The Secret to Handling a Hungry Dog

The Secret to Handling a Hungry Dog

The Secret to Handling a Hungry Dog

A dog that is always looking for food no matter what they have eaten can be tiring and cause worry. We will help you understand why your dog behaves this way and what your responsibility is as the owner.

Why it happens - ancestry

Ancestrally, a dog would need to eat quickly and move on. Do not expect your dog to take time over a meal, chewing and savoring each mouthful. Dogs are pack animals and if you don't eat quickly chances are you will miss out and not eat at all. (In a multi dog household this competition is still there - rarely will a dog be 'picky' if they think the food will be eaten by another member of the household.)

On top of this 'food security' is a modern concept to a dog. Ancestrally, food scarcity meant dogs evolved to be capable of eating large amounts of food in one sitting because they may not eat again for 2 or 3 days. Your dog can still do this.

The Secret

1) Check you are feeding enough. All foods have a daily recommended range,  double check you are feeding the right amount for your dog's age and size.  All foods are not the same. If you have switched foods, check the recommended amount of the new food because it will probably be different. The feeding amount is based on an average dog, if your dog is doing an hour walk daily, this is average. If you are running 8 miles 3 x per week with your dog, this is more than average and you will need to feed more to fuel this. Wolfworthy is mainly meat and therefore the correct amount from the guide should satisfy most dogs.

2) Know what your dog should weigh and look like. Purebred dogs and most hybrids will have a typical weight. Knowing this will help you. This can be found on-line, in forums or by speaking to your dog's breeder.

There will still be variations within breeds so it is important you look at your dog's body condition. You should be able to feel your dog's ribs and spine and their tummy should tuck upwards nicely when you look at them from the side. The waist should curve in and be visible from above. This body condition graphic will help if you are unsure.

If you establish your dog is underweight you can increase the food. Do so slowly by 10% and monitor their stools and weight. Stools should still be well formed, soft stools are an indication you have given too much food. Aim for gradual weight gain over weeks.

3) Rule out a medical condition. Some medical conditions can cause an increased appetite (Polyphagia). Check worming is up to date and if you are worried something isn't right speak to your vet. Diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, hyperthyroidism, reaction to medication, pregnancy can all cause an increase in appetite. Illness is unlikely but ruling it out it will make steps 4 to 10 easier to implement.

4) Keep feeding times the same. Your dog will be happier and will know when it is feeding time. If this time is erratic he will never know when his meal is coming and will be on high food alert. For a very 'beggy' dog consider stopping the use of any food outside mealtime. Dogs are expert manipulators, they will make you question yourself and make you wonder if you actually did forget to feed them today! Decide the time and stick to it. Remember, after feeding, the message needs to reach the dog's brain that it has eaten, don't be surprised if your dog still hunts around immediatly after dinner only to settledown shortly afterwards.

5) Use slow feeding techniques. Sometimes dogs beg or hunt for food because they are bored. Use kongs, puzzle toys, scatter feeding, snuffle mats or even slow feeding bowls. These techniques challenge your dog mentally and physically and are very satisfying for them. For a very keen dog a good chew on a kong that has been frozen with their meal inside will wear them out. Check our videos here to see how to do this well.

6) Add some veg to the meal. Vegetables like cooked carrot, squash, pumpkin, broccoli etc are low in calories and can be added to your dog's food without taking them over their daily calorie allocation. They can help make some dogs feel fuller.

7) STOP feeding scraps. If your dog is following you around the kitchen, even after his meal, the chances are you have reinforced this behavior. If you (or other family members) have fed scraps during food prep or left over meals your dog will remember this. Dogs don't understand when it is ok or when it isn't. You need to be consistent. All he knows is once he followed you or jumped up when you were eating and got a reward - why would he stop?

8) Feed your dog after you have fed yourself - this establishes your dominance. It may be easier to feed the dog first then have your own meal but the messaging here is wrong. Your dog is likely to eat his meal and want yours too.

9) Decide what you will treat for. It is hard to resist those big sad eyes. Unsurprisingly, owners will treat because of this. If your dog eats a treat and then another the obvious conclusion is he must be hungry. No, all you are doing is reinforcing the food seeking behaviour. Consider other ways to reward desirable behavior - praise, a toy, attention, even a walk. 

If you are training a puppy make sure you treat it for the right behavior. You will need to use food to get your dog to do the things you want but if your dog starts sitting right in front of you when you are watching a film do not treat him then. If you are trying to make dinner and he is tracking you around the kitchen, tell him 'bed' and treat him or praise him when he stays there. Mixed messages will encourage dominance begging.

10) Be unafraid to say no. Just because your dog wants more food doesn't mean he should get more. Your responsibility as the owner is to make sure your dog is a healthy weight and does not become overweight. Do not allow your dog's behavior to make you overfeed it. You should say no for the good of the dog - they don't understand but you do!

If you have just moved to Wolfworthy your dog may suddenly be much more interested in feeding time. Dogs who have had a lower meat diet, gone off raw or simply not been interested in their old food may suddenly act very excited at meal time. Do not confuse this with the idea you need to feed more because they are hungry. There is nothing wrong with your dog being ready for their next meal. In fact, this is what you want. 

Wolfworthy is mainly meat and therefore very satisfying.