Similar to humans, dogs also develop bad eating habits. Although in most cases these habits are behavioral in nature, it pays to be safe as they can also be an indication of an underlying health condition.
When your pooch eats far less dog food than needed or ends up always wanting more, don’t disregard it. Below are unhealthy food habits you should watch out for every time your beloved pooch eats.
1. Showing signs of fear
Most dogs will be quite eager to dip their snouts into a big bowl of food. However, if your canine is cowering or showing any signs of fear during mealtime, it’s most likely that the food isn’t the problem. There are certain types of dog dishes that can make a dog feel nervous, and one of the biggest culprits are those made of metal.
Dog behaviorists suggest that common reasons why a canine may act afraid around metal dishes are due to:
- The metallic noise created by their tags or collar hitting the food dish while eating causes discomfort.
- The dog seeing his own reflection in a metallic bowl makes him feel frightened or uncomfortable.
- The metal dish or bowl is something new for the dog — making him feel wary around it.
To solve this problem, try to find alternative food bowls or dishes to use when feeding your pooch and see if that helps.
2. Eating too fast
If your dog seems to be inhaling food, this can be a sign of a medical problem. When you notice this symptom, the first thing to do is to let a veterinarian check your pet. If your vet says that there’s nothing wrong with your pooch, ask yourself whether your dog is competing for food.
If your pooch is not competing for food with anybody else, try feeding him several small meals each day instead of one large one.
Or you can also invest in a slow-feeding bowl that will naturally slow your pet’s intake of food.
3. Taking forever to eat
While there are dogs who eat too fast, there are also those who take longer to finish their meals. This may not be a bad thing and might be because your pup is perfectly comfortable with his environment. However, there’s also a chance that slow eating could be a sign of a hidden health problem.
If your pooch takes forever to eat, he may have a troublesome tooth or an upset stomach that makes eating quite difficult. Bring your dog to the vet to rule out this bad habit, especially if this is a new behavior.
4. Moving food to the floor
There are dogs who aren’t picky with what they eat but are more concerned about “how” they eat. It may be fascinating to watch your furry friend transfer his food from his bowl to the floor, but this can also leave stains on your freshly cleaned floors. This behavior is essential to watch out for if:
- Your dog isn’t a fan of the noise the bowl makes when he touches it.
- The bowl has an unpleasant smell such as soap.
- Your dog doesn’t like how the bowl moves when he eats.
Your pup may prefer eating on the floor more so that his food won’t go anywhere.
5. Overeating or consuming too much food
A dog that consumes too many calories in a short amount of time may experience digestive difficulties, increased weight, and depression. The most common reasons why a dog overeats consist of:
Boredom – When a dog is left alone for long periods of time without entertainment, he may choose to alleviate his boredom through treats and snacks.
Central Nervous System (CNS) Damage – A damage to CNS can limit a canine’s ability to recognize when he’s full so that he can stop eating. This damage can happen because of trauma like a severe blow to the head or due to lesions caused by parasites. Overeating caused by CNS damage may come with uncontrollable shaking, unusual movements, or seizures.
Hormonal Imbalance – Imbalance in a dog’s hormone levels can overstimulate appetite which leads to overeating.
Extended Hunger – A dog that went too long without eating may end up overeating to ease their hunger. Eating too much may lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and bloating.
Overfeeding – When you constantly feed your dog more, he’ll think that it’s the normal amount of food that he should consume.
If your pooch is overeating, the right way to deal with this problem will depend greatly on the underlying reason. If it’s because of boredom, try to provide entertainment through training sessions and chew toys. Utilizing bowls designed to prevent over-eating or hand feeding your dog may also help reduce your pet’s rate of consumption.
6. Being picky with food
Has your dog always been a picky eater? If he’s not, the first thing you should do is to let your vet examine your pet to ensure that there are no health problems. Mostly, picky eaters simply have a specific food preference.
The trick to dealing with a picky eater is through trial and error. As much as possible, try different high-quality dog foods until you find one that your pet loves.
7. Burying or storing food
This is actually a common behavior in canines and is an easy “bad eating” habit to break. You can start by taking away your pet’s food bowl or dish immediately after he finishes eating. Eventually, your pooch will begin to learn to eat his food within a specific time frame without storing it.
Hoarding is often not due to any health problem but rather a canine’s instinct to store food for later.
8. Not eating anything at all
A dog who’s not eating anything is most definitely a cause for worry. It’s most likely that your pooch is suffering from a serious health condition so make sure to bring him to the vet as soon as possible. Common health problems that can cause your dog to refuse food include:
- Worms or parasites
- Dental problems
- Gastrointestinal issues
If your vet says that your dog’s loss of appetite is due to a behavioral problem rather than the result of a health condition, there are things you can do to encourage your pooch to eat. These may include:
- Feeding on a regular schedule
- Cutting back on giving treats
- Making mealtimes fun
- Taking your pooch for a walk before mealtime
- Trying another kind of dog food
- Changing your pet’s feeding area or situation
9. Moving the food bowl or container
You set your dog’s food bowl in a designated area but by the time he finishes eating, it’s all the way to the other side of the room. This is a fun odd eating behavior to watch and unlike other habits, this isn’t a sign of a health problem. However, this may become quite frustrating on your part later on, especially if you can no longer locate the bowl during feeding time.
If you don’t want your dog’s food bowl to end up somewhere else, consider feeding him inside his crate. You can also opt for a food bowl that has a rubber at the bottom to prevent it from sliding to other places.
10. Playing with food
A dog that uses food as toys signifies, he’s bored. You can correct this bad habit by offering your pooch some fun toys to play with. If the bad behavior still continues, take the food away and give it to him later until he realizes that he shouldn’t play with his food.
11. Only eats when you’re around
If your dog can’t eat without you being present, the best solution is to feed him in an area where he can see you. For instance, if you’re watching television, move his food bowl near the living room. This bad habit may be due to the discomfort your dog feels with his environment or separation anxiety problems.
12. Begging for food
Dog begging can be best prevented when your dog is still a puppy. As early as possible, don’t offer food to your pooch every time you eat even if he shows you his cute, puppy eyes. Moreover, don’t give treats without reason unless your dog performed something that pleases you or did a trick.
Be firm in saying “no” every time your pet is begging. Take your food to a separate room when you eat so that your dog won’t see it and start begging.
13. Eating dirt
It’s not a surprise to find your dog chewing furniture or gnawing on a shoe. However, eating dirt isn’t a normal behavior. Other than the fact that it doesn’t taste good, this can be extremely dangerous if your pet consumes too much dirt.
The common reason why a dog eats dirt is to make up for the nutrients he lacks. There are certain kinds of soils which are rich in iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium – nutrients that a dog needs to stay healthy. If you notice your dog munching on dirt in your yard, this may be his body’s way of making up for lacking nutrients so make sure to consult your vet on how you can change or supplement your dog’s diet.
Just like you, your dog has his own preferences when eating. But, you should ascertain that his preferences are not developing into bad food habits to ensure that he eats the right amount of food.
Bear in mind that whenever you’re in doubt about your pet’s health condition, you should always seek a vet for advice.
About the Author
Farah Al-Khojai is the Managing Partner of Pet’s Delight. A passionate entrepreneur, Farah holds a Bsc in Government from the London School of Economics. She is always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow the pet and equestrian retail and wholesale market in the UAE and beyond, and is proud to be at the helm of the first and the largest pet care provider in the market representing world-class brands including Orijen, Applaws, Hunter, Savic, Flamingo, Ruffwear and Rogz.