You’ve probably experienced it many times before—you are preparing a meal for yourself right after your dog has finished eating his own.
Suddenly, you hear footsteps behind you getting closer.
Yeah… it’s your dog sitting there with his adorable puppy eyes begging you for a little scrap of food like he’s never eaten before in his life.
Why is he so food-obsessed, you wonder?
Dogs are greedy for food because when they were living in the wild, food was scarce and tough to get. As a result, dogs developed an instinct to gorge on food whenever they see it, so they don’t risk staying hungry. Those food-obsessive instincts remain in dogs to this day.
But could it be possible that you just didn’t feed him enough? How do even you know the difference between hunger and food greediness?
Let’s answer those questions and give you tools to deal with your greedy dog right now.
This obsession with food is not a dog-only thing.
Have you ever found yourself gorging on too many chocolate cookies, unable to stop yourself? That results from the same food greediness that dogs have, just not to the same degree.
Usually, food greediness in animals is a result of evolution.
In ancient times, food was scarce. For all animals, not just dogs.
An animal that didn’t gorge on the food laying right in front of it, even if it wasn’t hungry, risked its life. It may not be able to find food for days or even weeks after and potentially die.
Evolution took care of that part by ingraining food greed in many species of animals that lived in food-scarce environments.
Today, food is nothing but scarce. At least in modern countries like the United States or Western Europe.
However, food became a common thing only in the last century. So, in evolutionary terms, not nearly enough time has passed yet for food greediness to disappear.
With dogs, though, food greediness is also a social thing.
Usually, when humans give food to dogs, it also comes with attention or praise. This is a double reinforcer for the dog, which makes him seek more food from humans.
Sometimes, by mistake, you can end up giving your dog a smaller portion than he needs. Do that consistently, and you get a food-obsessed dog, and for a good reason.
If you’re not already feeding your dog based on what is printed on the dog food bag, please start doing so.
Alternatively, if you’re not feeding your dog kibble, you may have to consult a dietitian for dogs. A dietitian for dogs should be able to figure out your dog’s energy needs and tell you approximately how much you should feed him.
That being said, all dogs are slightly different.
If you feed your dog the right amount per day, you can try increasing it slightly to see how it affects his food greediness or hunger signs.
How do you know if you’re not feeding your dog enough after all?
Here are some signs to look out for:
While a slightly showing ribcage is fine, there could be a problem if it’s too well defined.
Try touching your dog’s ribcage. You should be able to feel the ribs quite easily. But, if you can feel the full definition of the rib, it’s a bad sign.
On the other hand, if you cannot feel the ribs, you may have overfed your dog.
Your dog is usually a potato cough, but today has decided to play around a lot?
The extra exercise your dog has had has increased his energy requirements for the day.
Try giving him a bit more food to compensate for the burned calories.
Most dogs are pretty excited about getting a meal, especially if it’s a food they like.
However, if your dog seems overly excited in a non-typical way, it may be a sign he’s super hungry.
Ensure you keep an eye on mealtimes and don’t miss a meal, especially if your dog is a puppy. Puppies are usually even hungrier than adult dogs because they are growing so rapidly.
Food greediness is not always a bad thing.
Yes, it can cause particular problems if you’re letting it go wild. Still, your dog’s food obsession is a highly effective tool you can leverage for training.
Without the food obsession, it would be much harder to train dogs. In fact, we may have actually selected and bred dogs specifically to be more food greedy for that very purpose.
Beagles, Bulldogs, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and English Mastiffs are just some dog breeds we may have bred to be more food motivated. If you have one of them, you can probably relate.
That being said, if you want to reduce that greed, you have a few options at your disposal:
Dogs thrive on routines. When it comes to food, try never to free-feed your dog.
Free-feeding may be convenient, but it has its disadvantages. Since you now know why your dog is greedy for food, you can probably see why free-feeding can lead to obesity (and its related diseases).
Instead, schedule the meals you’re giving your dog. Make sure the meals are always at the same time and are never missed.
Not only will scheduled meals help your dog have more predictable potty times, but they will also contribute to less food obsession.
When your dog knows when to expect food, he won’t be anxious about whether or not he’ll be fed.
Your dog should know that he’s getting food only during meals or training sessions.
Do not feed him anything else between meals, and especially not human food.
When your dog knows food will only be available at certain times, he’ll stop asking for so much in between meals.
Ignore the begging. Don’t cave to those adorable puppy eyes.
If you’re feeding the right amount, you shouldn’t feel bad about not giving your dog food scraps between meals.
Maybe you’re not giving your dog food yourself. But, if your dog can reach food items himself, he won’t need you to.
Not to mention that you don’t have control over what he eats. He can accidentally eat a forbidden food that could be life-threatening to him.
Ensure that anything edible is out of reach of your dog.
If you’re in the mood for some training, another thing you can do is teach your dog to go to his place and stay calm while you are eating or preparing food.
With enough practice (assuming you’re not feeding your dog scraps from the table), you can get your dog to love his place and stop begging you while you eat.
It can take some time and effort to get to this level, though. So be mentally prepared.
The most important thing by far is to be consistent.
Missing meals, giving your dog treats between meals, or letting him reach some food items himself should be rare occurrences. If you don’t stay consistent, your dog will quickly unlearn that food is eaten at mealtime and continue to beg you for food scraps.
You have to stick to the routine and rules. That’s the key to a well-behaved dog. Your dog will thank you for it.