Some dogs will eat nearly anything, including the occasional poop pile. Other dogs are picky. If they don’t like a certain food, they will refuse to eat it. You may wonder what your dog’s food tastes like to them. Is it appetizing? 

How does dog food taste like to dogs?

Dogs have taste buds just as humans do, although there are some differences. The three main components of a dog’s food preferences are smell, flavor, and texture. 

Smell

Dogs use smell as their primary sense. As a comparison, humans use sight as their primary sense. Essentially, dogs see the world through their nose. 

Smell plays a role in food preferences for humans and dogs. However, it’s much more important to a dog than a human. If you want to get an idea how smell affects your sense of taste, here’s a simple experiment.

Grab one of your favorite foods. Take a bite as you would normally. Now, plug your nose and take another bite. Did you notice a marked difference in the taste? Without your sense of smell, the food likely tasted bland. 

It’s estimated that a dog’s sense of smell is 10,000-100,000 times more powerful than ours. They have 50 times more scent receptors in their nose than we do. For us, smell is secondary to flavor. For dogs, smell is more important than flavor. 

Flavors

Just like humans, each dog has its own flavor preferences. What your dog ate as a puppy also plays a role. Dogs who are exposed to different flavors early in life are more likely to enjoy new foods as an adult. Research also suggests that what the mother eats plays a role in food preferences. 

Textures

Texture also plays a role for dogs, just as it does for humans. Some dogs prefer the texture of wet food, while others prefer the texture of dry food. When it comes to whole foods, dogs also seem to have texture preferences. 

Do dogs like the taste of dog food?

Generally speaking, dogs enjoy the taste of dog food. However, each dog will have its own taste preferences. Some dogs enjoy many different foods, while some are picky eaters. 

Freshness Matters

Those large bags of kibble may allow you to save money by buying in bulk. However, dry kibble is only fresh for one month after you open the bag. 

If you notice your pooch is no longer interested in a food he used to enjoy, it may be because the food is stale. Over time, it looses its taste and aroma. The fats begin to oxidize. Food can easily go from appetizing to unappealing as oxidation occurs, changing the smell and flavor of the food. 

Keep the bag tightly closed after opening to reduce oxidation. You can also transfer it to a container with an airtight lid to keep the food palatable longer. 

Canned food has a shelf life of two years. Once it’s open, it’s good for 3-5 days covered in the refrigerator. You may need to add a little water or heat it after refrigerating, because it increases the aroma of the food. Be careful when heating food, because your dog can burn it’s mouth if the food is too hot. 

Taste Test

You can give your dog a taste test if you want to be sure they enjoy the food they are eating. There are a few methods you can use to do this. 

One way is to place a bowl of two types of food in front of your dog. This is the easiest method, but not necessarily the most accurate. Your dog may simply keep eating the one they tried first, without investigating the other bowl. 

You can also measure how much of each food your dog eats, but what if they gobble up both bowls of food? Or only try and eat one bowl of food? 

You can try one type of food for one meal and the other type for another meal. See which your dog eats more of, or which they appear to enjoy more. 

To get the most accurate results, you’ll need two bowls of different food and a screen for each bowl. Place each in front of your dog covered by a screen so they have no choice but to smell and not eat. 

Then remove the screens, placing the bowls an equal distance apart. See which one your dog eats first, or which they eat the most of. It’s still not an exact science, but it can give you an idea of your dog’s food preferences. 

Dog Food Vs. Whole Foods

Commercial dog food is considered a healthy canine diet. It’s certainly convenient, but it might not be the best option. Commercial dog food has been cooked and processed, removing much of the nutrition. Vitamins and fats are then added back in after cooking. 

Whole food is natural. It’s what dogs eat in the wild, as opposed to processed foods. The issue with feeding your dog a whole food diet, other than the time it takes to prepare it, is ensuring their diet is balanced. Dogs require certain vitamins and minerals, and a specific ratio of fat:protein:carbs. Without guidance, it can be difficult to get the right balance. 

Another option is to purchase premade whole-food dog food. Many of these require freezing and dethawing. Others may need to be hydrated with water. 

Do dogs taste things like humans do?

Dogs do have tastebuds, just as humans do. They serve a similar role as well. Taste buds encourage your dog to eat foods that are healthy for them. It also encourages them to avoid things that taste bad, because these things are often harmful.

Taste buds have about 50 taste receptor cells. These cells pick up on different flavors. The taste cells are attached to nerve fibers. Once the taste has been analyzed, they are sent to the cranial nerves, and then to different areas of the brain. 

Taste is so important for humans that it’s the only part of the nervous system that can completely regenerate. Former smokers often remark on how much better food tastes after quitting. If you’ve ever burned your tongue, you may have lost some of your sense of taste temporarily. Taste buds regenerate, and the sense of taste goes back to normal fairly quickly. 

Human vs. Dog Taste Buds

Humans have five types of taste buds that are currently recognized. These are sweet, salty, savory, bitter, and sour. 

Dogs taste things a bit differently than humans do. They have 1,700 tastebuds while humans have 9,000. This means they have 1/6 the tastebuds we do. 

In addition to the five types of tastebuds that we have, dogs also have a set dedicated to water. Plain water might be tasteless to you, but it has a unique flavor to your dog. 

Dogs also have tastebuds dedicated to meat and meat-related chemicals, including fats. This is why dogs prefer meat or meat-flavored food over other types. 

From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense. The energy and calories found in meat would help to keep the animal healthy and strong. 

However, taste science is far from settled. Scientists are researching the possibility that we have more than five types of tastebuds. Current research involves fat, alkaline, metallic, starch, calcium and water. We may eventually learn that we have more in common with our dogs’ tastes than we thought, although I still wouldn’t recommend taste testing kibble. 

What flavor dog food do dogs prefer?

Dogs might not rely on taste as much as humans do, but it still matters. Each dog will have slightly different taste preferences, but there are some guidelines that hold true for most dogs. 

Sweet Over Salty

Humans love salt. In fact, you can add salt to nearly anything, including sweet foods, and improve its flavor. Dogs, on the other hand, aren’t big fans of salt. 

Just like humans, dogs require a certain amount of salt in their diet for proper body functioning. In the wild, they get enough salt from the raw meat they eat. It’s believed they don’t have a taste preference for salt because they easily get enough in their diet naturally. 

Dogs prefer sweet tastes over salty ones. This comes to a surpise to many pet owners. Dogs have a strong preference for meat, so you may expect them to prefer salt as well. To us, meat is a savory flavor often associated with salt. However, to your dog, meat has its own flavor and isn’t related to salt. 

Meat Flavor Preferences

Meat makes up 80% of a dog’s diet in the wild, so it’s no surprise that dogs love meat and meat flavor. Which meats do dogs prefer? Research has shown that dogs prefer beef and pork over chicken and lamb. Dogs also love the taste of fish, which isn’t surprising given it’s protein and fat content. 

Wet vs. Dry Food

Wet food has a stronger smell and taste than dry food. Many dogs prefer wet food for this reason, but it can be offputting for some dogs. 

Wet food has a higher moisture content, making it ideal for dogs at risk of dehydration. It’s soft and easy to eat, which makes it easy for puppies and older dogs to eat and digest. 

Some experts recommend combining wet and dry food. You can also add a food topper to dry food to provide moisture and more flavor. Canned pumpkin and chicken broth are popular choices, just be sure that they have no seasoning or spices added. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.