Is your dog constantly hungry and wanting to eat even if you fed him a few minutes ago? Does it feel like there is no way to stop him from begging for and stealing food?
In this article, you will learn about possible reasons why dogs have enormous appetites and how to stop your dog from constantly begging for food.
Is your dog sick or spoiled?
Before you attempt any behavior modification, you should confirm that your dog’s enormous appetite isn’t caused by a medical condition.
IMPORTANT: If your dog has developed an increased appetite very suddenly, a vet visit is a mandatory first thing to do.
Excessive eating and having an enormous appetite is known in medicine as “polyphagia.” This condition can be caused by numerous medical conditions such as worm infestations, diabetes mellitus, tumors, or infections.
Are you feeding your dog enough?
If your dog is not sick, she might also feel constant hunger because of…hunger. In such cases, the techniques mentioned below will not achieve the desired results. Some of them may even increase your dog’s unsatisfied energy requirements.
Check the feeding guidelines on your dog’s food package, assuming that he is on a commercial diet. You will learn how much your dog should eat per day depending on his weight. Make sure your dog receives the listed amount, taking into account that he may need more or less depending on his activity, age, health, and other conditions, or even depending on the weather.
A more accurate approach is to check your dog’s body condition. Try to feel your dog’s ribs by applying a light pressure on them with your fingers. If you can feel them without pressure, then your dog is likely too thin. You can learn more about the procedure here. Note: Ideal body composition may vary considerably between different dog breeds. If your dog breed’s standard appearance is to “see ribs,” then this should be taken into account.
You can also compare your dog’s weight with average numbers for the specific breed. See the list of average dog weights by breed here.
Remember that the fact that your dog is thin does not necessarily mean she is eating too little. Having an enormous appetite, especially combined with weight loss, can be caused by a medical issue as well.
And your dog still wants to be fed all the time?
By now you should have confirmed that your dog is healthy and receives enough food. But why does she still act like she is starving? Why does she beg for and steal food?
The short answer is that your dog likely has very few other things to do or that she is habituated to begging. The good news is that you can change this:
- Start feeding your dog meals on a schedule. Schedule meals either according to the clock or by your daily rhythm (at 9 am or when you leave home, for example). Two to three meals per day is completely satisfactory for dogs, and they shouldn’t feel hunger between them. In the wild, wolves often eat only once a day and sometimes not even every day. The trick is that your dog will learn to anticipate meals at the designated times. You can also use an automated dog feeder, which provides your dog’s food without your involvement, thereby removing the label “food source” from you.
- Never feed your dog “first thing.” That includes first thing in the morning, the first thing as you come home, and the first thing after your dog gets up from a mat. This will ensure that your dog won’t anticipate meals upon greeting you. Think of it: if the first thing your dog gets from you in the morning is food, he might even try to wake you earlier to get it. If, however, it is your habit to wake up, pet your dog, make breakfast for yourself, do some reading, and feed your dog only as you leave the house, he will achieve peace of mind, as in, “All’s cool; the food will come later.”
- Ignore the begging. It goes without saying that you should stop feeding treats and table scraps in between meals. If you give your dog food at random times, you can’t ask her not to want them. You should also learn not to complain about the behavior. Don’t shush or lecture your dog, and don’t yell at or drive her away. That does not change the fact that your dog craves food, but it does tell her that her actions achieve a response. She may decide that she just needs to be more insistent. It’s better act as if your dog is not there, and eventually, she will learn that begging is useless. In the meantime, remember to pet and praise your dog if she sleeps quietly near you. Your actions, though, must be consistent, as the dog is likely to relearn the old habit even after a single slip. It’s also important that all family members are onboard with you.
- Increase activity and reduce boredom. One of the most common reasons why dogs beg for food is that there isn’t anything more interesting to do. Many of us also tend to look inside a fridge when we are not certain about what to do next. Why? It’s not that we are hungry. It’s just what we do, what we have become accustomed to doing. You can find several ways to increase your dog’s activity here, but giving him at least one long walk a day and some time to play with you goes a long way.
- Try to implement some activity before meals. In nature, dogs do a lot of work for food. Wolves can track their prey for miles and then enjoy the feast after a long, tiring day. Let’s say that you walk the dog before meals. This agrees with the natural dog behavior—work first, food after. Your dog will learn that there is no shortcut. Food will come only after a walk.
- Involve your dog in obedience training. Basic obedience training is very helpful to stop the begging and most other behavior problems of dogs. Your dog will learn to listen to your commands, and even more importantly, you will learn to communicate efficiently with your dog. For that, of course, you will need to have some instructions from a professional dog trainer.
Regardless of whether your dog acts like he is hungry all the time or only at specific times, the most important things are to provide plenty of activity for your dog and ignore the bad behavior. Of course, this comes after you have checked that there is nothing medically wrong with your dog and have ensured that he receives enough food.