On the first day we adopted our cocker spaniel, we dumped the portioned food into her bowl, and Lola gobbled it up in 20 seconds. “Poor thing,” I said. She must have been starved at the shelter. So I gave her more. And more. Until I realized that she wasn’t starving. She just loves to eat! Sound familiar? It’s so hard to resist those eyes that stare at you and seem to say, ‘I’m starving.’ And then you start thinking, well, she hasn’t eaten in 8 hours, maybe she is ravenous! But that’s exactly why us humans are partly to blame for our dogs’ hunger issues, according to Nancy Welborn, a veterinarian and assistant professor at Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She explains how to deal with those hungry puppy dog eyes:
Assess whether they’re eating the right amount
Your dog ate his allotted food, and then he looks up and stares at you, giving you a face that essentially translates to: “Are you kidding me?!” The first step is to figure out if you’re feeding them the right amount, which entails taking your pup’s daily calorie needs into account by assessing factors like their age and activity level. Want a short cut? Do a weight check: “If they’re the correct body weight, then they’re eating the right amount,” says Welborn. Worried he’s underweight? If you can visibly see your dog’s ribs, then he can use more food.
And whether it may be where they came from
Did you adopt or rescue your pup? Dogs who were strays and had to hunt for their meals tend to continue to try to overeat because “that’s nature taking over,” Welborn says. You may also notice that they hide any extra food or treats to ‘save it for later’. They’re still in survival mode! Once they realize that they’ll be getting meals on a regular basis, their eating habits tend to normalize. Giving a rescue pup like this food in a puzzle bowl can also help slow them down.
Then assess whether you may be giving them hunger pangs
Humans are often the reason why their pups seem so hungry! If you usually sneak your dog food whenever he gives you his “starving face,” then he will keep giving you that face. “Often, we humanize our pets: this is really good, let’s see if our dog likes this,” says Welborn. “Or I feel bad, I’m eating my sandwich in front of my dog—I should give him a little piece of the meat.” This habit can lead your pup to always ‘appear’ hungry—especially when there’s food around. Welborn suggests putting your dog into another room during human mealtimes to remove the temptation.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.