Why might your new dog refuse to eat when they come home?

Why might your new dog refuse to eat when they come home?

Food & Nutrition

Getting a new dog or puppy represents a huge commitment on the part of their future owners, and there is a lot to think about and plan for before you even get as far as bringing your new dog home. In many ways, buying or adopting an adult dog and settling them in is easier than it is for a new puppy, as the adult dog will generally be used to domestic life already, may well be trained, and will tend to be somewhat easier to manage.

That said, there are many ways in which it is easier for a young puppy to adjust to a new living situation than it is for an adult dog, as pups have a smaller frame of reference and adapt much faster to a change to the status quo, even a large one.

This means that settling in a new adult dog can be a challenge, as they will likely find the change to a new home and family quite daunting, and take a while to adjust to things.

Even if you do plenty of research on helping your new dog to feel comfortable and spend lots of time with them so that they begin to get used to you before you first bring them home, you might well face a few challenges as your new dog settles in and gets used to the changes that life with you brings.

Many adult dogs will find the upheaval of this change quite daunting, and this can make them appear to be shyer, quieter, or more speculative about things than they will be when they have bonded with you and settled in properly.

Perhaps one of the most common challenges that you may face when you first bring a new dog home is a reluctance or refusal to eat – which is quite unusual behaviour for healthy dogs, who are usually very food-oriented.

If your new dog is refusing to eat after their first day with you, they probably just need a little more time to settle in, but it is a good idea to try to work out why they might be refusing to eat, as there may be something that you can do to encourage them. Read on to learn more about the most common reasons why your new dog might refuse to eat during their first few days with you.

Change of diet

When you first buy or adopt a new dog or puppy of any age, you should avoid making immediate changes to their normal diet. Find out what they eat at the moment and continue to feed them this when they first get home; if you want to change your dog’s diet, do it gradually over the course of a couple of weeks to avoid stomach upsets or food avoidance.

If your dog won’t eat what you offer them, it may be because they’re only used to eating one thing and don’t like or aren’t sure about what you are offering them. This is particularly likely to be the case if the food you are feeding them is a different type to what they are used to, such as if you change them over from wet food to dry food and they haven’t been fed this before.

Change of routine

Dogs thrive on having a set routine and being able to know what to expect at different times of the day, and never is this more important than when it comes to food. If your dog is used to eating set portions at set times and you try to feed them outside of this routine (particularly earlier) most dogs will eat anyway; but if your dog is already facing a change of living situation and owner and all of the upheaval that this entails, they may not understand why they are being fed at a different time.

Again, try to find out when the dog is used to eating and follow their old routine as much as possible at first, making any changes gradually to reduce their impact on your dog.

Where and how you feed your dog

If your dog doesn’t like where they are fed or even the bowls they are eating from, they may not eat at all. Try to ensure that you feed your new dog somewhere peaceful and quiet and away from other dogs and people, where they can relax and eat in peace without having to worry about being disturbed or having to defend their meal.

Feeding training and commands

Whilst most dogs will eat anything they find unless they’re told not to (and sometimes, even if they are), some dogs that are intelligent and that have had higher-level training might be so impeccably well behaved around food that they will await a training command to eat, even if food is right in front of them.

This is fairly unusual and will tend to be something that you will find out about or be told about by the dog’s prior owner, but it is worth checking just in case if your new dog is very smart or very highly trained.

Loss of appetite due to mood

Your new dog might appear to be happy and fine, but even if they are settling in quickly, it will take them a while to get really comfortable with their new life. Anything that causes even low-level anxiety or stress can put your dog off their food, and this is the most likely reason for a dog to refuse to eat when you first get them.

This will generally resolve itself within just a day or so, as your dog begins to settle in and feel safe.

Health problems

Finally, you would be pretty unlucky to adopt or buya dog that is unwell or sick with something and not know about it, but if none of the above reasons explain why your new dog won’t eat and they’ve not eaten for more than a day or two, it is worth considering the possibility that there might be something wrong.

Ask your vet to give your new dog a full check-up and examination to ensure that they are in good health, and that there is not something wrong that is discouraging or preventing your dog from eating.



Pets for studWanted pets

Accessories & services


Knowledge hub


Support & safety portal
Pets for saleAll Pets for sale