My dog will go days without eating unless someone sits with her and hand feeds her dog food. At first, I thought it was because we were feeding her some table scraps every once in a while, but I have stopped that practice, yet she still won’t go to her food dish herself for more than 2 or 3 kibbles.

When she is being hand fed, she is always difficult at first, but ends up eating everything in her dish. So, I know she must be hungry.

Are there any suggestions on how I can encourage her to eat on her own? I have tried just leaving the dish on the floor hoping when she is hungry she will eat, but that can last days before I finally get worried and resort to feeding her by hand.

  • 2
    I am sorry, but what's "table scrap"? Is it what is left behind after eating?
    – Mistu4u
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 13:34
  • Similar tendencies i have seen in my sister's Labrador when he was young. It was due to the over-love by my sister. But when i tried to not feed him by hand and leave the food front of him, he started eating it in little little intervals and problem got solved. But your scenario looks little different. Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 13:34
  • @Mistu4u Yes its a small portion of what was left over after eating (only if its something that wont hurt her obviously). Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 13:41
  • How many days did you wait to see if the dog eats on his own or not?
    – Mistu4u
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 13:48
  • 2
    Don't hesitate to see your vet. Suggestions here could turn out good, but it is your dog's health we are juggling with.
    – Salketer
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 14:10

4 Answers 4


Going for several days without food is not usual for a healthy dog. I would ask, are you sure your dog eats absolutely nothing in this time, as I would be skeptical. Having said this, dogs can go for a number of days without eating, though this is not optimal.

The following is advice for a healthy dog. It is always a good idea to get your dog checked if you are worried. If your dog shows signs of poor health, weight loss, lethargy, any worrying signs, it is a good idea to get her checked professionally.

The best and easiest solution.

The best way to encourage a fussy eater to eat is to introduce competition for the food. Many dogs that eat slowly, are fussy and will not finish their food will eat reasonable helpings in good time when there is another dog present.

This is not always a viable option, especially to own a second dog. If you have any friends, family or neighbors with dogs, it would be worthwhile experimenting by feeding both dogs together, separate bowls, but within reasonably close proximity and see if this makes a difference. If not then there may be an organic cause for your dog's sussy eating behavior. As a general rule, though these things are behavioral and your dog has no reason to gulp her food quickly, and it pays her to be a fussy eater, as she is fussed over, petted, offered a variety of food and hand fed. It is good to remove these rewards if this behavior is a problem.

The harder and more realistic solution.

Consistency is the key word.

You must not feed her, except for what is in her bowl for the following to work. Make sure the family eats their evening meal first. When this is finished, place a set amount in the bowl for 30 minutes, and take it up until the next day and repeat. She needs to learn two things:

  1. She will not get treats by holding out.
  2. She is at the bottom of the pack, so needs to be grateful for the food she gets at the end of the meal. Currently, she is ruling the family, by waiting until she is fed the things she wants to eat.

If you give in, she will learn that she just needs to wait it out. She's obviously not starving, or she would eat, and the pay-off of holding out is worth it for her.

Ruling out health problems, you'll find your dog will eat what she needs to maintain a healthy body weight. The one problem you will have is going to her less favorite foods, try and keep her on her most favorite dog food mixtures, this is something you can worry about changing down the track.

  • Dogs are much happier when they know they aren't, and can't become, the pack's Alpha. Time for some tough love. No dog "needs" treats, and no dog will starve itself once it gets really hungry. Reserve treats for training exercises or very special occasions only.
    – keshlam
    Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 23:33
  • @keshlam and user87, there's no pack in the dog's mind that he wants to be ruling. But both your advice is spot on otherwise.
    – ThomasH
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 13:46

I have seen the same issue with my own dog. As @AnkitSharma suggested, my problem got resolved after making him understand that he has to eat on his own and nobody is going to feed him everytime. However your problem seems more difficult. In general, a dog doesn't eat if it suffers from loss of appetite but you said, your dog eats if you feed him. It is a slightly different problem; it does not seem to be an easy one. If we think about the behavior of a dog, it might not eat if it feels uneasy for some reasons. That can be, eating in an unknown condition/environment, in front of other animals or even when the bowl of his food is kept high. Check for these issues. If they too are okay, I would recommend you to contact a vet as soon as possible.


Other eating only when hand-fed, does your dog behave normally? Is he active; does he urinate and defecate reasonable amounts; is his weight constant? If the answer is no to any one of these questions, he needs a vet, ASAP. If the answer is yes to all of the questions, try the advice in the other answers for a few days.


My dog, a bulldog mix, has done this also. What I've done is if he doesn't eat after an hour of it sitting there, I put it on the counter. I usualy feed him at 7 or 8 AM because I wake up early. In case he doesn't eat, I put up the food and introduce the same food at around lunch time. He then eats because he is very hungry. So basically you could just be feeding your dog too early.

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