If you're worried about losing a hand when you reach for Spot's food bowl, he might have a problem. Food obsession is a real thing in dogs, and it can drive you both a little crazy. It's not necessarily his fault that he loves chowing down so much, though.
The Nose Knows
Dogs experience the world around them primarily through smell and taste. It's why they love chew toys so much, and why they want to sniff every square inch of the yard before finally finding some grass good enough to pee on. Since smell is Spot's dominant sense, food is especially tantalizing for him, especially the moist, fragrant stuff. He's not picky, and in the wild, he would be forced to gorge himself alongside his pack at every opportunity. All in all, loving food is just in his nature.
Dogs are creatures of habit, and that habit can easily turn into obsession -- especially with age. Dogs are prone to developing obsessive-compulsions, like chewing on certain toys, sleeping in certain spots and stuffing their fat little faces at certain times. If your dog seems obsessed with eating, it could be because he is -- and it's not necessarily the only thing he's obsessed with. It's a weird little idiosyncrasy, sure, but it isn't harmful. The same goes for food guarding, another obsessive trait that can annoy humans without necessarily posing a real threat. If your dog is overly protective of his food, be it from you or other animals, it isn't a sign of abnormal aggression -- it's in his nature to protect his resources. Just let him eat in peace, and if need be, sequester him to another room or his crate during mealtime.
Some breeds are more prone to obsessing over their dinners than others. Big, powerful breeds, like pit bulls, are more likely to have difficulty with rules and limits. They are more likely to gorge themselves at the bowl and snip at any hands that dare to interrupt mealtime. You can curb this behavior by imposing stricter limits, like feeding him on a leash or raising his bowl to necessitate slower eating.
Your dog could obsess over food because his body isn't processing it properly. The leading medical culprit in the case of increased appetite is low thyroid levels, so if your little guy can't ever seem to get enough to eat, he may need a checkup. Getting your dog looked at by the vet can help you rule out any medical conditions that lead to food obsession, enabling you to focus on the behavioral causes.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.