Is your American Dirus dog a picky eater?

By Jennifer Stoeckl, MAT - Dire Wolf Project CEO, June 2, 2023

Over at the “DireWolf Dog Health” group on Facebook, a particular post has gone viral.

It appears LOTS of American Dirus dogs are picky eaters!

In today’s email, let’s talk about that trend in our breed, and what you can do to help your American Dirus dog have a healthy relationship with food.

World-renowned dog trainer instructor, Michael Ellis, famously said something to the effect of… “dogs that are not motivated by food make great pets.” His wily smile reveals his preference for a high-drive, working dog that is highly motivated to perform for external rewards.

Well, not being motivated by food is a very common trait in our low-drive giant companion dogs.

Indeed, our dogs are NOT bred for working traits, but instead have a companion dog personality.  

The American Dirus dog is a low drive pet or companion dog breed.

Michael Ellis is right.

Our calm, gentle giants fit into his accurate description.

Owner after owner reveal how difficult it is to get their American Dirus dog to eat on a regular basis.

No matter what foods they try, it just doesn’t seem to appeal.

Several owners have resorted to hand feeding their dog.

They shared their frustration that its the only way their dog will eat a full meal.

Sonja writes, “So once again Kya (Razar/Essex) has stopped eating her food. This is about the 3rd or 4th time that she has done this. I've been feeding her FreshPet and after many trial and error foods, THIS brand has been the longest duration of food eating that we've experienced. One day she was eating 3 times a day, then the next she was eating once and only half of that portion! Of course I panicked and took her to the vet. There were no issues after blood work and Xrays so the vet concluded that she was just a picky eater.  Soooo, I started adding shredded boiled chicken, celery, carrots, boiled eggs, even dog seasoning and she would eat "some" of it, but not all. Well, last week, in an effort to coax her to eat, I put a few pieces in my hand from her bowl...she ate them, then went to her bowl and finished the entire bowl of food.  Now, she eats ALL of her food, but the ONLY way she will eat it, is if I hand feed her a piece of it first.”

Adam agrees, “I sometimes spoon feed Dorian like she’s a toddler. Only way she’ll eat.”

43 posts later reveal quite the trend in picky eaters among our American Dirus dog community!

No doubt about it. The American Dirus dog breed is generally NOT highly motivated by food.


I have to tell you something important.

I have raised hundreds of DireWolf Dogs throughout the years.

Many into adulthood.

I fed most of them the same way.

Taste of the Wild High Prairie (no grain kibble)

added Nupro vitamin/mineral supplementation

added Tylee’s Freeze-Dried Mixers

If they are lucky…

I will also add a raw egg, cottage cheese, and/or shredded cheese.

That is super rare, though.

You all feed your dogs WAY better than I do.

I have twenty or so dogs to feed at a time.

You have one or two.

It’s understandable.

Now… here’s the rub.

I do not have picky eaters.

Puppies eat twice a day. Adults eat once a day.

EVERYONE eats every meal every day.

Now, how can that be?


Time for a reality check.

Owners worry about their dogs eating a certain amount at certain times every day.

I don’t worry at all.

Owners worry their dog is sick when it doesn’t eat for a day or two.

I don’t worry at all… unless there are other signs of sickness.

Dogs will not starve themselves.

I know you worry that your dog is the exception, but unless there is something wrong in health, this just doesn’t happen.

Here’s another truth bomb for you…

It’s OKAY for your dog to not eat for a few days.

Fasting is a natural occurrence in the wild.

So is gorging.

According to, wild wolves can eat 20 lbs of meat in one meal! agrees, “It has been estimated that wolves consume around 10 pounds of meat per day, on average. However, wolves don’t actually eat everyday. Instead, they live a feast or famine lifestyle; they may go several days without a meal and then gorge on over 20 pounds of meat when a kill is made.

American Dirus puppies may do just that. In fact, I have seen some HUGE bellies full of food!

Our dog breed is not dumb, though.

In fact, American Dirus dogs are highly intelligent.

With that intelligence comes an uncanny ability to get what they want.

Tired of this brand of dry kibble?

Just wait a few days and the human will replace it with something new.

Want some extra goodies instead of only dry?

Pick at the food eating only one or two kibbles and the human will add something tasty.

Love that yummy freeze-dried treat from this morning’s training session?

Don’t fill up on kibble at meal time to save room for more treats later.

But, my dogs don’t get a choice.

Sorry, Charlie.

I place the food down.

They eat it.

If they don’t, I pick it up after I make the rounds with the other dogs.

Then, I give them the same food the next day.

And guess what… adult dogs eat one meal a day around here.

That means, they have to wait until mealtime the next day to have a chance to eat again.

That doesn’t mean I don’t closely watch their eating habits.

Sometimes, I find that a certain dominant dog has “claimed” both bowls, even though they are not near one another. When this happens, the other dog is generally much more submissive in nature.

When I notice this happening… not naming names… *Stanley… I stand in the pen to cut the invisible cord that dog has attached to both food bowls. Then, both dogs feel more comfortable eating.

I have been known to stand there for thirty minutes while the more submissive dog eats a few kibbles, comes over to me for comfort, then eats a few more kibbles.

Again, if that dog doesn’t eat or chooses to walk away from the bowl, I pick up the bowl until the next mealtime.

Now, if a dog is sick, that’s a completely different story.

Some signs of sickness include:

  1. lethargy
  2. temperature above 102.5
  3. sad eyes, droopy features
  4. vomiting
  5. diarrhea
  6. unexplained behavioral changes/aggression
  7. constipation
  8. trouble walking or climbing stairs
  9. excessive thirst
  10. weight loss

But, if the dog simply isn't interested in eating, up comes the food until the next feeding time.

No fuss. No panic. Just acceptance.

Don’t get me wrong.

I am not invalidating any owner’s frustrating experience.

I understand the worry.

With this email, I just want to reassure you that most of the time, there is no need to worry.

PS: When the weather warms up, dogs tend to eat less. They will also lose a bit of weight, no longer needing the extra bulk to keep them warm.

PPS: Puppies eat much more than adults. Starting at about 9-10 months old, dogs will cut their food consumption in half or more. This is natural.

American Dirus Owners regularly commune together online in our Facebook groups.

If you want to join the DireWolf Dog Health group click the link below:

Remember: If you want to begin the journey toward American Dirus ownership, the first step is to complete the puppy adoption questionnaire so that we can get to know you better.

Click the link below for the application:

And if you have been approved, placed your deposit, and are ready for a puppy, let us know.

You have until June 6th to reply to this email to tell us you wish to go active for the most current Genius Litter.

Here is the link to the official Dire Wolf Project waiting list:

Jennifer Stoeckl is the co-founder of the Dire Wolf Project, founder of the DireWolf Guardians American Dirus Dog Training Program, and owner/operator of DireWolf Dogs of Vallecito. She lives in the beautiful inland northwest among the Ponderosa pine forests with her pack of American Dirus dogs.