Why Do Dogs "Wolf" Their Food?

I mean, dogs have lived with humans for what, more than 20,000 years? Isn’t time they started learning table manners? When I offer my dog a nice piece of meat, does he chew it and savor the flavor? No-it just goes right down the hatch.
So, are dogs really wolves at heart?

Dogs are wolves who have been artificially selected for appearance, various useful skills, and intuitive abilities that allow them to get along in human society very well. But they are still wolves.

You probably could breed a dog for table manners, if you so chose and had a lot of time on your hands. It just hasn’t been a very high priority for breeders.

What’s funny is if you give that same dog a slice of white bread, he’ll spend ten minutes chewing it before swallowing.

Dogs and wolves are the same species so it makes sense for a dog to “wolf” their food. I know someone is going to chime in soon with a cite about how wolves are listed as a different subspecies under Canis lupus but that just goes to show how the concept of a species is not nearly as precise scientifically as clean distinctions make them out to be.

Not all dogs wolf their food either. I once knew a male standard poodle who was the most flamboyant and dainty little thing you ever did see despite weighing 60 pounds. He could sachet into a black-tie event and delicately pick up hors d’oeuvres from the waiter’s tray without disturbing a thing (foie gras pate’ on crackers was a favorite). He would also look you do in the eye and blink lovingly if you were a dashing fellow. I miss Maxwell Sebastian, God rest his soul. He could have started a finishing school for gay male dogs of means.

He’s eating it fast because he’s afraid you’re going to take it away from him and eat it yourself. That’s something that any dog or wolf low in the social hierarchy has to worry about.

My Dad’s female Siberian Husky will “savor” meat, jerky, and all manner of treats.
She will simply eat her dog food, without savoring it.

The male though had to be taught not to eat everything that was tossed his way, after eating a few walnuts the squirrels thew at him he did finally get the hint, but you still don’t want to throw a rock at him. He will catch it in mid-air and swallow it. He will do this with meat, treats, etc. as well.

It depends on competition, too.

My brothers’s dog used to be slow & fussy about eating: would smell it (from several directions), push it around in the bowl, take a few bites, wander away, come back for a few more bites, look at you: ‘this is the best you can feed me?’, and finally eat it all up.

Last fall, he got a second dog; an energetic puppy. Now his original dog wolfs everything down immediately. Ya never know when that tiny puppy might try to steal it away!

Why don’t people chew their food and then bring it back up and chew it again like cows? Because they don’t have to. Why don’t chickens chew their food?

Dogs don’t have the need to thoroughly masticate their food in order to digest it. Their jaws and teeth aren’t designed for it. Dogs use their front teeth to rend and their back teeth to break things, like cracking open bones.

We’re omnivores. We use our front teeth, for the most part, to cut and the back teeth to chew or grind.

Dogs wolf down their food for the same reason soldiers do : they don’t know when the next meal’s coming, and they don’t know how much time they’ve got to eat the food they’ve got before some bastard comes to take it from them.
On top of that, as **Captain Amazing **said, if your dog is well trained, then it will consider you the “alpha dog” of his pack. Meaning that, in his mind, you have the absolute social right to take his food whenever you damn well please, and he can’t fight back. That’s one big incentive to gorge himself when you’re looking at him eating.

Besides, having seen *what *dogs will eat, it’s probably a blessing for them they don’t take the time to taste it :wink:

While most food they do wolf down, some they don’t. Give a dog a nice juicy soup bone and he takes it and runs to a “safe place” where he licks it and chews it and tries to break out the marrow and savours it

Serious question: Why should he? What possible benefit would it be to him?

The main pint, that has been waltzed around but never stated, is that dogs may have lived with humans for 20, 00 years, but they have been fed like wolves until the past 50. In the past people who kept dogs invariably kept more than one, simply because that was needed to produce more dogs. Those same people didn’t build individual pens to feed those dogs in. They simply through food out for the dogs and literally let them fight over it. If a dog managed to get some of that food and didn’t wolf it down the other dogs would try to steal it.

As t-bonham notes, most people still basically feed their dogs this way. Very few people actually separate their dogs in different rooms at feeding time. They simply place the food into bowls and walk away, and unsurprisingly the dogs steal form one another.

So the reasons why wolves wolf their food down have been been just as true, probably more true, for dogs until very, very recently. Well, maybe a bear won;t come along and steal the kill, but competition form rival pack members was still a very serious problem. So dogs were still being heavily selected for individuals that wolfed their food.

They learn as puppies to compete for food with other members of the litter. Ideally each puppy should have its own bowl - several puppies feeding from the same bowl looks photogenic but the weak ones get pushed aside by the the strong ones and may fail to thrive. If you take them away from the litter too soon (as often happens) and keep them without contact with other dogs they may learn to be more fussy. But introduce another dog into the house and it will rediscover the virtues of bolting it down fast.

A tendency to try to wolf down large bones is probably not genetically advantageous.

And quite justified too. I used to grab food out of my dogs’ bowls and eat it all the time. :slight_smile:

What’s especially dopey is when you hand feed your dog something tasty that can’t be swallowed immediately (like a meaty bone), and they take it away under a table or something and growl at you if you approach too closely. For cripes’ sake, I gave you the freaking bone in the first place!

I had to stop giving the dogs meaty bones. It brought out too much of the latent wolf character.

We trained all three of our dogs to expect their food – particularly treats – to be taken away from them and given back. From when they were little I’d give them a large treat and let them chew for a while, take it away for 10 to 15 seconds and give it back. I didn’t want the dogs snapping at a child who might drop something and try to take it back from the dog. So that behavior can be modified – at least with smarter dogs like standard poodles which all three were.

You give them a bloody good clout if they do that. Guarding food is not to be tolerated.

First, don’t hit your dog. Second, do not allow your dog to growl at you, especially when protecting their food or toys.

My dog wolfs his treats and any people food we give him, but will very daintily nibble at his food, taking a few kibbles in his mouth and munching, then swallowing. He starts on one side of the bowl and works his way to the other side. And he doesn’t eat it all at once, he will eat a little, leave it, and go back later to eat a little more. He will not eat when I am not in the house. I feed him in the morning and he starts eating it around 6:00 p.m. (after we’re finished eating and he’s certain he’s not getting anything more from us).

Concurred. Our dog used to be extremely aggro over her food (and toys) and growled, even bit sometimes when she was still a pup and anyone tried to take them away, even if it was to play catch. My dad broke it out of her over time, as you say repeatedly giving her the food/toy, then taking it away a little bit later saying “Give !” and take it away, with a little thump on the nose if she did growl, a big one if she tried to bite. Whenever he took the food/toy away from her, she got a treat or a good rub.
Eventually he only had to say “Give !”, and she’d immediately drop the food/toy without growling.

She still did get that despaired “But…but come oooon ! Do I really have to ?” look in her eyes if the bone was really big, though :slight_smile:

My dogs eat from a single bowl and none of them wolf their food. In fact they take their own sweet time eating. I have seven Jack Russells and they have never competed for food from each other. I don’t know if its training or the breed.

Treat time is a little different in that they each take their chewies to a separate spot in the room. One of them likes to carry her treat around for hours sometimes before finally finishing it off.