Why Does My Dog Only Eat At Night?

why does my dog only eat at night

Dogs can be so weird.  Ask any dog owner and they can tell you about all of the funny little things their dog does! We can’t explain many of these funny habits.  But, there are some behaviors that have a good explanation. For example, your dog usually has good reasons for why they eat the way they do.  Is your dog a night eater? Do you find yourself wondering;

Why does my dog only eat at night?

There are reasons why your dog only eats at night.  Your dog might be a night eater purely out of habit!  Your dog might also have some issues with their food or their feeding schedule.  Finally, your dog eating at night could be a result of anxiety, preference, or low activity levels during the day.   

In this article, we will discuss why your dog might be eating at night and whether or not you should be worried.

How Often Should Dogs Eat?

Before we talk about why your dog is choosing to eat at night, let’s look a little closer at how much dogs should be eating in general!

An interesting perspective is to think about dogs and how they ate in the wild.  In the past, dogs would sometimes go 2-3 days between meals.  They wouldn’t usually get a completely nutritious meal every time either.  Although this was natural and normal for dogs in the past, it’s now recommended to feed your dog at least twice a day.  For people working from home, you can even feed your dog three meals each day.

Dogs should eat at least two meals per day.  This helps keep their energy levels up and keeps them feeling full and happy all day and night.  However, some dogs won’t eat at specific times of the day.  The most common phenomenon that dog owners notice is that their dogs will only eat at night.

So, why would a dog only eat at night?

6 Reasons Why Your Dog Only Eats At Night

Although it might seem a little strange to only eat at night, it’s a common behavior for many dogs!  Plenty of dog owners report that their furry friends only chow down at dinnertime, or even after everyone in the house has gone to bed.

Here are some reasons why your pup might be a night eater.

1. Your Dog Might Have Separation Anxiety

Anxiety is something that many pets deal with.  Separation anxiety is a special form of anxiety that occurs when a dog is separated from their owner.

Separation anxiety can be mild, moderate, or severe and displays in a wide variety of symptoms.  Mild anxiety can cause dogs to whine or bark when separated from their owners.  Severe separation anxiety can cause dogs to do extreme things like dig into floors and eat through drywall.   Separation anxiety can also cause anorexia and can cause your dog to stop eating.

If you leave for work in the morning and your dog is alone all day, it’s possible that they are feeling the effects of separation anxiety.  This could cause your dog to ignore their food throughout the day completely.  Once you are home and settled, and your dog starts to feel better, you might notice they eat right away!  If this is the case, your dog is probably just too worked up to eat when you aren’t home.  As soon as you get home at night, they’ll start to chow down.

2. It’s A Habit

If you have an older dog who only eats at night, it could just be due to habit!

For one reason or another, your dog learned to eat their dinner at night.  Over time, their body and mind adjusted to this schedule.  Now, they could just have a habit of being hungry and eating in the evenings.  For older dogs, this could be a hard habit to break, as it was probably formed over years and years of repetition.

Think about how strong your habits are.  You are probably in the habit of brushing your teeth before bed.  Could you do it a little earlier?  Sure!  But you associate tooth brushing with bedtime.  Your dog might have similar associations.  Some dogs will choose to sleep in their crates even when the door is open.  Not only is the crate a safe place for them but it’s also just something that they’re used to doing every day.

3. They’re More Active At Night

When is your dog most active?  If the answer is “at night,” this could be your explanation!

Some dogs eat whenever food is offered to them.  Other dogs will only eat when they’re actually hungry.  If your dog is sedentary and sleeping for most of your work day, they might not work up an appetite.  When you get home they probably get a walk or playtime, or they at least get super excited to see you!  When they start to move around more in the evening they naturally get hungry.

Think about your dog’s schedule, is it mostly focused on afternoon and evening activities?  If so, this could explain why your pup only gets hungry and starts to eat at night.

4. They Only Want To Eat When They’re Alone

If your dog eats late at night, when the house is quiet, they might just prefer to take their meals alone.

It’s interesting because this is actually the exact opposite of separation anxiety.  On one hand, we have dogs that won’t eat unless we’re in the room, on the other hand, we have dogs that won’t eat until we leave it.  Why is this?

Some dogs that have a past of food scarcity or spent some time in a shelter could have interesting habits around mealtime.  These dogs might not even feel “relaxed” enough to eat until everything is quiet.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but left unchecked it could turn into a bigger problem such as resource guarding!

5. They Don’t Like Their Food

Another reason your dog could be waiting so long to eat is that they just don’t like their food.

Have you ever considered that your dog has food preferences just like you do?  Different dogs definitely prefer different foods and treats.  There is no one size fits all solution for dog food.  If your dog doesn’t like thier food, they are only going to eat it when they are really hungry.  Usually, this won’t be first thing in the morning but later on, after they’ve had a full day.  Once they realize they won’t be getting any special food or treats, they will likely give up and eat their food.  This will start to form a pattern where they are only eating at night.

The easiest way to remedy this is to figure out what foods your dog likes, and offer that food to them whenever you’d like them to eat.

6. Their Feeding Schedule Is Encouraging It

The last reason your dog might be chowing down at night is that their feeding schedule is actually promoting it.

If you haven’t studied animal behavior, you might not realize how important meal time is!  For many pets, mealtime is something they look forwards to.  It’s also something you can use to build trust, love, and communication.  For dogs, there are usually two general methods used for feeding.  It’s no surprise that one of these methods might actually encourage your dog to binge eat.

Scheduled Feeds

Scheduled feeds are pretty much exactly what they sound like!  Scheduled feeding is a method where a dog is given a certain meal at a certain time every day  Usually, it’s best to feed dogs two meals each day, in the morning and in the evening.

The pros of scheduled feeds are that you can monitor how much your dog is eating and quickly be alerted of any changes in appetite.  Scheduled feeds also build up a little excitement for meal time, which might mean your dog is more likely to eat when they’re offered food.  The cons of scheduled feeds are that, if you are out later than expected, your dog will start to feel hungry when there is no food available to them.  With scheduled feeds, you also have to make the decision of how much food your dog eats.

Scheduled feeds will not usually cause a dog to eat at night.

Free Feeds

Free feeding is a method of feeding where a bowl full of food is left out a all times for a dog.

The pros of free feeding are that your dog can make the choice of when and how much they want to eat.  You won’t need to worry about them being hungry when there is a large bowl of food there!  Some dogs will graze on their bowl throughout the day and end up eating more often than they would from scheduled feeds.  The cons are that it can be difficult to tell when your dog has any changes in appetite.  Another con is that free feeding can sometimes lead to binge eating!

If your dog only eats at night, the cause could be free feeding.  Dogs with a regular schedule for meal times will tend to eat when food is offered to them.

Should You Worry?

So, you have a pet that only eats at night.  Is this something that you need to be concerned about?

If you think that your dog eats at night out of habit or preference, it’s not necessarily a cause for concern.  While it’s much healthier to eat a few small meals throughout the day, it’s possible for a dog to only have one meal each day and still be in good shape.

However, this isn’t true for all dogs!

Puppies and Small Breed Dogs

If your night eater is a puppy or a toy breed, you might start to worry.

Puppies need almost constant nutrition and can usually be offered up to four meals a day!  Remember puppies are growing and as often as they poop, they also need to eat!   Small or toy dog breeds also eat often because of their small sizes and high metabolisms.  One large meal each day just won’t be enough for a small dog or a puppy.

If you’re worried about your pup only eating at night, keep reading to learn what you can do about it.

What Can You Do About It?

Like many other things, eating habits can be taught to dogs.

While you shouldn’t necessarily worry if your dog chooses not to eat in the morning, it’s not a bad idea to try and encourage them to eat two healthy meals a day.  Luckily there are a few factors that you can control and regulate around your dog’s habits.

Here are a few tips to get your dog to eat in the morning and at night.

How To Encourage Your Dog To Eat In The Mornings

One of the best ways to help your dog eat in the mornings is to offer a calm and safe environment.  If your mornings are busy, fast, and stressful, it’s likely that your dog will feel that frantic energy!  Make sure that when feeding time comes, it’s at a time when there isn’t too much action in the house already.

Another good trick is to offer your dog food for 15 minutes, and then remove the bowl if they don’t want to eat.  This will help to teach them that their opportunity to eat is limited and that they need to eat while their bowl is on the ground.  At the same time, you can also choose to give them food that you know they love in the morning.  My dog for example loves peas.  Sometimes, I will sprinkle some canned peas on top of his kibble if I need him to eat at a certain time.

Another way to make your dog more excited about breakfast is to offer them their food in some sort of puzzle format.  This will keep them stimulated and interested in breakfast. If you haven’t seen a puzzle feeder before, here’s a video showing how they work!

If you want your dog to eat in the morning you really need to figure out why they are serial night eaters and change something about that routine.

Final Thoughts

There are so many different reasons that your dog might be eating at night.  I know that crunching sound can be irritating while you’re in bed, but it might not be a cause for concern.

If you do want to make sure your pup eats morning and night, just make their breakfast more appealing to them. and change their mealtime habits. But eating later at night is just one of the many sometimes confusing things that dogs do with their food.

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