How to Know If Your Dog Is Hungry

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on August 20, 2022
2 min read

It never fails.

You sit down to eat and suddenly your dog is by your side, begging for a bite of your meal. Their sad eyes and whimpers may be convincing, but how do you know if your dog is truly hungry or just trying to score a treat?

It may seem like your dog is hungry, but if they are getting regular meals, they likely aren’t starving. They just want to eat, much like humans eat when we’re not really hungry. But just because they want those table scraps doesn’t mean they should have them. That’s where portion control comes in.

Experts say to feed your dogs twice a day, about 8 to 12 hours apart. The amount of food they need depends on lots of things, including their:

  • Size
  • Age
  • Activity level
  • Breed
  • General health

Your vet can calculate the number of calories your dog needs each day. Then divide that in half, check the calories on your dog’s food, and measure out a proper portion for breakfast and dinner.

If you give treats, use the smallest pieces possible. Treats should make up less than 10% of your dog’s diet. Take note of the number of calories in their treats and subtract them from their daily total when serving their meals.

Overfeeding your dog can lead to obesity and other health issues. About half of all dogs are overweight or obese.

Dogs that carry a few extra pounds may get the same health problems as overweight people, like heart disease or diabetes. All that extra weight can strain your dog’s joints, too. That can cause pain and may lead to arthritis. All of the above may mean a shorter life for your dog.

If your dog begs for table scraps, here are a few things you can try to change the behavior:

Feed your dog before you feed yourself. That way you can be sure they are not hungry, and they’ll feel more satisfied as you dig into your meal.

Ignore it. Don’t give in when your dog begs. Ever. Make sure everyone who lives with the dog does the same. Don’t let guests give into begging, either.

Restrict access. You can keep your dog out of the kitchen or dining room while you’re cooking or eating. Try putting a baby gate in the doorway. If they're crate-trained, put them in their crate.

Use training commands. Tell your dog to lie down or go to bed if they beg at the table. This trains your dog to wait quietly nearby. Your friend gets to be around you, but they don't get to pester you.

Reward them for not begging. If they make it through your meal without pawing at you or your plate, give them a treat.

The key with any strategy is to be consistent. It may take time, but your pup will eventually stop begging when they understand it won’t get them what they want.