We free feed our dog, but I noticed our dog has been eating at night lately. So I did some research on if this is normal.
The internet generally recommended that dogs should eat 2 times a day. And suggested that night feeding could contribute to weight gain. Our dog is pretty slim and active, and we don't intentionally feed him at night, so I wanted to look more into it more and understand why this is happening.
Why dog's eat at night
According to dog trainer Charles Nwan, your dog is eating at night for one of three reasons:
- You have allowed the behavior to persist for a long time
- Food is easily accessible to your dog and
- Because your dog has been doing it for some time, he or she has come to believe that this is the normal way of being and has formed a habit of it.
Is there a biological reason dogs eat at night?
This makes sense from a behavioral perspective, but after searching and searching, we were unable to find a biological reason why a dog would prefer to eat at night. My personal thoughts are that nighttime is when there are fewer stimulants to distract my dog (playtime, cars to watch outside), and it's after dinner (when they might get some scraps).
Is nighttime eating okay?
From a wellbeing point of view, there's nothing bad about your canine eats once each day at night time. There is, however, a risk of more weight gain according to this study by the NIH.
"There is scientific evidence to suggest it could possibly lead to unhealthy weight gain. Dogs that eat before bed will also have more energy to burn and will need night-time toilet trips, which can make their owner’s lives trickier." — Doggysaurus
We haven't run into any of these issues, so I don't think it's a problem in our case, but it could be more of a problem for smaller dogs.
Preventing nighttime eating
The reason our dog eats later in the day is because he's usually not immediately interested in the food. When we've added boiled chicken, turkey, or fish, he's eaten the majority of it right away. So our recommendation for fixing this behavior is to spice up the food!
One way to do this is with food toppers, and another way is to steam the food with a bit of hot water and mix in fresh protein-packed ingredients like grilled chicken. This does take a bit of work, but your pup will be happy you did it!