Health & Nutrition

How Do Dogs Taste Food?

dog food on marble counter

Do dogs have taste? Yes! But you may wonder why your dog seems to prefer some flavors and turns up their nose at others. In this article, we’ll unpack how your dog experiences food flavors, why they might get bored of their dog food, and how to help your picky eater -- all to help you better understand how your dog tastes food.

If you went head-to-head in a taste test against your dog, you would win! Humans, on average, have 9,000 taste buds on their tongues, while the average dog only has about 1,700. But that doesn't mean that dogs don't have a sense of taste or don't have taste preferences. In fact, dogs can taste sweet, sour, salty, spicy, and bitter [1].

You may be surprised to learn that in addition to those five tastes, dog’s taste buds can also taste water [2]. Special taste buds on the tip of a dog's tongue react to water as they drink, and become more sensitive as they become thirsty. When your dog’s "water buds" become more sensitive, it encourages them to drink more water and makes quenching their thirst all the more satisfying.

Bonus: Check out this incredible slow-motion video of a dog's tongue lapping up water.

Although a dog's ability to taste is only a fraction of our ability, their sense of smell plays a much larger role in how your dog experiences the flavor of their food. In fact, your dog's sense of smell is a million times stronger than yours. There are ~125 million sensory glands in your dog's nose vs. your 5-10 million glands according to the AKC!

Do Dogs Get Bored of Their Food?

While most dogs don’t do much seeking of their own food, they do tend to prefer new food over familiar food. You may notice your dog displaying signs of food fatigue. This could be because of the flavor of your dog’s food, or it could be a sign of something more.

Follow these steps to understand your dog’s food fatigue better:

  1. Determine if your dog is really experiencing food boredom.Do they go to the bowl to eat, but leave once they see or smell the food? Do they try to nose food out of the bowl, eat half-heartedly, then ask for something else? Are they behaving normally otherwise (and not showing other signs of being sick)? If yes, then your dog may be getting bored.
  1. Next, check the food. Is it expired? Has it gotten stale? Could it have picked up odors from somewhere else? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then replace the food. If the answer is no, then it could be time for a switch.
  1. Clean their bowl. Is your dog’s bowl getting cleaned regularly? If not, it may cause your dog to reject their food.
  1. If your dog has a sudden and or consistent lack of appetite, contact your vet to rule out a health issue.

One solution is to switch up food flavors to give some variety, but still transition to the new food gradually to reduce the risk of digestive upset. For example, you can create your dog's personalized blend of food with Just Right and select a different protein than your dog usually eats. Different flavors can be a delicious change to your dog’s routine. You can also play with variety by adjusting inclusions in your dog’s Just Right blend. Inclusions provide a change in texture and introduce new flavors to your dog’s unique kibble.

Still having trouble? Try these tips:

  1. Don’t immediately give your dog a new bowl of food after they reject their current food. Doing this will tell your dog that he's in control of what they eat, not you. Instead, remove the rejected bowl and wait at least an hour (or until their next meal) before offering a new food. Avoid feeding treats or table scraps in the meantime.
  1. Pay attention to your dog's water consumption, especially during hot months. If your dog drinks a lot of water, they may not want to eat right away. Try giving your dog about 20 minutes after drinking water before feeding them.
  1. Avoid changing your dog's food too frequently. If your dog’s food is working for them, and they are enjoying it, that’s great! Keep giving them what they like. Otherwise, sudden changes in diet can cause stomach upset. For more tips on transitioning your dog to new food,

What Should You Do for Picky Eaters?

Sometimes, dogs become "picky eaters" not because they've taken a sudden distaste for their food, but because they've learned there's something even more delicious right around the corner. Table scraps and treats all the time sounds like your dog's dream diet, doesn't it?  We would all love to have a candy bar, but three or four a day can add up! Your job is to train your dog, not the other way around! Your dog is bound to have a favorite snack, but don't let that determine what they eat during their primary meals.

Try these tips to help reform a picky eater:

  1. Train your dog to eat on a schedule.
  2. Don't overload on treats (limit treats to <10% of daily caloric intake).
  3. Avoid feeding table scraps.
  4. Keep food fresh by closing it tightly in its original bag and if you can help it, avoid buying in bulk.
  5. Keep food away from other products that could transfer odors or flavors into the .
  6. Add a little water to the bowl with your dog’s kibble.

Environmental factors can affect your dog's eagerness to eat, too. If it's hot outside, your dog’s appetite may decrease and they may skip a meal. Similarly, if their dog food is very cold (if it was left outside, for example), the cold, hard texture is not going to be a very appealing texture.

Have a specific question about your picky eater?

Delicious and Nutritious

At Just Right, we know that even the best nutrition doesn't do your dog any good if they won't eat it. That's why we focus on making food that's not only nutritious, but uniquely blended to suit their flavor preferences. It’s simple to adjust your dog’s blend if they ever experience food fatigue. Our team is here to answer any questions or help adjust their blend.

Ready to create a unique Just Right blend for your dog?