Why Do Dogs Love Human Food? (Trainer Explains)

Why Do Dogs Love Human Food

If you’re a dog owner reading this article, chances are you’ve shared at least a snack or two with your beloved pup at some point. After all, when you’re enjoying a snack and your dog looks up at you with those sad, begging puppy dog eyes, it’s difficult not to share at least a bite or two with them! 

In fact, there have probably even been times when your dog has happily eaten a shared snack with you, but they may not be as eager to eat their own dog food. 

So, the question is – why do dogs love human food so much? 

Most dogs love most foods, including human food. Unlike kibble, human food can oftentimes smell more interesting, and it can also taste more interesting. Your dog might be following their strong sense of smell or their curiosity, and you or your food may pique their interest when you’re sitting at the table snacking.

In this article, we’ll discuss the many different reasons that cause the man’s best friend to love human food so much.

How It All Began

Even though our dogs live comfortable lives inside our homes where we give them delicious human food snacks, it’s important to understand some background on how dogs started eating with humans.

Research suggests that dogs became domesticated over 23,000 years ago. People and wolves were isolated in extremely harsh and cold climates, and wolves began approaching human camps for scraps of food to survive. Humans would toss away food scraps, and in return, the wolves lingered around, almost acting as watchdogs.

As time went on, this relationship between wolves and people and the exchange of food for protection continued. Dogs became the first domesticated species to enter a relationship with people.

While many many years have passed and our dogs no longer have to beg for food since most dog owners strive to feed their dogs the best food they can, it’s important to understand that this is how the relationship between people and dogs began.

Reasons Dogs Love Human Food

Most dogs love food, especially human food. While some dogs may be picky with their own kibble, these same dogs will often beg for various human food and then quickly gobble it up. Just like in humans, some dogs are a bit more picky about what they eat, but for the most part, it’s safe to say that most dogs love most foods.

Reason 1: Genetically Hard-Wired To Love Food

Of course, since all dogs are individuals, there will always be some dogs that love food more than others. In fact, did you know that one breed of dog is genetically predisposed to love food more than other breeds?

After noticing that Labrador Retrievers are more likely to be obese than other dog breeds, some scientists set out to try to understand why. The study they conducted shows that Labrador Retrievers and Flat-Coated Retrievers have a gene alteration that makes them genetically predisposed to love food!

This study shows that their POMC gene is altered. This POMC gene is involved in the process of switching hunger cues off, so having an altered gene can affect this negatively. It’s believed that this is what causes Labradors to be more food obsessed than other breeds.

Reason 2: Dog Food Can Get Boring

The dog food industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. In fact, North America is projected to hit over $36 billion dollars by 2026. This fact alone helps illustrate just how extensive the dog food industry is.

While there are small mom-and-pop, locally-owned stores in many areas that are dedicated to providing various food options, even your local big box stores and grocery stores will sell multiple options for dog food.

This means that, while it can be overwhelming and confusing trying to pick out good dog food, there are tons and tons of options to help you choose a food for your dog’s preferences, age, allergies, and more.

Even though there are so many options and many dog owners do switch up their dog’s food on a regular basis to keep things interesting, most dogs still eat the same thing over and over – whether it’s eating the same bag of kibble until it’s finished or rotating 2-3 protein sources within the same brand.

This would be equivalent to humans eating the same 7 breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There might be a little variety, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s still eating the same thing over and over.

So, simply put, human food is more interesting! Even if you’re buying your dog the best food that you can, one reason your dog is more likely to be interested in human food is that it’s new and interesting and not as boring as his dog food!

Reason 3: Human Food Tastes More Interesting

Similar to the reason above, human food smells and tastes much more interesting to dogs than their standard kibble. Did you know that dogs can taste their food? Dogs have fewer taste buds than us (about 1,700 compared to our 9,000), but dogs can still taste their food.

Since every dog is an individual, each dog will have their own taste preferences. This explains why some dogs will happily chow down on fruits and veggies, but other dogs will turn their nose up at carrots or green beans.

In general, since dogs evolved to eat meat, they do have a preference to prefer meat over other types of food, but many dogs still enjoy other foods like fruits, vegetables, cheese, and peanut butter.

Different taste buds in different locations on the tongue can respond to taste differently. Dogs even have taste buds at the back of their throat, which means that they are tasting the food that they gulp down without chewing!

Reason 4: Human Food Smells More Interesting

In addition to human food tasting more interesting to dogs versus their regular kibble, the smell of food plays an important part in enticing a dog, or any other animal, in eating. While dogs may have fewer taste buds than people, dogs win when it comes to their sense of smell. A dog’s sense of smell is 40 times greater than a human’s.

The sense of smell is a key driver when it comes to being enticed to eat. Smelling the food not only helps to locate it but it helps to entice an animal to eat. In fact, if you’ve ever had a dog turn his nose up at his food, chances are you’ve tried adding some type of topper (which probably smelled good) to entice him to eat his food. Just like with people, dogs are more likely to try to eat the food if it smells good.

In most cases, human food smells more interesting than dog food because we use a variety of spices and oils to cook with. While these may not be safe for your dog to eat, there’s no denying that it does make the food smell more interesting!

Reason 5: Dogs Eat To Survive

All species have to eat to survive. This is a hard-wired trait for survival. Even though most dogs are fed on a regular schedule, wolves in the wild often eat whenever they can because they don’t know when their next meal is coming. This is an evolutionary trait for survival that has been passed down for generations.

Reason 6: Dogs Like To Be Near You

While this is one of the more simple reasons that could explain why your dog loves human food so much, it’s important to note that dogs may love human food because they just love being near their humans! Dogs are inquisitive creatures that love being near their humans.

If you’ve ever tried to go into a different room in your home only for your dog to follow you around, then you know this from first-hand experience.

When dogs see you eating something that smells interesting, they become curious, too, and become interested in what you’re doing.

Why Do Dogs Always Want Human Food?

As you can see from all the reasons above, it’s no surprise that dogs seem to always want human food for several reasons! Eating is a basic instinct, and dogs naturally eat to survive. In addition to that, dogs particularly seem to want to eat human food because of its taste and smell.

Even if you feed your pup the best food on the market, dogs can sometimes get bored of eating the same kibble over and over. Human food is new, interesting, and exciting to them! Plus, because of the spices and aromatics that are created when cooking human food, it just smells so much more interesting to dogs than their standard kibble.

Even though your dog may always be interested in human food, you can rest assured that most dogs naturally regulate their food intake. When a dog feels full, he stops eating (well, aside from those Labrador Retrievers we mentioned above that have an alteration and difficulty with their hunger cues turning off).

Even though your dog may always beg and give you those sad puppy dog eyes indicating he wants a taste of your human food, it’s important to focus on feeding your dog a balanced diet at regular times so he becomes familiar with his daily routine and feeding schedule. If you want to share some human food with your pup as a special treat, just make sure it’s a small amount of food that is dog-safe.

Should I Feed My Dogs Human Food?

While the majority of your dog’s diet should come from his balanced dog food to ensure that he is getting all of his nutrients, it’s okay to give your dog a treat occasionally. In general, you’ll want to stick with small quantities to make sure that your dog doesn’t have any digestive upset.

In general, you’ll want to stick to single-ingredient foods with no salt or seasoning. There are many human foods that are toxic for dogs and can even be deadly, so be sure to check this list before giving your dog a taste of human food. Here are some foods that are safe to feed in small quantities:

  • Vegetables like cucumbers, carrots, green beans, broccoli
  • Fruits like apples (not the core), bananas, blueberries, and raspberries
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Eggs
  • Meat 

While we love giving our dogs a special exciting treat, the calories from treats shouldn’t exceed 10% of your dog’s total diet. If treats make up more than 10% of your dog’s total diet, this actually increases the risk of his diet becoming unbalanced and potentially causing other problems for your dog.

Final Thoughts

It’s now pretty evident why dogs love human food so much! Even though eating is a basic survival tactic, dogs are similar to us in that they love food because it tastes and smells good to them! Some dogs are also not that picky, and let’s not forget that some dogs will lick the lotion off your hands because it simply smells good.

That being said, giving your dog pet-safe human foods as a treat is fine, but be sure to stick to safe foods in small quantities.

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