General Question

prolificus's avatar

Why are some dogs extremely picky eaters of "dog food," but will eat practically anything they find laying on the ground?

Asked by prolificus (6583points) November 30th, 2010

My pup will only eat a blend of two different specialty “dog foods.” If it’s one or the other, he will take his time eating it, or won’t eat at all.

Yet, he will eat pebbles (gravel), snotty tissues, paper towels, dead birds (once I had to pull from his mouth a carcass of a dead bird found outside… gross!!!), metal objects (twisty ties, hairpins, screws – things I’ve had to pull from his mouth), fabric (blankets, towels, etc.), electrical cords (he’s killed one laptop power cord and almost destroyed another), earphones (he completely destroyed a pair of iPod earphones), and anything else he manages to find on the ground.

Why would a dog eat non-food items, when perfectly good (and expensive) “dog food” is available for him?

What crazy things has your dog consumed?

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12 Answers

CaseyWVU10's avatar

Same reason, why my dog WILL NOT lick your face, but he will lick his ass…quirky dog personalities I guess

marinelife's avatar

Dog food is not all that great. It was an invention of the meat packing industry to get rid of diseased animal carcasses.

Dogs are by nature omnivores. My one dog will eat almost anything, He once stole a person’s piece of fried chicken right out of their lunch sack. He got into the neighbor’s burn pile (where they burned food waste too) and ate something that made him very sick. Another time, he poisoned himself. After pumping his stomach the vet said, “Well, there was a dead mouse and some mushrooms in there. Either one could have been the culprit.” And the topper? He swallowed a three inch piece of corncob. That took three days to pass through his system. The vet was quite amazed, saying “Usually we have to remove those surgically. That had to hurt to pass!”

My dogs interest in their food increased enormously when I switched them to a raw food diet. The bones and raw food (BARF) diet. This is what I feed them. They love it.

crisw's avatar

What do you do when you put down the dog food and your pup doesn’t eat it? Give in? This teaches smart pup that if he holds out you give him the good stuff.

As long as you are feeding a premium brand of food (not anything sold in a grocery store)- put the food down, wait 5 minutes, pick it up and put it away. Depending on how old your pup is, wait 4–12 hours and put it down another 5 minutes- and so on. No treats or different foods between meals no matter how pitiful he looks! He won’t starve and he’ll learn that he better eat what’s offered :>)

The gross stuff usually gets gobbled because pup learns that if he doesn’t, you’ll take it away!

prolificus's avatar

We feed our pup a mixture of Nature’s Logic – Venison and All Natural Baked Food – Chicken for Adult Dogs. We do not indulge him with other foods, like people food (except for the occasional piece of popcorn). If he doesn’t eat his food, we save it for later. No substitutions.

For snacks we give him all-natural chicken and beef flavored rawhide bones. Also, he has other all-natural doggy treats we use for training. He gets these occasionally. He is fed twice daily, ½ cup in the morning and ½ cup for dinner. We’ve tried giving him more than a ½ cup for dinner (as he can have 1.5 cups daily), but he won’t eat breakfast if he eats more for dinner.

As long as we have the mixture of food, he’s fine. I just wish he wouldn’t eat potentially life-threating items (i.e. metal objects, gravel, etc.). We have him gated to one area of the house, and have ensured the area is puppy-proof. However, he still manages to find unsafe items. We have to keep him on a short leash during walks because he lunges after paper and other objects. Yes, he’s gone through dog-training. Teaching him to “drop it” or “leave it” is an on-going process.

Soubresaut's avatar

Since he’s a puppy, he’s still teething and learning about the world. Dogs explore with their noses and mouths, since they don’t have hands. That would be my guess on all the inedible stuff. He’s figuring out what it is; maybe if it’s edible or not. Plus, it’s fun to chew.
The tissues and paper towels are used, so have interesting scents on them. My dogs like used tissues too.
The dead bird—it’s a bird. Yum! Dogs are hunters, too, along with being omnivores, and they don’t know about the bacteria scientifically like we do. If it doesn’t smell too bad, it must be good.

My dogs, I have two. The boy will eat whatever you give him, whenever. The girl has to be in the mood: hungry. Otherwise she won’t just not eat, she’ll tip the bowl and try to bury the food into the floor.

Seconding @marinelife, dog food isn’t natural, it’s a recent invention. Dogs don’t eat brown, salty (I assume salty) dried up tablets by choice. They can and do, but with some adjusting. My dogs, when they were puppies, the breeder fed them a natural diet. My mom (I was little at the time) fed them that way for a while, but wanted to switch to dog food—because our boy had a fussy stomach and needed more consistency, said the vet. She did so by slowly adding the kibble to the natural food, more kibble and less natural food each day.

prolificus's avatar

@DancingMind – I call him a pup, but he’s 13 months old. These behaviors haven’t changed, though, since he was a few months old. He’s a very curious little guy, so I can imagine inedible items are very interesting and fun to chew! Sometimes it’s like a game for him. Sometimes when he gets a paper towel, he runs and taunts me while I try to retrieve it. Retrieving the dead bird from his mouth was the grossest thing ever, especially since I didn’t know it was a dead bird until I saw it in the street-light!!

gondwanalon's avatar

A normal dog will eat about anything. Bread, tortillas, rice, meat, cheese, etc. A dog with picky eating habits is acting that way due to psychological issues. I got that information from watching the Dog Whisperer on T.V. I love that show!

NanoBiscuit's avatar

My dogs were doing that too, not eating the dog food but everything else. The trick is to NOT give them anything else to eat period until they eat the dog food. When they get hungry, they will eat the dog food. Then, the food bowl may be refilled. This tactic came from the Dog Whisperer also, and it worked for me.

However, anything gross out in the yard appears to be an area of contention. The Schnauzer was playing and tossing something around a couple weeks back, rolling on the ground, having a good old time. I went to investigate, and she was nibbling on the left over entrails and partial back legs and tail of a squirrel. OMG, I almost barfed, and she just laid there with her paw on it wagging her tail like she’s accomplished the most important job ever, the proud hunter. I wondered aloud and walked the yard three times trying to find the front half o’ squirrel, and never did and she never did get sick. I cannot imagine she would crunch up and eat the head, skin, eyes, brain, skull, and all. And, I’ll always wonder if the other half somehow magically crawled up a tree to safety… :)

crisw's avatar


“This tactic came from the Dog Whisperer”

Nope, it’s been around much, much longer than that!

crisw's avatar


“A dog with picky eating habits is acting that way due to psychological issues. I got that information from watching the Dog Whisperer ”

As usual, he’s wrong.

The dog has no issues other than being smarter than his owner. As I said above, the dog has simply learned that if he holds out, the owner will give him better food. It’s entirely a sensible and learned behavior. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the dog at all.

xxii's avatar

@crisw is right – there is nothing deep and psychological going on here – it is simply a case of a dog outsmarting his owner. It’s a perfectly logical progression. The dog knows that if he waits a little longer, he’ll get something tastier than plain food.

To the OP – your dog does not eat fabric, pebbles, etc because he is hungry or because they taste good. He eats them because

a) he is bored
b) he is curious
c) he has not been taught that eating these things is unrewarding
d) he has been taught that eating these things is rewarding.

It can be any combination of the above; it could even be all of them. However, I can tell you without a doubt that those four factors are at the root of your pup’s behaviour. Remove those factors and you remove the problem.

All the best!

rooeytoo's avatar

As @marinelife said, dog food is an invention of humans to use up the garbage they can’t pass off as human food. When I look in a bag of dog food that claims to be chicken, rice, lamb or whatever but it looks like brown or red tablets, I don’t believe it is chicken, rice or lamb either. BARF is a much more desirable alternative feeding method and I find it to be no more expensive than feeding a premium dog food. Then you don’t have to worry about the psychological aspects of his taste in food.

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