One of the behaviors typical for dogs is they always seem to beg for food. We are sitting at the dinner table and here they come, all three of them. One sits quietly next to us, her eyes fixed on my plate, observing every move I make. The other one lays by our feet, sometimes putting her paw on my foot like she is saying “don’t forget about me”. The youngest dog is more daring and not so well-behaved yet, she is putting her front paws on my lap and trying to put her nose close to my plate. So, are they really that hungry?
Dogs are scavengers
Dogs don’t need to eat every day. Their ancestors were scavengers and picked up food wherever they could, getting scraps from humans as well. Once they get hold of food, they wolf it down out of fear that there might not be enough. They have a tendency to overeat because the next time they might not get enough food. Dogs are attracted by the smell of food and will accept every bite regardless if they are hungry or not.
Even if your dog just had a big meal, he might still hunt for food inside or outside the house. If you live in the country like I do, there are plenty of smelly and rotten-looking things that a dog will pick up and eat. Our dogs will walk around with their nose on the ground looking half-dead critters or chicken excrements and then will proceed to the barn where they eat horse manure like it was dessert.
How much food is enough
It is always recommended following the directions printed on the dog food you buy. Of course, if it is a puppy or a very young dog, it may eat several times a day. Adult dogs usually have one good meal a day. In my opinion, it also depends on how active your dog is. Younger dogs tend to be more playful and energetic and therefore have a bigger appetite. Dogs are related to wolves, and in the wild these animals may only eat 2 or 3 times a week. But when they finally hunt down their prey, they are able to gobble down several pounds of food since their stomachs are able to stretch considerably. So it s not uncommon for a dog to wolf down his food and feel the need to eat more if he is stimulated by the right smells, but at the same time he will be able to stay without food for a number of days if necessary.
Be careful what you feed your dog
We love our pooch and in the event we cannot resist those wet eyes begging for food when we sit at table, here is a selection of different types of human food your dog shouldn’t eat at all.
- Don’t give your dog chocolate, especially no dark chocolate which contains more caffeine.
- Limit food that contains a lot of salt, too much salt can lead to water deprivation.
- Don’t let your dog eat grapes and raisins, this can lead to kidney failure.
- Be careful with onions and garlic, even onion powder. Garlic and onions contain compounds that are toxic to dogs.
- Don’t give your dog avocados, they can be harmful.
- Be careful with caffeine, especially coffee, tea and soda. Caffeine is toxic to pets and large amounts can damage organs like liver, hart and kidneys. The ingestion of 9 mg/pound of caffeine can harm a small dog, so we are talking about several cups of coffee that a dog would have to consume to get seriously ill ( https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/caffeine-toxicity-in-pets). It is not unusual that your dog will take a few licks from your morning cup of coffee without you noticing, but that shouldn’t affect him much. Still, be careful, especially if there is a lot of sugar in your coffee.
- That brings me to the dangers of sugars as an ingredient in candy bars, other sweets and sodas. Too much sugar can seriously harm your dog and cause pancreatitis.
What if my dog is not eating
We know that dogs, under normal circumstances, are voracious eaters, and if you do notice an increase in appetite for no obvious reason there may be an underlying medical problem like diabetes. But the opposite can be true too, if a dog has no appetite he may be feeling ill. I know from my dogs’ eating behavior that if they are constipated they won’t eat. Another reason why dogs might not eat is their emotional state of mind. A dog might have anxiety because the owner is leaving the house or he might be grieving because his playmate died or a person close to him is not there anymore.
Dogs have taste buds and they get used to their specific food. When the owner for some reason or another changes the type of dog food, it can happen that the dog won’t eat it. Dogs can be really picky sometimes and a small change to their feeding routine can have a negative effect on their appetite. A dog can go without eating for one or two days but after that I would consult a veterinarian if he still does not eat.
Can I stop my dog from begging
I don’t think it is really possible to stop dogs from begging for human scraps, but there are certain ways to limit this behavior. First of all, make sure you give your dog the right amount of food to make sure he doesn’t go hungry all the time. You could supplement his food with some vegetables (meaning more fiber) to make your dog feel fuller.
It is also a good idea to split up feedings: Instead of giving him one big bowl of food, give him 2 smaller bowls throughout the day.
Some people train their dogs to sit several feet away from the dinner table, but I don’t think this method has ever worked in our house, especially not with a couple of dogs around.
Another suggestion is feeding your pets at the same time the owner sits down for dinner. Some dog trainers say since the pet owner should establish himself as the leader of the pack there should be a pecking order when it comes to who gets to eat first. Dogs should have to wait until their master is finished eating, and if there are several dogs in the house, the oldest dog eats first. All this makes sense, but if your dog is happier eating at the same time you do? Whatever works.
The gluttonous dog
I am wondering, are there dog breeds that have a bigger appetite than other dogs? Well, I started researching a little and it turns out that there really is a dog breed more gluttonous than any other breed, and that is the Labrador retriever. Labradors are obsessed with food and have a strong instinct for scavenging. And not only that, according to scientists they have a genetic disposition that is responsible for the Labrador’s big appetite. Researchers found a gene mutation in the Labrador’s brain (in the hypothalamus) that affects unconscious processes like the control of appetite. According to a survey of veterinarians, about 60% of all Labs are overweight.
And here are some funny facts, according to Vox.com the Labrador’s appetite has lead to some interesting and strange eating choices: a whole bar of soap, a plastic baby Jesus, lawnmower clippings.
We know as pet owners that giving out dog treats is like an act of love. It is so hard to resist that cute face with those begging eyes asking for a handout. But if we really love our dogs we need to stick to the recommended amount of food. Dog obesity (and cat obesity) has become a big problem among pets and this leads to other medical problems like diabetes. Rather, feed your pet less but more nutritious and quality-oriented food that leaves him satisfied instead of giving your dog or cat a large meal with no health benefits at all.