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Do Dogs Like Dog Food? Canine Taste Buds Explained

Written by: Chantelle Fowler

Last Updated on June 20, 2024 by Dogster Team

bulldog eating fresh food

Do Dogs Like Dog Food? Canine Taste Buds Explained

We all know how excited our dogs can get at food time. They hear their kibble bag rustling or the sound of a food can opening and come running from wherever they are in the home to eat their meal. But do they really like the taste of their dog food, or are they just eating it because that’s what we’re offering them? Dogs do like dog food, although some may have stronger preferences for certain flavors.

Keep reading to learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about your dog’s food preferences and how to tell if your pooch really likes the food you’re giving him.

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Dog Anatomy & Taste Buds

Before we can answer the big question in this article, we want to distinguish the clear differences between dog and human taste buds.

Humans have around 9,000 taste buds, while dogs only have 1,700. Like us, the taste buds throughout different parts of your dog’s tongue will respond differently to microscopic molecules. This means that your dog can identify the differences between food that’s sweet, sour, bitter, or salty.

Dogs haven’t developed the same highly-tuned salt-sensing receptors as humans, though. This may be because their ancestral diet was heavily focused on meat and was naturally high in salt, so your dog’s ancestors did not need to seek out extra sources of salt for a balanced diet.

Dogs seem to have taste receptors that are fine-tuned to fats and meats, which may be due to their ancestral diet being mostly meat products. Since they have fewer taste buds than humans, they may not be able to distinguish the difference between subtle flavors like types of meat (chicken versus beef) or berries (strawberries versus blackberries)

Unlike humans, dogs have special taste buds that are designed to taste only water. These taste buds react to water as they drink and will become more sensitive if your pup is thirsty or after he’s eaten, which will encourage him to drink more.

They also have taste buds located in the back of their throat that allow them to taste the food that they’re swallowing without chewing.

French bulldog eating from a bowl
Image By: Karsten Winegeart, Unsplash

Taste Buds vs Sense of Smell

We know that the taste of our food is directly linked to its scent. The smell of a particular dish can make it taste better. The same rule applies to dogs.

Dogs have a special scent organ located along their palate. This organ allows them to ‘taste’ their food by smelling it. When your pooch sniffs something, they’re capturing molecules that will dictate to them what that food will taste like. This allows your pooch to taste food without smelling it, but this skill isn’t as fine-tuned as it is in humans.

Because their sense of smell is more defined, dogs can intuitively interpret if a food is or isn’t safe for consumption.

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So, Do Dogs Like Dog Food?

Now that you know a bit about your dog’s taste buds, let’s delve a little deeper into this question.

Yes, dogs do like dog food. They tend to be much less picky than we can be as humans, due in part to their reduced number of taste buds.

Your pup might be less focused on the taste of their food than they are on the food’s texture and scent. Wet food, kibble, and even human food all smell great and have different textures, which will make them appealing to your dog.

If your dog is on the picky side, you might find they’re more apt to eat wet or human food simply because they have stronger scents than kibble.

dog eating dog food
Image by: Ayla Verschueren, Unsplash

How Can I Know What Tastes My Dog Prefers?

Since your pooch can’t tell you whether he likes kibble or wet food or Iams or Cesars better, you have to do a little trial and error to see what his taste buds prefer.

Try giving him a bowl with different food every day to see how much he eats. You can also try offering two bowls of separate food side-by-side to see which one he chooses. Make notes of what patterns you’re seeing as you run your taste test trials. Does he lick his bowl clean? Is he eating every last morsel of kibble?

You won’t want to do these taste test trials over a long period, however, as constantly switching out his food can cause gastrointestinal upset.

You can also try reading your dog’s body language to see if he’s giving you any clues as to his thoughts on his food. Is he running to his dish at mealtime and scarfing it down or is he taking a sniff of his food and walking away? If he eats his food quickly, the chances are he thinks his food is tasty. If he’s raising his head as he’s eating or leaving food in his bowl, he might not be so keen on the taste of the food.

Is My Dog Bored of His Food?

Most dogs like a little variety in their diet. If you’re feeding him the same type of food every day, they can grow bored and may turn their nose up at their bowls at mealtime.

Try giving them something new now and then to keep them interested. If you usually feed only kibble, try adding a meal topper to his next meal. If he’s mostly getting wet food, offer him kibble now and then.

Puzzle or interactive feeders can add an element of fun at mealtimes. These feeders are great for mental stimulation, and your pup will love receiving the praise you’ll give him once they’ve finished their puzzle.

Wet and dry pet food made of natural ingredients
Image by: Yuriy Golub, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Chances are if your dog is like most dogs out there, they like the taste of their food. Since they have fewer taste buds than we do, their tastes tend to be a lot less complicated than ours.

If you’ve found yourself with a picky pooch, you may need to do some taste trials to determine what their taste buds are most fond of. Try making the switch to wet food if this is the case for you as the strong scent of this type of food might be just what your dog needs to become interested in mealtime.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Kabo, Unsplash

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