Dinner smells amazing. The roast chicken and potatoes are on the table, and the family is getting ready to eat. You turn your back for a split second to fetch the salad, and when you turn around again, you see Rover deviously eyeing out your meal – a little bit of drooling going on too.
If you’re dealing with a pup in training, he may have whipped the chicken off the table and made a beeline for the yard – scarfing down the delicious chicken as he crashes into furniture and doors in his effort to get away with his prize.
Anyone would think he had never had a meal in his life, yet he finished his food and seemed content moments before your dinner was served. What teased this sudden rabid hunger to the surface? You check his food bowl, and it’s cleared, and the serving he received is recommended for a dog of his size. You’ve also been providing him with several snacks over the course of the day.
As you clear up the mess, the thought goes through your mind, why are dogs always hungry? It’s a question that many people have asked over the years, and with theories on the subject littered across the internet, it can be challenging to pinpoint the exact reasons why. Just as you are unique, so is your loveable pup, and so the reasons for his behavior are bespoke to them. By identifying what triggers your dog’s consistent desire for food, you can limit this behavior and implement positive steps to retrain and regain control of the situation. By control, we mean you, the alpha pack leader reasserting your authority in the home (in a firm but kind way, of course).
6 Common Reasons Dog’s Unleash “Hungry” Behavior
While experts boggle over the exact reason why dogs are always hungry, they have come up with a few possible causes and triggers. Perhaps some of these scenarios apply to your life.
- Your Providing Excessive Treats
One would think that limiting a hungry dog’s daily treats is a bit harsh. After all, they’re hungry, right? However, using treats as a form of reward for good behavior, a job well done, or even ‘begging’ can teach dogs to expect food all the time. We teach our dogs certain behaviors with treats, but then we forget to reduce the treating frequency as they get older. We are all guilty of struggling to say no to those puppy dog eyes!
- Past Food Deprivation
Food deprivation is often the cause when you adopt an older dog. Some rescue dogs have been through a tremendous amount of phycological stress and possibly also been deprived of food before they found a ‘forever home’ with you. This ‘gobble while it lasts’ attitude towards food is a survival tactic they had to learn. It takes patience and lots of love to un-learn this behavior and re-establish their trust in the ‘returning’ food bowl.
If your dog is infected with roundworms, he may experience a sudden change in appetite. When dogs get worms, it can affect their appetite in two ways. Some lose their appetite entirely, while other dogs become excessively hungry because the roundworms are working hard to steal the nutrients from their food.
- Over Feeding
All parents find it very satisfying to see their children eating happily, and it’s no different for the parents of loveable furkids. However, the danger of overfeeding your pet can result in a host of unwanted health conditions and hefty vet bills. Health issues can include: Liver disease, breathing difficulties, and a shortened life span, to mention a few. And, of course, a dog that’s used to eating all those extra calories can feel ravenously hungry when getting a little less than normal. It’s best to seek out a nutrient-dense, portion-controlled food that leaves your dog feeling fuller for longer without having to eat more (and more and more).
- Changes to Home Environment
Just as children can be affected by changes in the dynamics that make up our homes and families, so to can our faithful dogs. Anything that causes your dog anxiety, such as a new partner moving in, moving house, divorce, another pet or dog moving in, and even home renovations, can cause a difference in your dog’s behavior. You might find that your dog loses his appetite, or much the opposite, suddenly he feels like he has to protect his food source, so he gobbles up his dinner and asks for more at a rapid pace.
- Health Issues
While many dogs are motivated by the prospect of food, this is not always the case. A sudden increase in appetite can also signal that something is wrong health-wise, especially if that hunger is a continuous scavenger hunt for food resulting in eating excessive amounts of food regularly. Some health issues that can affect your dog’s appetite include:
- Tumors: A benign or malignant growth in the body
- Cushing’s disease: High levels of steroids in the body produced by the Adrenal glands
- Diabetes: A lack of insulin in the body
Consult your vet if you are concerned about any of these health issues affecting your dog, as you will need professional advice and assistance.
Some theorists suggest that this type of behavior is simply part of a dog’s DNA. Dogs are part of the wolf family, and it’s thought they were slowly domesticated over time. The pack would often go hungry due to prey’s scarcity, meaning they were always hunting for food. Perhaps this mentality is the genetic button that’s still activated in dogs today.
Tips to Curb Hungry Behavior
- Decrease the Treats
You’ve probably used treats for training your dog in the past, but you can actually start substituting those treats with playtime, affection, and cuddles. Dogs thrive on attention. However, if you still want to offer limited treats, ensure they are healthy and are low in calories.
- Portion Control
Have a chat with your vet about the correct portion of food your dog should be eating. This is calculated on your dog’s weight, age, and size. The nutritional information on the dog food bag should also give clear guidance on portion size. Choose a food source that is nutrient-dense so that every mouthful is packed with goodness.
- Slow Feeders
These are feeding bowls that come in all shapes and sizes and are specifically designed to slow the eating process down and reduce bloating. The bowls have vertical indentations, which separate the food into smaller segments meaning it takes longer to eat and your pooch can’t scoff the food all at once. The chances are that when your dog is putting more time and effort into eating, he will be fully engaged and less interested in scavenging for the next snack.
- Deworm Every Three Months
Most dogs need regular deworming (every three months). However, some dogs, depending on their environment and lifestyle, may require more regular deworming. If you are concerned or need advice, it is best to speak to your vet.
Keep in mind that patience and unconditional love go a long way to helping your dog form healthy eating habits. The perfect happy pup equation is limited treats, plus unconditional love and attention, minus overfeeding. Changes might not happen overnight, but if you’re consistent, positive change will start to filter into your dog’s life.