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new dog won't eat food

My New Dog Won’t Eat. What Should I Do?

A dog who won’t eat is always an indication that something is wrong. We look at the reasons why a dog in a new home may not be eating, and what to do about it.

When you welcome a new dog into your home, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. You will likely start growing attached to your new friend immediately. Unfortunately, the new dog doesn’t always have the same emotional response as you and may exhibit unusual behaviors, including not eating.

When a new dog won’t eat, the most common cause is stress or anxiety about their new, unfamiliar surroundings. This behavior is normal for a newly adopted or rescued dog, and usually goes away in a few days once they have become acclimated to their new environment. There could, of course, be something medically wrong, but that is less common.

We’re going to look at the various reasons a new dog won’t eat, how to get them to eat, and how to make it easier for them to adjust to their new surroundings.

Create A Feeding Routine

The best thing to do for this situation is to implement a routine, as this can help your dog feel more settled. This means creating eating habits such as feeding them at the same time every day and keeping the food and water bowls in the exact same spot.

Don’t “free feed” (leaving their food in a bowl for lengthy periods of time so they can eat at their leisure). Put their food down for a 10 minutes or so, and if they don’t eat it, pick it up and wait until their next feeding time. They will soon learn that they must eat at the designated time and not “graze” on their food when they feel like it. Establishing this routine has benefits beyond just getting them to eat.

Dogs need structure, so once they get more of a routine in their lives, they will feel more relaxed and comfortable in their new home.

new dog won't eat food


The majority of the time, this refusal to eat stems from unfamiliarity, anxiousness and stress, but you’ll need to know for sure whether it is a case of nerves or whether it is something more serious. There are other reasons why a dog refuses to eat, and this could be down to medical issues such as kidney failure, liver disease or even cancer.


Refusing to eat can be a sign that your dog is unwell, or that they are suffering from ill health. You can usually tell this if you notice other signs that they are not feeling their best.

These may include not drinking enough water, lethargy or vomiting and diarrhea. You may find that they seem to be in pain around the stomach, mouth or throat, which could also make eating too painful for them.

If you do have some concerns about your dog’s health, then it is vital that you take them to the veterinarian for treatment straight away as they can have tests and medication to help them.


Some dogs stop eating due to a change in their medication or after having vaccinations. If this has recently happened with your dog, then this could explain the sudden avoidance of food.

new dog not eating food

Personal Taste

Alternatively, you may have brought your new dog home and the food you are offering is not what they are used to and what they like. You may need to wean them off the old food first, or you may just have a picky eater on your hands.

If this is the case, you will need to contact the old owner, breeder or shelter where you had your dog, and ask them what food they were using for the dog. Then, you will be able to slowly transition them onto the new food and diet that you are offering them safely and responsibly.

In addition, make sure that your dog is not experiencing any skin issues or reactions to the food as it could just be that they are allergic or intolerant to the food that you are giving them, and this is why they are avoiding it.

If you think that it is the food that is the problem, and not just the stress of going to a new home, then this is easily rectified. Most dogs will not be able to resist canned, wet food, so you can try offering them this instead, and they’ll soon be eating again!

How To Get Your Dog To Eat

  • Find out why – The first step is to find out why they are not eating. Is it stress, medical issues or another factor coming into play? Most of the time a new dog just needs a little time to get used to the new environment, so all you need to do is fill the bowl, and leave it there for them to sniff, examine and they’ll eventually come back to it to eat. If you’re not sure why they’re not eating, then it’s a good idea to get them checked by a veterinarian, just to cover all of your bases.
  • Ask what their old eating habits are – Contact the rescue, breeder or previous owner of the dog, and find out what food they liked, what their appetite was like, and whether they are a picky eater. You can also try to replicate the feeding schedule, and buy the same food so your dog feels more at home.
  • Offer more exciting food – The easiest way to coax a dog into eating is to offer something irresistible. Try giving them canned, wet food, or try to make their dog food more appealing by pouring chicken or bone broth over their usual kibble. This can give it some extra flavor and entice them to eat. You can also try using ground beef, cooked liver, small chicken pieces, cooked eggs, rice, pasta, or sweet potatoes mixed into the food to make them want to eat it.
  • Set up a routine – As mentioned above, most dogs just need a little bit of structure and a routine, so set up a feeding schedule, and stick to it. Feed them the same time every day, and twice per day for most dogs, but puppies may need more feeding times.
  • Monitor them – Finally, monitor them, and if they do not eat for more than two days, then it is time to call the veterinarian in for help. Most dogs will not get to this stage, and will usually start to grow accustomed to the new home within a day or two, and with a little bribery and soft food, they should start eating in no time.
new dog eating food

Helpful Tips For Enticing A Dog To Eat

Keep in mind that some dogs just don’t like certain bowls, so your dog may have an aversion to the food bowl you are using. Try switching bowls if you think this is the case.

You should also know that younger puppies need to be fed little but very often, so if you have a puppy that is not eating then they are in danger of becoming dehydrated and malnourished much more quickly than other dogs, so you need to tell a veterinarian if your puppy is not eating for more than 1 day.

In addition, if your rescue dog is not eating after 1 day, then call the rescue or shelter, and see if you can replicate the feeding schedule and habits that they used to get them to eat.

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Eating?

Dogs can go about three or five days without eating any food, but this can be incredibly dangerous and life threatening for them.

If your dog has gone more than two days without food, then it is a good idea to call the veterinarian for help and treatment. It is also essential that your dog is drinking enough water, so keep an eye on them and ensure that they get their daily water intake too.

How To Transition A Dog Into A New Home

Dogs that have gone to a new home, or somewhere that they are unfamiliar with may feel a little uneasy, uncomfortable and even a little stressed. This is what results in them not eating or sleeping, so you need to make sure that they feel more comfortable as soon as possible.

If you are transitioning a new dog into your home, then it’s a good idea to introduce them to the house, and let them explore. You can do this by showing them around, inside and outside, and letting them sniff around the place. Make sure you use a happy, positive voice, and offer them treats and affection to create a positive and calming environment for them.

You can also try playing with them, and show them lots of toys for them to play with, along with the bed, crate or blankets that they’re going to sleep on!

How Long Does It Take For A Puppy To Adjust To A New Home?

For most dogs, it will take about three weeks for a dog or puppy to start feeling truly at home, and they should come out of their shell by this time!

How Long Does It Take To Wean A Puppy Onto A Different Food?

If you’re bringing a puppy home and you need to wean them onto different food, it can take around a few days to two weeks until they get used to it. If your dog or puppy has a sensitive stomach, then this process can take up to five or six weeks.

Final Thoughts

When a dog or puppy goes to a new home, the whole process can be a little stressful for them, and you may find that they choose not to eat.

While this can be alarming for you, most of the time, they just need a little time and space to adjust to their new home. However, if your dog is displaying other signs of stress and ill health such as vomiting, diarrhea or lethargy, then it is time to call a veterinarian for help and treatment.

Superb Dog Editor

Superb Dog Editor