Does Your Dog Get Hangry?


Editor’s note: Have you seen the Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our February-March issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

Do you have a real chowhound at home? Does it seem like your dog gets “hangry” (hungry + angry) just like some people do? You might think your dog never seems to be full, regardless of how much or how often you feed him. He might act out because he’s hungry, engaging in behaviors like whining, barking, pacing, or chewing out of frustration.

Ask yourself these questions when trying to determine why your dog acts so hangry:

Am I feeding enough?

This may seem like a no-brainer. You’re a responsible, loving pet parent — of course you feed your dog enough! But even the most well-meaning pet parents might accidentally skimp on food portions. If you have a highly active dog or a growing pup, you need to adjust their food so they’re getting enough calories in their system to compensate for calories they’re burning.

Could there be an underlying medical condition?

This question needs to go straight to your vet. If your dog has an unusually big appetite (especially if he has suddenly developed one), there is always a chance that a medical condition, like diabetes or Cushing’s Disease, is the culprit. While your pup might not be diagnosed with one of these diseases, it’s worth a trip to your vet to rule out any medical causes.

Dog at dinner table by Shutterstock.
Dog at dinner table by Shutterstock.

Am I rewarding my dog’s “hangry’ behavior?

We may not like to admit it, but most of us spoil our dogs in one way or another. When your dog begs for food or engages in “demand barking” to be fed, do you ignore the behavior, or do you give in and toss him a treat? If you do the the latter, it’s time to put the brakes on your bad behavior! Remember: Your dog will do what works to get him what he wants. If barking, whining, or other demand behaviors have the desired effect, he’ll continue to do them.

So from this moment forward, ignore those behaviors. Stick to a routine of feeding your dog his meals, and include treats in a couple of short training sessions throughout the day. You may see the “hangry” behaviors worsen at first, and that’s normal. This is called an “extinction burst.” Your dog will be confused as to why behavior that had worked so well before is no longer getting him extra cookies. But if you’re consistent and don’t give in, your dog will eventually learn that mealtime is when the food comes — not when he’s barking or whining.

Hangry hints

  • Use food wisely — Try feeding your dog three smaller meals a day — rather than two — to help him get less hangry throughout the day. Split his daily food allowance into thirds so he feels more satiated but still consumes the same amount of daily calories. Try adding some vegetables like beans or broccoli to his meals so he gets more nutritious bulk without adding weight.
  • Make feeding a fun activity — Hangry dogs tend to eat very quickly, so try feeding your dog from a slow-feeding bowl that will help him ingest the food more slowly. If your dog likes activity toys and puzzles, use them to feed some of his meals. Put food inside the toy or puzzle and let him work out how to remove it. This is not only a great problem-solving activity for your dog, but the energy it takes to extract the food from these toys will help tire him out. Feeding time has just become a more fun and satisfying activity.
  • Feed a nutritious diet — Dogs might become hangry because their food doesn’t provide the nutrition they need. Some dog foods use artificial ingredients and fillers to bulk the food out but have little nutritional value and cause the dog to feel hungry faster. Fortunately, the market is saturated with good wet and dry food brands that will provide most of your dog’s nutritional needs and keep him satisfied. We all know how being hangry feels, so don’t punish your dog for misbehaving because he’s hungry. Some food-obsessed breeds like Labradors and Beagles might suffer more than other breeds, but all dogs’ nutritional needs should be met to avoid preventable hangry-related behavior issues from occurring.

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