So, Rover scarfs down food like he or she is a bottomless pit? And as soon as they are finished you realize they seem to still be looking for more to eat. Watching this may make you think of the old cliché that a dog will eat anything you put in front of them, you still may wonder and worry about your furry friend. You start asking yourself, is there something wrong? Also, is this normal? While this type of veracious eating is fairly common among canines, and the cause is speculative. One thing is for sure, it definitely makes you stop to think, why are dogs always hungry?
The Root of the Behavior
As is the case with many behaviors exhibited by our furry friends, the seemingly never-ending appetite is another mystery to most experts. Some have theories, but most say that they are not absolutely sure what causes such a strong desire to eat. One theory, however, is attributed to the biology of our domesticated canines. The closest wild relative to today's domesticated dogs is the grey wolf. Within the wolf psychology, there is a "feast-or-famine" mentality. This type of behavior stems from the wolves going possibly days without prey to feed upon. With food being so scarce at times, the wolf learned to hunt continuously while prey was available. A few experts believe that this instinct is still present in some of our household dogs.
In some cases, we humans are to blame for our dog's incessant eating habits. We are all guilty of falling victim to those big, puppy dog eyes. By giving extra treats, sneaking a few scraps, or sharing our food we are essentially letting our fur babies know that it is OK to eat all the time. For most, not giving in to that sweet or sad face is almost impossible. This can also lead to your dog feeling like they have to keep eating just in case you decide to stop feeding them at some point.
Not all voracious eaters display the continuous appetite from birth. You may notice a sudden change in the eating habits of your dog, causing them to gorge themselves. There is the idea that continued eating, food caching (bury bones, etc.), and scavenging (think of the kitchen trash) can also be related to a change in environment. Whether a new person or pet is added to the household or a household member leaves, this unexpected change could be the reasoning behind the change.
Some health issues can also contribute to a dog's tendency to eat or act hungry continuously. Veterinarians have stated that conditions such as diabetes, Cushing's disease, hyperthyroidism, and intestinal cancers are all concerns. Also, certain medications that are given to canines can have multiple side effects, that may include increased appetite. If the behavior is not typical of your dog and is suddenly onset, you should contact your vet immediately.
Encouraging the Behavior
While encouraging desired behavior or training with food is not necessarily a bad habit, it should be a controlled ritual. As the pack leader, you are in charge of creating the regulated feeding and training schedules. And be firm, stick to the schedules you set! One important point in this training is that you don't allow every member of the household to hand out scraps or treats randomly. These rewards should only be provided when your pup displays positive, submissive responses to your training or commands. Your sweet pooch may have a way of trying to manipulate you into giving in, but stay strong and stick to the rules that you create.
One method some experts encourage regarding feeding schedules is to leave your four-legged friend's food bowl down until they walk away. Once they do, remove the bowl, empty or not. This reinforces the scheduled eating times mentality. Keeping your set schedule will help your dog become comfortable with the fact that food may not always be present, but it is coming. It may take a little while for your pup to overcome their primal instinct and "get it while you can" mentality. Being patient is key to successfully training your dog in any aspect. They should be rewarded for doing well, but remember that rewards can be affection as well. Food should not always be your go to for praise.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Aside from the continued eating, if your pooch is eating too fast there are options to help with that as well. Special bowls are available, with pillars inside them, for your dog to eat around. A more budget-friendly option is to simply place a tennis ball in the food bowl, causing your baby to have to nose it around and work for their food. Training your canine companion is key to controlling any undesired eating habits that are not medically related. The more time and effort you spend in the beginning will benefit both you and your dog. You will not be worried whether or not they are eating enough and they will not be as worried about getting their next meal.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to make your sweet, lovable pup happy. Helping to keep them healthy is just as important. Just remember that the next time you see them trying to wolf down everything in sight, you can correct the behavior without harming them. One thing that is for sure, you can trust that a healthy, well-loved dog will be a happy dog.