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You may be crafting a snack in the kitchen or sitting down to eat dinner when you notice a pair of eyes staring you down. Your pup is licking his lips in excitement—he’s practically tasting the food already! Of course, you give in because, well, who can resist?
At this point, you ask yourself, “Why is my dog so greedy for food?”
While not all dogs are greedy and constantly beg for food, many tend to exhibit this behavior for a few possible reasons. It is likely dogs still resemble their ancestors as opportunistic feeders, but they may also be greedy due to factors such as stress, competition, attention, hunger, or more serious medical issues.
Let’s dive deeper into each of these possibilities to figure out what makes these pups tick for food and then ways to curb the greed for good!
Reason 1: Ancestral Instincts
Our dogs are no doubt accustomed to an easy, domesticated way of life. We provide them with everything they need and then some, all because we love them as our own! However, these pampered pooches have plenty in common with their canine ancestors, displaying these primal behaviors every day.
Dogs were first domesticated about 15,000–20,000 years ago, according to new archaeological data, and the selection of hunting techniques has carried on since. This primal instinct may be a large reason for your dog’s intense emotions over the mere presence of food. Wild wolves never know when their next meal will come, and food can be scarce, so when presented with the opportunity to eat, they will do so rather than risk starvation.
Characteristic of opportunistic carnivores, dogs will go for the easiest prey (in our case, a food source) and take advantage of the available resources at their paws.
Dogs are also pack animals, and lucky for us, we are the pack leader in our pup’s eyes! This means that they look to us for the rules of the “pack” and how to behave.
If they see you eating or with food, they will assume that they’re next in line for a meal (whether they’ve just eaten or not). And if you have a tendency to give them scraps, this only confirms to them that they are going to get some of that yummy food next. Thus begins the endless cycle of begging from your dog, but we will explain its psychological importance in the next section.
Using wild wolf ancestors and their hunting behaviors as a reason for your dog’s insatiable appetite is one way to answer our question, but there is usually more than one answer that plays a role. It’s difficult to understand what goes on in our dog’s head, and we have to rely on expressed behaviors to determine a likely cause (emphasis on the word “likely”).
Reason 2: Stress Or Anxiety
If your dog seems extra greedy for the food in your hand, it may be time to view his behavior for any signs of stress or anxiety. If a dog is experiencing one (or both) of these emotions, then these feelings can manifest as an obsession over the resources he finds comfort in, oftentimes a favorite toy, food, or favorite blanket.
This will leave you with a seemingly greedy dog, as his coping skill is eating as much food as possible, just like mine is eating a whole pint of ice cream in one sitting!
Watch out for symptoms of stress and anxiety so you can help your pup by identifying triggers, and consider visiting a veterinarian to determine treatment plans to put him at ease.
Reason 3: Is There New Competition For Resources?
There is also a possibility that your dog is feeling threatened by his surroundings. If you just moved, adopted a new dog, brought home a baby, or introduced a significant other into the mix, then there is a chance your dog can react (and not always in the way we would like).
All of these factors can lead a dog to believe that food will become scarce as a result of the new competition. These other living things will eat all of their food and leave them hungry forever, of course! That’s what your dog might be thinking.
This food insecurity ultimately happens because of these new changes in your home, and your dog may be wondering where his new position in the family will be. You may notice them becoming more challenging or aggressive, or even submissive and withdrawn. Of course, the more dominant the dog, the more likely they are to risk peace to obtain the valuable resource. They want the food, so they will do what they can to make sure they get it!
This competition and insecurity may be the reason you see your dog begging more and being greedier than usual.
Reason 4: Did You Condition Your Dog?
This may sound like a weird question, but let’s take a quick look at Pavlov’s study on dogs. He realized that dogs can learn to perform a certain behavior, such as salivating, in response to a certain stimulus, such as a clicking metronome, before the food even appears. It became understood that a dog (and humans) will associate a specific action with a specific result if it is repeated consistently.
So, when your dog first came running over to you in the kitchen, all puppy dog eyes and tail wag, did you give in to the cuteness and give him some food?
All it really takes is one positive result (the dog receiving food) for your dog to think, “Hey, this worked. Let me try it again next time and see what happens!” Now, you have a dog conditioned to beg for food at your feet anytime you walk into the kitchen or sit down at the dinner table. He is convinced that he will get food again just by exhibiting this seemingly greedy behavior.
It is also important to remember that our dogs love us, hopefully, more than they love their food! With this said, dogs crave their pet parents’ attention, and when you mix this with receiving human food, it is basically a win-win situation for them.
Because you are not giving them a piece of your food angrily, dogs may perceive this as rewarded behavior. You are instead giving them a piece and petting them, maybe even using your gentle, loving “baby” voice. Your dog will keep coming back to receive both positive results, continuing this greedy habit that you can’t seem to escape from!
Looking into the psychological aspects of a dog’s behavior can help you better understand why your dog is so greedy, especially when it comes to food.
Reason 5: Nutritional Needs Aren’t Being Met
Let’s start with the ideal food to give your fur baby to ensure that nutrient imbalances aren’t a factor in his ultimate greed and desire for table scraps.
Like humans, dogs have specific nutritional requirements that must be met in order to maintain an ideal state of health. Dogs are also omnivores, allowing them to obtain the nutrients they need from both animal and plant sources. This gives us more options on what we can feed our pups, including dry food, wet food, and sometimes home-cooked food.
Commercial diets refer to dry and wet foods and are often the most popular choice in a household. The companies that produce these foods have veterinarians and nutrionists that perform extensive research to ensure that all daily nutritional requirements are met by feeding the food alone.
While not recommended, home-cooked food or deli meats may be given with proper supplements, but be aware that you still may run these risks: unbalanced nutrition, high calories causing weight gain, and a high salt content in the food that can be addictive. All of these factors can contribute to why your dog is so greedy for food; they want to consume a balanced diet and can’t help themselves!
Feeding your dog the proper diet is the best way to keep your pup happy and healthy and avoid any medical ailments from developing.
Reason 6: Your Dog Isn’t Being Fed Enough Food
There is still a risk that the dog may not get everything it needs to be sustained if we don’t provide them with the correct amount of food per day. This can lead your dog to beg for food and have you asking yourself, “What is going on?” Is he hungry or just being greedy?
This is more likely in the cases of puppies and large-breed dogs, though it can happen to anyone. Puppies must be fed a puppy-specific diet more frequently throughout the day as they are growing and developing. Large breeds require more food as they are more active and use up more energy than a smaller breed normally would. This scientific-based guide contains an easy-to-read table on average daily energy needs based on your dog’s type!
You should always make sure to feed your adult pup twice a day, 10 to 12 hours apart if possible. Always read the backside of the dog food for recommended serving sizes based on weight and/or age, as every brand differs a little bit in amount based on its nutritional analysis.
If you are worried about your dog’s weight and the serving sizes you offer, keep track of his weight often so you can note any significant losses or gains. A veterinarian will always help you with this too, and they can work to create a new feeding plan to get your pup back to his ideal weight!
Solving the problem of hunger for your dog should lessen or resolve the constant begging for food, if underfeeding is the problem.
Sometimes, your dog can be afflicted with an underlying health issue that is out of your control.
Reason 7: Underlying Medical Issues
Sickness can happen to any living being in this world, so it is imperative to monitor your dog for any signs of discomfort stemming from a medical ailment. If the health issue is affecting your dog’s digestive system, then it could be a reason for your dog acting so greedy when it comes to being around food.
Certain medical afflictions often cause your dog’s digestive system to be unable to absorb nutrients from the food or digest it properly, leaving your dog unsatisfied and feeling hungry even after a meal. The following are a few diseases to be aware of and understand so that you can get your dog the help he requires if it ever occurs.
- Cushing’s Disease
- Internal parasites
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
You want to catch medical diseases as quickly as possible, so don’t be afraid to reach out to your veterinarian to determine if there is any underlying cause for your dog’s voracious appetite.
Though it is not ideal, it is better for your pup to be greedy for food and nudging you for snacks (while remaining healthy) than to go hungry due to nutrient imbalances or diseases.
What If My Dog Just Acts Like He Can’t Get Enough Food?
If you’ve read each of the psychological reasons and nothing is applicable to your dog, then the problem may be coming from the dog’s body itself.
Asking yourself if your pup is hungry is a valid question, and it is important to figure out the difference between being greedy and just being genuinely hungry, as underlying medical problems can become dangerous for your pup’s well-being.
How Can I Stop My Dog From Being So Greedy?
Have you gotten to the point where you feel guilty about not giving your dog table scraps or snacks from the kitchen? Almost like you have no other choice, but you want to stop this madness?
One way to start is by establishing a schedule for your pup’s feeding times. Free-feeding will only make your dog think he can get food whenever he pleases throughout the day, including from your plate! Having a set time for both morning and night will keep your pup in check and remind him that he gets only two meals per day and nothing extra.
With this said, do not give snacks between meals. Extra bits of food here and there outside of meal time will reinforce the idea in your pup’s mind that he can beg for attention in the kitchen and get a reward out of it!
Speaking of rewards, dog treats are a great substitute for human food when used properly. To ease your dog away from his greedy tendencies, offer treats only after training or exercise. This can help him associate treats with more productive behaviors rather than staring you down with his irresistible face and expecting compensation. But remember, treats should only make up 10% of the daily caloric intake for your dog’s diet, so adjust your daily feeding accordingly.
You can also offer scented dog chews or digestible bones to your dog as a replacement for snacks. This will allow your fur baby the opportunity to transfer his excitement to the toy instead of to whatever you’re cooking up in the kitchen. They also last longer than the treats themselves, so it is likely he will be distracted for a decent amount of time!
Though it will be difficult, ignoring your dog while he is begging is a good way for your pup to take the hint and give up. He will realize that once he isn’t getting any attention from you, he likely won’t get some table scraps either. This will take more than a few days, so just stay persistent and remind yourself of how you want your dog to behave.
It can get frustrating when your dog gets so greedy for food and you don’t know what to do except give in and share your dinner. Dogs have an interesting psychological background, and its complexity can make it more difficult for us to really piece together what they are thinking when they stare at you, practically tasting your food already.
As long as there are no medical concerns regarding your dog, this greedy behavior should not be of serious concern. It is something, however, that you can take advantage of and teach your dog something new!
While it may take some time for an adult dog stuck in his ways to rid himself of his greed for food, the results will be well worth it if you persist!