October 11, 2016


By: Susan Jojola

At AFB, we’re passionate about helping our customers develop nutritionally sound foods that pets enjoy. We often work with pets to measure food-related behaviors—from number of visits to the bowl to how long it takes to finish food and how much was consumed—and we’re always looking for new ways to enhance our understanding of what pets like most.


Recently, we began expanding our dog behavioral research to include a new dimension of meal enjoyment that quantifies the amount of time a dog spends sniffing or chewing food compared to the amount of time the food is available. We use the term “Nose in BowlSM” (NIB) to describe this measurement, which can help discern a pet’s food preference even if overall consumption is the same.

We wanted to understand how this measurement could assist us in developing pet food palatants, as well as assist our pet food customers in choosing the best palatant for a given kibble. As AFB’s behavioral scientist, I collaborated with a biostatistician and the technical and care staff at our Palatability Assessment Resource Center (PARC) to find out.


Our research compared eight different dry dog foods. In a 20-day single-bowl trial with 18 mid-sized dogs ages 2 to 12, we offered the dogs each of the foods for a maximum of 20 minutes. During feedings, we recorded the time dogs spent sniffing or eating the food relative to time spent in other behaviors, such as resting or drinking.

Using these results, and a special ANOVA analysis designed to show differences, we were able to rank the eight foods in terms of food enjoyment, with Nose in BowlSM on one axis and percentage of meal consumed on the other. To provide richer information on dog enjoyment, we also tested three of the eight foods in a two-bowl paired preference trial, which showed a preference ranking very similar to the single-bowl trial. One food was the clear “winner.” When that food was available, dogs were most interested in eating, as indicated by their Nose in BowlSM behaviors and food consumption.


Nose in BowlSM offers valuable insights for dog food development in a competitive market. Measuring this behavioral dimension allows us to compare pet enjoyment across a range of pet food options, for example an existing pet food formulation, a potential reformulation with the same palatant, a reformulation with a new palatant, off-the-shelf competitive foods and more. Nose in BowlSM research insights offer the potential to choose pet food formulations and palatants that promote positive dog eating behaviors which is easily detected by pet parents, and supports continued purchase of the pleasing food.


At AFB, we’ll continue to expand our Nose in BowlSM research for dogs and begin to apply it in cats, where it also has shown promise. For more detailed information on our Nose in BowlSM research, including results of single-bowl and two-bowl paired-preference trials, see Nose In BowlSM – Taste Test Methodology in the Downloads area at afbinternational.com or email me at sjojola@afbinternational.com.

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