Why Does My Dog Always Act So Hungry? Managing Food-Motivated Dogs

Do you feel like your dog is constantly hungry or do their ears prick up and their tails start to wag whenever there’s a chance of a treat or a meal in store? For many dog owners, it seems as though their canine companion is always ready to eat, no matter the time or place. In this guide, we’ll explore the reasons why your dog may be food-motivated.

1) It’s Natural That a Dog Acts Hungry

If you own a dog that is constantly sniffing around for treats or looking for food, you may be asking yourself, ‘Why is my dog so food motivated?’ There are many reasons but often, dogs are hungry and eager to eat as a result of their natural instincts. The cuddly, friendly, docile, playful pets we know and love evolved from wolves. These prodigious hunters didn’t always know where their next meal was coming from and this resulted in them gorging on food whenever it was available. 

2) You Altered or Changed Their Home Environment

A change of environment can affect behavior. 

  • If you have moved to a new house, your dog may feel stressed or anxious and this can impact appetite. You may find that your dog is eating more or less than usual. 
  • You may also notice a difference in your dog’s eating habits if their home environment has changed, for example, you have brought another pet into the house or you’ve welcomed a new baby. 
  • Dogs may also become more competitive if there are other dogs around causing them to eat more. 

3) You Accidentally Taught Them To Act Hungry

Many dog owners use treats as a motivation to learn tricks or adopt good behavior patterns. Edible treats can condition dogs to beg for food and they get used to receiving food when they are acting hungry.

It is possible for health issues to contribute to increased food motivation or changes in eating patterns or appetite. Examples of health issues include:

Hyperthyroidism can cause increased appetite

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is overactive. This is a rare condition in dogs and it may be linked to thyroid cancer or inappropriate treatment for hypothyroidism. As well as increased appetite, symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, increased drinking and frequent urination and weight loss. 

Diabetes and acting hungry

Diabetes is often associated with obesity in dogs. Losing weight can help to reverse symptoms but it is essential to manage diabetes carefully. Symptoms to look out for include increased appetite and drinking more than normal. 

Cushing’s disease increases stress and hunger

Cushing’s disease is caused by excess cortisol, the stress hormone. Symptoms include increased appetite and thirst, weight gain, hair loss, decreased energy levels and fat deposits on the neck and shoulders. 

A Few Disciplined Ways to Manage Your Food-Motivated Dog’s Behavior

If you have a food-motivated dog, here are some helpful tips to help you manage their behavior:

Consult and listen to your vet about food portions

Sometimes, we are guilty of overfeeding our pets and we cave into puppy dog eyes and offer too many treats. If you are worried about having a food-driven dog, consult your vet. Your vet will be able to recommend suitable portion sizes based on the breed and your dog’s activity levels, as well as healthy, nutritious food options. 

Diet and exercise are crucial

Dogs need exercise for optimum mental and physical health. Always ensure you make time to walk your dog and let them run around and burn energy. A healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise will help your dog to maintain good health and reduce the risk of common health problems, such as obesity and diabetes. If you have any questions about what to feed your dog or how much exercise they need, don’t hesitate to contact your vet. 

Snacking appropriately to reward a dog’s good behavior

Snacks and treats can be a useful tool for owners to promote and encourage good behavior but it’s important to moderate your dog’s intake of snacks and to choose healthy options. 

Learning to say ‘no’ to your dog is a requirement

We all know that it can be hard to say no to our best friends but it’s crucial to be aware of the benefits of a healthy diet and to try and discourage begging for food and continuous grazing and snacking. Sometimes, you have to be cruel to be kind. Your dog will soon forgive you if you say no to food outside of mealtimes. 

In Conclusion

Your dog’s hunger could be completely natural behavior. A lot of dogs can’t fight the instinct to consume food whenever it’s available because the ancient wolf inside them thinks they might starve.

If portion control and distributing treats to your dog appropriately don’t help, be sure to consult a veterinarian for a more serious health-related issue.

Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet’s veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.

Meet the Author: Josh Aldridge

Josh Aldridge is a journalist, photographer, and filmmaker whose work always seems to result in muddy boots and broken skin. Covering a wide range of outdoor activities, his images and writing alike depict the interplay between earth's wildest places and the people bold enough to venture out into them. He's only mildly house-broken, drive a Jeep, and spend every possible moment outside—climbing, surfing, scuba diving, and hiking. He lives in Northwest Arkansas with his wife—Natalie, and their two dogs—Hank and Indy.

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