Do Dogs Know When To Stop Eating? Eating Habits Explained! (2024)

An older Golden Retriever dog eating kibble out of a pink bowl.

One of the old clichés about dogs is that they are going to eat anything you put in front of them until they explode, whether they are hungry or not, but how true is this? 

Do dogs know when to stop eating? Most dogs seem to know when they are full and will stop eating when they reach that point. However, other dogs will overeat at every given opportunity. The reason for this behavior may be due to survival instincts, poor-quality diet, medical issues, stress, or behavior reinforcement by owners.

In the following, we’ll cover different eating habits among dogs and explore why certain dogs approach mealtime a little differently than other dogs. 

Eating Habits in Dogs

Each dog has his own quirks and will behave differently than other dogs, including how he acts when it comes to dinner.

Whether it’s a bad habit he’s developed or it’s simply just how he is, it pays for every dog owner to know their particular dog’s quirks when it comes to mealtime.

Most Dogs Will Stop Eating When Full

The majority, but not all, of dogs will only eat when they feel hungry and will stop eating once they have had enough.

Dogs with this eating habit are the ones you can free-feed since they most likely know when to stop eating. 

Some Dogs Will Overeat Routinely

Some dogs will approach mealtime like they are always starving or like they haven’t eaten for days.

If you free-feed a dog with this kind of eating habit, they are likely to overeat every time to the point of nausea.

Ultimately, this eating habit plus access to an unlimited amount of food will lead to obesity. 

For these kinds of dogs, it’s important to spread out their food throughout the day and use strict portion sizes every day.

It Really Depends on the Dog

You may be in a situation where one of your dogs is a voracious eater and will eat everything or anything in front of them, and another dog who is as fussy as one can be.

Every dog is different and will approach mealtime a little differently.

It will complicate things as you most likely will need to feed each dog in the way that they prefer, but as long as they are healthy, it shouldn’t be a huge problem. 

What Makes a Dog Feel Full

A golden dog seated at a table with a full food bowl and gingham cloth.

Dogs will feel more satisfied after a meal if they are on a diet that contains a high amount of fiber.

Fiber isn’t digestible, which will allow a dog to feel fuller after eating without adding too many calories to their diet. 

Reasons Why Dogs Overeat

Dogs overeat for several reasons; sometimes it’s physical, and other times, it’s emotional.

Overeating in dogs can be dangerous, so it’s critical to find the source of the problem and take corrective measures. 

“Eat When You Can” Instinct

Before domestication, dogs had to feed themselves, and they quickly learned that the best strategy to survive is to eat whenever the situation presented itself because the next meal was not guaranteed.

Some of today’s dogs still retain this survival instinct and will eat at every opportunity like there is no tomorrow.

Poor-Quality Diet

A low-calorie and unbalanced diet is another cause of overeating in dogs.

If your pup is not getting enough calories from his diet, it might cause him to eat more than the reasonable amount of food in an attempt to get the energy or nutrition he needs. 

Check the food’s ingredient list, and only feed a high-quality kibble (or a homemade diet).

Medical Issues

Some dogs develop an overstimulated appetite because of imbalances in their hormone levels.

Common medical issues that cause hormonal imbalance that may increase the feeling of hunger in dogs include diabetes and hypothyroidism. 

Damages to a dog’s nervous system, whether due to trauma, parasites, or other health condition, can also short circuit their ability to know when they’re full, causing overeating.


Stress eating is as common in dogs as it is in humans. It could be physical stress or emotional stress that could be encouraging your dog to overeat. 

Owners Reinforce the Behavior

In some cases, overeating can be a reinforced behavior by the owner. If you constantly feed your dog more than what they need, they may start to see it as the new normal.

Before long, they will be unsatisfied when given reasonable amounts of food. 

Has Experienced Starvation in the Past

Dogs who were once homeless or neglected are often all too familiar with hunger pangs.

Situations like this tend to not be easily forgotten, and these poor dogs may continue to gorge themselves whenever possible out of habit. 

Signs You Are Underfeeding Your Dog

Underfed dogs will show signs like:

  • Lethargy.
  • Voracious appetites.
  • Appear skinnier than average.
  • Ribs, spine, and hip bones will be clearly visible.

How To Enforce Healthy Eating Habits With Your Dog

Improve your dog’s eating habits with these tips:

  • Start by giving your dog a nutritious, balanced diet.
  • Develop a feeding routine.
  • Use a measured portion each day to avoid overeating.
  • Use a slow-feeding bowl to allow time for your dog’s stomach to realize it is full.

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Related Questions:

How Much Water Should a Dog Drink a Day?

In general, a dog should drink around one ounce of water per pound of their body weight each day. So, if you have a 10-pound dog, you should give him around 10 ounces of water daily.

However, really active dogs and dogs who are either pregnant or have recently given birth will need more water per pound of weight. 

Do Dogs Get Bored of the Same Food?

Because dogs only have around 1,700 taste receptors (compared to humans, who have 9,000 taste buds), they are not likely to get bored eating the same food.

While the majority of dogs won’t get bored of the same food every day, there are some who have a more finicky eating habit.   


Overeating in dogs can be due to different factors or physical or emotional issues.

Whatever the cause, it’s important to enforce a healthier eating habit to avoid even more health problems, like obesity, due to overeating. 

Last update on 2024-04-17 at 17:46 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API