1–The dog just might not be hungry. Free feeding is when the owner leaves a big bowl of food always available. Often times, the dog over eats and munches throughout the day and just isn’t hungry. In my opinion, this is not the way to keep our dogs at a healthy weight. I know what I do when there’s an open bowl of cookies in my line of vision. A better practice is to determine the optimum quantity your dog should eat each day to maintain a good weight and feed in one meal or two meals a day at a fairly set time and place.
2–The food we are offering is low quality. Low quality can mean it contains large amounts of food coloring or is rancid or is just “cheap, low grade food”. Dogs have such good sniffers, they sometimes shy away from what their dog smarts tell them is unhealthy for them to eat. Dog foods have added oils and if left in a plastic container, opened bag or hot environment can become rancid, stale, and even have mold growth. There is no reason at all for dog foods to contain food coloring, except to make it look appealing to the humans. It is a good idea to consider storage methods and also to watch for expiration dates on dog food bags. I have found if I buy smaller bags that are fresh, my dogs are much more excited about their meals.
3–The dog is bored with the food. There was an excellent article in Whole Dog Journal recently about the advantage of rotating among brands of dog foods and also meat sources. I’ve long thought that was a good idea and do it to keep my dogs interested in what’s in their dishes. Also, if started early in their lives, the rotation helps them develop stomach enzymes for a variety of foods and minimizes upset when a change is made. If, for example, they are fed one brand of food for 5 years and then all of a sudden their food is changed, you can expect major diarrhea because their bodies are not equipped for the change. The added advantage is that they do not develop allergies to specific protein sources or ingredients. I should add here that you can check the quality of the foods at dogfoodanalysis.com. I try to keep my dogs rotating among the foods in the 4-5* classification. I reserve 6* foods for my bitches that are nursing puppies because of their high caloric content.
4–Do you wash the food bowls regularly? Dogs are dogs and cleanliness isn’t as important to them, but our domesticated and pampered house dogs will sometimes turn away from the remnants of spoiled food in their bowls.
5–Lastly, the dog might be sick. Prolonged weight loss from not eating can, of course, be from illness. Because we know our house pets so well, there are typically other indicators of illness besides loss of appetite so I put this last on the list.
Having ruled out illness in our dog, it’s time to evaluate our feeding methods or the food we are offering if our dogs routinely are not interested in their next meal.