How do I get our new dog to eat?

Yesterday, my SO and I adopted an 8 year old corgi/basset hound/Australian shepherd mix from the Humane Society. He’s got a great attitude, is very friendly, ran like hell with us at the dog park last night, and curls right up with us on the couch. The Humane Society gave us a 5 pound bag of the food they give to dogs; so far, he has yet to take a bite of it. He’s been in our home for almost 24 hours now, and the only calories he’s had have come from treats. We’re not giving him a lot of treats, either, just a few for positive reinforcement when he does the right thing (waits for us to enter the apartment first, sat still during his bath). He knows where his food is (I think) since he’s been drinking his water frequently.

He does, however, have pain-killers for gingivitis and periodontitis. We’ve given it to him, but he still isn’t eating.

Also, he has zero interest in toys. He ran with us at the park, but won’t chase a soft frisbee, pick up a bone, chase a tennis ball, or anything. We took him to Petco yesterday and he wasn’t interested in anything that wasn’t a treat.

Any ideas on how to get him to eat or play with toys?

Many dogs will not eat normally for the first few days in a new situation, but if it continues:

Stop giving him treats. If he is in pain from his teeth, please get him to a vet ASAP - pain killers for an infection is not the way to cure the problem.

If the kibble is hard, and the treats soft, that may be the problem - try soaking his kibble, and see if he’ll touch it. I also do not recommend leaving the kibble down (free-feeding), as it is very difficult to establish how much the dog is eating, and to get them to actually work for their treats.

If he is just holding out for treats over kibble, only offer him kibble for rewards.

But, please - get the teeth done ASAP!

As for the playing - a dog often has to take about 6 weeks to get “comfortable” in a new situation/home. leave some toys out, but don’t ask for much at this point. He’ll get there eventually!

Thanks, Fetchund. His teeth were cleaned and 5 extracted at the HS. That’s what the pain killers are for, and he’s only on those for 5 more days. Apparently, his last people never had his teeth cleaned. Also, he did eat a little bit about 5 minutes after I posted the OP. We think his old people gave him table scraps, though. When we ate breakfast this morning, he was sitting expectantly right next to the table. As soon as we finished eating and put our plates away, he went over to his bowl and ate some of his kibble.

My dog was a picky eater when she was a baby. The way we got her to eat was to add some warm water to the dry food, as Fetchund suggests. We did eventually have to ween her off of having water with the food. I forget why…maybe just because it was a pain in the ass or something.

With my dog, when we wanted her to eat her food regularly we would leave the dry food in the bowl and if she refused to eat it w/o water then so be it, she could go hungry until she ate. But this was a young healthy puppy with no history of abuse. With a pound dog you probably want to be a little more lenient and give a little less tough love, especially in the beginning.

You could also try wet (canned) food for a bit, just while his teeth are healing. Or a mix of wet and dry, then slowly wean him off the wet by making the ratio of dry to wet larger until it’s all dry.

Good luck!

When we got our dog (a neurotic stressed out border collie) she wouldn’t eat at our house at first either. We cooked up some plain old white rice and gave it to her, and poured some chicken broth on it to make it tasty - it smelled good I guess so she gave it a try … then we started adding her kibble to it and within a few days she trusted us enough to eat the kibble on her own.

All the above advice regarding your dog’s health is good. But I’d also like to point out that not all dogs are big eaters. My mother had a huge dog (greyhound/wolfhound cross) which barely ate. The dog was very healthy and energetic but barely ate. Initially nothing at all during the settling in period and after that only sporadically. Sometimes skipping meals for several days.

After checking with vets and trying different foods and various other tactics we gave up and stopped worrying about it. Unless they are unwell or seriously unbalanced then an animal will not naturally starve itself to death.

Barring illness, if they’re hungry enough, they’ll eventually eat. So quit stressing. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the advice everyone. Any ideas on getting him to play with toys? That’s the other issue he’s having. Like I said in the OP, he’ll run with us, but has no interest in bones, balls, frisbees, or his tooth cleaning chew toy. Are some dogs just not into toys?

My first dog (a Chow mix) would occasionally catch a ball. Once. That was the extent of her playing with toys. My second dog (a pure Chow) has never played with any toys of any sort. He’s just much too serious. Our current dog (a Lab mix) thinks EVERYTHING is a toy, and wants to play tug-of war or catch all the time.

From personal experience, my (shelter) dog didn’t know what a toy WAS. It took him some time - but he got the hang of it. Good luck!!

I’ve had dogs (and cats) that wouldn’t play with bought toys, but would play with things like boxes or plastic coke bottle caps or things like that. For a dog, just a plain old stick from the yard would probably be good.

Gracie LOVES to play “stick”. I’m always on the lookout for the prefect stick to replace the one she’s chewed up.

My dog, who I’ve had since she was 3 mos. old, has NEVER played with toys, other than chewing on a stuffed animal when she was very young.

One of our dogs, Tera, has no interest in toys. Occasionally, she’ll get what we call “the rips.” She goes completely bonkers and runs at top speed all over the yard or house while making a little yapping noise. I guess that’s her way of burning up all the excess energy our other two dogs burn off by playing fetch. :slight_smile:

However, I once glanced out the window and saw her with a tennis ball in her jaws. She tossed it up in the air and then pounced on it playfully, tail wagging happily. I was completely stunned and watched her while she continued to play with the ball for several minutes. Eventually she noticed that I was at the window. She immediately dropped the ball on the ground, gave it a disdainful sniff, turned her back on it and stalked away. That was about two years ago, and I’ve never seen her play with any toy ever again.

I could tell this exact same story about the late great Miss Emily and ice-cream buckets (which we used to carry dog food outside for feeding in the kennel). She would flip them in the air and catch them. Until she caught us watching through the window, and then never again.

Of our current dogs, Dottie LOVES toys and has to find one before she can come to us for a greeting, jump up on the couch for snuggling, etc. Her sister Phyllis is mostly uninterested, although sometime she will grab at a toy if she thinks Dottie wants it. :smiley: Or she will occasionally “nurse” on a plush toy as if it were her mommy, softly nuzzling it and kneading it with her front paws while her eyes droop shut. It’s about the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen.

As for getting a dog to eat, I’ve had good luck with sprinkling a little garlic powder or grated Parmesan cheese on the kibble.

And just WHERE are the dog pictures? Congratulations on your choice of an older, shelter dog. May you have much love and joy with your new dog.

Our dog sometimes won’t eat all day long, and then decides to have “dinner” at 10 or 10:30 p.m. The dog will eat when hungry. Speedy healing to the teeth.

My girlfriend’s dog came form the pound. Poor traumatized guy. He also didn’t eat for the first few days because the big change from the pound to new humans had stressed him enough ot kill his apetite. Once he was comfortable and understood he was there to stay as part of the new “pack”. He started to eat.

Once in awhile, if we travel with him or something, he gets a little stressed out. To get him to eat we sprinkle parmesan cheese on his food. Once he starts nibbling, it whets his apetite and he finishes the bowl.

My dog often doesn’t eat for days. And he doesn’t have much interest in toys, except for three things:

  1. Chew hooves. he loves 'em.
  2. Empty plastic containers out of the recycling bin. Don’t ask me to explain.
  3. Old stuffed animals he can dramatically disembowel.

All the other toys I’ve acquired for him lie around in sad little unloved heaps.

So yes, he is very cheap to entertain, and he disdains most dog toys too.

Sometimes other dogs are much better teachers than humans. Echoing what Missy2U said, your dog may not know what a toy IS, or what he’s allowed to do with it. Maybe his old owners always scolded or took away anything other than food / treats.

When my sister was fostering rescued greyhounds, most of them didn’t know how to play, period. It was running, or nothing, because that was all they’d been taught. Once they lived with my sister, her own dog would teach them how to play, inviting them to chase in the backyard, and tossing toys around with great zeal. The greyhounds learned a lot more about play from Dante than they did from my sister.

So, get your doggie some doggie friends! The dog park or just playdates with easygoing dogs should help spark playful behavior.

Don’t. Assuming the dog was healthy enough to be adopted, he will not starve to death in a day. Or a week. Keep fresh, clean water available at all times. Offer food for 10 to 20 minutes once or twice daily, then put it away. If/when he is hungry he will eat. Do not make a big deal about his eating.

I euthanise a few dogs each week whose only problem is obesity. It is far easier to prevent than to address. Most dogs become obese because their owners dwell on food intake. Feed to effect, that is determine an ideal weight and offer the calories necessary to achieve/maintain that weight.