Dog Sniffs Food Then Walks Away: What Does It Mean And What To Do

Has this ever happened to you? You put down your dog’s food bowl, filled with their favorite kibble, but instead of gobbling it up, they come over, sniff it, and then walk away without taking a bite. As a dog owner, this behavior can be frustrating and leave you wondering what’s going on. In this article, we’ll explore the possible reasons why your dog may sniff their food and then ignore it, as well as what you can do to get them eating again. Whether your pooch is a picky eater or there’s an underlying health issue, you’ll find tips to decipher your dog’s actions and get their appetite back on track. We’ll make sure you and your four-legged friend are wagging your tails in no time.

Can Dogs Get Bored Of Their Food?

It’s certainly possible for dogs to get bored of eating the same ol’ kibble day in and day out. Just as humans like variety in their meals, dogs can get tired of the constant repetition. If you’ve been feeding your pup the same brand and flavor for months on end, it’s no wonder they’re turning up their nose. Mixing up proteins, textures, and toppers is an easy way to reinvigorate your dog’s dining experience.

Additionally, boredom may stem from lack of mental stimulation. If your pooch is stuck at home all day without much activity to engage their mind, they’re not going to be nearly as excited about chow time. Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise, playtime, and even food puzzles to keep them sharp. A little brainwork can definitely spur their appetite. So, beat the boredom and get your best friend looking forward to dinner again.

Possible Causes Of Dog Sniffing And Turning Away

When your dog sniffs their food but then loses interest, there are a few potential reasons behind the behavior. Understanding the cause will help you address the issue properly.

Some possible explanations for sniffing and walking away include:

  • Food is spoiled or stale – Dogs have a highly advanced sense of smell and can detect even slight spoilage or staleness in their food that humans can’t notice. This makes the food unappealing.
  • Food allergy or intolerance – Just like humans, dogs can develop allergies or intolerances to ingredients in their food over time, making that food unpalatable. Common triggers include proteins like chicken, grains like corn, or preservatives.
  • Pain while eating – If your dog has a sore tooth, gum disease, or other mouth pain, it may hurt them to eat. The smell is enticing but the act of chewing makes them walk away.
  • Lack of appetite – A decreased appetite can stem from nausea, infections, organ issues, cancer, or other medical conditions. Your dog wants to eat but feels too sick.
  • Stress or depression – Emotional issues like separation anxiety, grief, change in home environment, or stress can severely impact your dog’s desire to eat.

The reasons above are just some of the most common explanations. Consulting your vet to pinpoint the cause is key before taking action. With patience and TLC, you can get your furry friend feeling better and eating happily again.

Dog sniffing air.

Why Does My Dog Take A Bite Of Food And Walk Away?

It’s not uncommon for dogs to grab a quick bite of their meal only to abandon the rest. As baffling as it seems, this behavior happens for several understandable reasons.

One possibility is that your dog is experiencing mild nausea or an upset stomach. They take an initial taste, hoping to eat, but then the unsettled feeling returns causing them to walk away. Similarly, if your dog has a sore tooth or mouth issue, they may take a bite to test it out, then leave when chewing causes discomfort. Your pup may also be distracted by a noise or activity while eating. They grab a bite then completely forget about the food once their attention shifts. Lastly, some dogs just like to “graze” on their food, meaning they prefer taking little bites here and there rather than gorging the whole bowl at once.

The key is observing if this grazing happens consistently versus being a sudden change. A vet visit can diagnose any oral health or digestion issues. If the habit developed recently, identify what else in your dog’s routine or environment changed at the same time. Patience and keeping food fresh can also get your four-legged friend eating normally.

Why Doesn’t My Dog Finish It’s Food?

You set down a full bowl of kibble for your dog, but instead of devouring the whole thing, they eat only a portion of the food before walking away. Why don’t they polish off the entire meal? There are some possible explanations.

One reason is that your dog may simply not be as hungry as you think. If they are getting sufficient calories from treats and snacks throughout the day, their appetite for full meals decreases. Your dog knows best how much food their body needs. Likewise, changes in activity levels or metabolism can mean your pup no longer needs the same meal portions.

Illness can also play a role in diminished appetite and interest in finishing food. Issues like mouth pain, allergies, infection, or disease can make your dog too uncomfortable to keep eating. Medications may impact hunger as well. Of course, stress and depression can zap anyone’s desire to eat including your four-legged friend.

The key is noticing if lack of finishing meals is sudden or progressive. Consult your vet to rule out health problems. Then adjust meal portions and schedule to match your dog’s needs. With time and care, your dog will maintain a healthy appetite.

Signs That Your Dog May Have An Underlying Medical Condition

Changes in your dog’s eating habits can sometimes indicate a bigger health issue. Being aware of the warning signs allows you to get veterinary help early on.

Look out for these possible signs of illness:

  • Sudden loss of appetite – If your dog normally eats well but loses interest in food abruptly, illness could be the cause.
  • Excessive drooling – Increased drool when eating can signal mouth pain or nausea.
  • Weight loss – Unexplained weight loss when your dog’s diet is unchanged can indicate disease.
  • Vomiting/diarrhea – These are clear signs of gastrointestinal issues.
  • Difficulty chewing/swallowing – Oral pain or throat obstructions make eating uncomfortable.
  • Change in bowel movements – Constipation, loose stool, blood, or mucus point to digestive upset.
  • Increased sleeping – Excess sleep paired with appetite issues is a red flag.
  • Lethargy – Overall lack of energy and not acting like themselves is a major warning sign.

If you notice multiple symptoms in combination with disrupted eating, it’s vital to make a vet appointment right away. Bloodwork, imaging, dental exams, and other tests can uncover the underlying problem. Addressing health issues quickly will get your dog feeling and eating normal again.


How To Ensure Your Dog Gets The Nutrition He Needs

When your dog is refusing food or not finishing meals, you need to take steps to ensure they still get adequate nutrition.

Here are some tips:

  • Consult your vet – Describe your dog’s eating behavior and get advice on nutritional needs. Your vet can provide prescription food if needed.
  • Try wet food – Canned food is more aromatic and flavorful, which may entice picky eaters. Gradually transition to get acceptance.
  • Use food toppers – Mixing in wet food, broth, yogurt, or cottage cheese can make kibble more appetizing.
  • Hand feed – Having you hand feed removes any fears your dog may associate with the bowl. It also feels like a treat.
  • Exercise before meals – A short walk can stimulate your dog’s appetite and make them more likely to eat well.
  • Give smaller portions – Overwhelming amounts of food can put off some dogs. Reduce portions and separate daily food into multiple smaller meals.
  • Avoid too many treats – Stick to low-calorie treats only for training rewards. Too many treats reduce interest in meals.

Persistence and creativity in finding foods your individual dog enjoys can get their nutrition back on track. Work closely with your vet to monitor health. With time, your pup’s appetite should bounce back.


When you notice your dog has started sniffing their meals only to walk away, it can be concerning. But armed with the right knowledge, you can get to the bottom of the issue. Realizing boredom, oral discomfort, allergies, or illness could be at play allows you to create a plan tailored to your pup. Experiment with wet foods, toppers, hand feeding, and schedule changes to pique their interest. Monitor for other symptoms and ask your vet for advice. With some tinkering and TLC, you’ll get your furry friend feeling their best and eating with gusto again.

The most vital takeaway is to stay observant of any ongoing changes in your dog’s food drive and wellbeing. Sudden disinterest in treats, lethargy, or other warning signs combined with appetite issues warrant an urgent vet visit. But in most cases, patience, creativity, and paying attention to what your dog’s actions communicate will get them happily cleaning their bowl once more. By supporting your pup, you’ll both be wagging your tails at mealtime again before you know it.

About The Author

Marc Magny is a seasoned dog owner and breeder, lending his expertise to captivating and informative articles. His deep understanding of dogs and their behavior, health, and breeding practices enriches his writing, offering invaluable insights to readers.

With his practical experience and passion for dogs, Marc’s articles serve as a comprehensive guide for dog lovers. His work resonates with the joy of dog ownership, positioning him as a trusted voice and resource in the pet parenting journey.