening with your dog and working on the problem. Here are several tips to help you out. 

  • See your vet to exclude medical problems. If your dog is ill or not feeling well, he won't find food appealing enough for training. Yet alone, he might not be interested in training just as you wouldn't enjoy going working, exercising or playing. So make sure your dog is happy and healthy before trying other things. 
  • If your dog is stressed, fearful or overstimulated, reduce exposure to the things that worry him. Try to train him in the comfort of your home and then aim to working on the issues that are causing him fear. You may find the look at that dog method and the open/bar closed/bar method helpful. Find a dog behavior professional to guide you through the steps. 
  • Make sure to ensure the treats you are offering are not stale, check the expiration date, look online whether there were any recent recalls. 
  •  Some dogs (especially, the most finicky ones) do best being trained at times away from meals or an empty stomach,  
  • Try using toys. Some play-driven dogs may find toys as irresistible as the best tasting treats. For example, many scent hounds or sight hounds may go crazy for toys made of rabbit fur.  
  • If your dog is shy taking treats from you hand, try tossing them. 
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