Why Does My Dog Only Eat At Night

Why Does My Dog Only Eat At Night?

Last Updated: August 20, 2023
correct answerThe Short Answer is:

There are two main reasons why your dog only eats at night: There is food to eat, and it is a habit. It is good news that there is no firm evidence to suggest that your dog is doing itself any long-term harm because of this strange habit.

In this article you will know the answer to the query “Why Does My Dog Only Eat At Night?“.

Do you dread waking up in the small hours of the morning to the sound of your dog eating? Have you yet again had to deal with some dog mess first thing in the morning? 

Why Does My Dog Only Eat At Night

In this post I explain how to handle the problems that arise from your dog eating at night.

Is it because dogs only eat at night that we should look at why they only eat at night?

Why does my dog only eat at night?

There are two main reasons why your dog only eats at night:

  1. There is food to eat
  2. it is habit

According to the forums this can affect both dogs that are being fed free and dogs that are on a scheduled feeding schedule.

What does it mean to be free-fed and scheduled-fed? 

When a dog has constant access to food day or night this is called free feeding. A bowl of food is always available to them. 

When a dog is scheduled to be fed at certain times (or times) throughout the day it is called scheduled feeding. 

Owners of the forums have noticed the same thing.

Their dogs eat the majority of their food at night and pick at it in the morning.

I will compare free feeding with scheduled feeding in a little more detail in the next section.

Free Feeding vs Scheduled Feeding

Free feeding refers to your dog having constant unrestricted access to food. 

In its purest form your dog decides how much food to eat by topping up his bowl constantly.

Free feeding pros

Simple and easy to use: It has the advantage of being particularly convenient for people who lead very busy lives or do not have a regular schedule – such as those who work shifts. 

Free feeding cons

Can your dog limit the amount of food that they eat honestly?

Food availability all the time: Will dogs just get bored and become very fussy eaters if food is always available to them?

Is it a danger for dogs to poop indoors when they are on the toilet? 

You can check your dogs health by observing its appetite. Would you be able to spot it as quickly if the animals were free feeding?

Dogs with multiple food sources: how do you prevent one dog from eating all the food?

Works best with dry kibble

Scheduled Feeding Pros

The amount of food your dog consumes is totally under your control

Because you have “outside” time after each feed you have a much greater chance of keeping your house poop-free.

If your dog stops eating you will immediately notice it and see if it becomes a pattern.

Dogs with more than one portion: each dog gets its own portion. 

Flexibility: raw wet or dry food? You decide

Scheduled Feeding Cons

There is one more hassle: dogs like to be fed at about the same time each day so you need to be home. 

Is it bad to only feed the dog once a day?

Generally I find that any issue related to the way our dogs are fed is highly contentious.

Most people are very firm when it comes to their views whether it be that dogs should have two set meals a day or if they should be allowed to graze. 

In all honesty there does not seem to be any concrete evidence that a dog fed only at night is harmful to its health.

More than likely it is your dog feeding at night that is harming your health!

This means that if your dog feeds in the middle of the night or if you wake up in the morning to find dog poop that you need to clean up your sleep could be interrupted.

Heres what I have to say. 

Every day I feed my dogs at 7.30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Raw food is fed to them and very rarely if ever do they leave any food in their bowls. 

Having done some research I believe that there are two reasons why dogs should not be allowed to graze and why they should have set meal times.

There are two main reasons for this: first behavioral and second biological

Firstly lets look at the behavioral stuff.

Having mealtimes creates a very motivating routine for dogs because obviously they love food and it helps them to understand the flow of the day.

Providing your dog with food twice a day (rather than once) will improve its understanding because this highly motivating event is happening more often.

Due to the fact that dogs have very little control over their lives (because their owners decide when things will happen) routines are extremely important to them. 

An enjoyable routine (eating and walking) is essential to the overall health of your dog. 

It is these cues that help a dog understand.

There are also biological reasons for this

After eating a meal a dogs stomach will gradually empty so around 10 hours after they have eaten their stomach is empty and they are hungry again. Dogs should have more than one meal per day because after eating a meal a dogs stomach will gradually empty. 

Is eating at night bad for my dog?

The truth is that there is no hard scientific evidence to prove that it is unhealthy for your dog to eat at night.

There is not enough research done on the effects of nighttime eating on humans let alone dogs.

Research on mice was conducted back in 2009. 

Approximately half of the mice were fed only during the day and a half were fed only at night.

The important thing to remember is that mice are nocturnal. They sleep during the day and are active (and eat) at night.

The mice that were fed during the day (when they should have been asleep) gained weight much quicker than the mice that were fed at night. 

Animals are about it as far as we are concerned.

A Washington Post article about research conducted on humans is fascinating reading. 

The study examines a few different studies on people eating at night.

People who eat at night are more likely to store their calories as fat instead of burning them as energy. 

I find that all of this raises an interesting question about how late-night eating affects our sleep.

Next I will examine the topic in greater detail.

Is eating at night bad for sleep?

Its taken me a few hours to research this and I’m quite surprised by what I found- or rather what I did not find.

Eating late at night does not appear to affect our sleep in any meaningful way.

There are no studies specifically pertaining to dogs so I have had to stick to human studies.

Dogs are not affected by any of these findings. 

Taking caffeine and smoking right before bed can cause you to lose sleep for example. 

However our dogs are (hopefully) not affected by this.

Eating immediately before going to bed can also result in heartburn which happens when stomach acid backs up into our throats.

It is because humans rely on gravity to keep their food in their stomachs not their throats.

The same applies to dogs since they love to sleep after eating more than anything else. 

How to stop free-feeding dogs

I am going to provide you with a few tips on how to successfully transition from free-feeding your dog to feeding them according to a schedule once you have finished reading this article.

Be patient with your dog- any change will take time to complete successfully.

Free feeding can take a dog longer to adapt to scheduled feeding depending on how long they have been free feeding.

You never know if your dog will take to it as well as a duck to water since every dog is unique!

During the day we should decide how many feeds to have. I am happy to feed twice a day as I mentioned earlier.

The next step is to decide on a time or times and stick to it.

After this you should determine how much your dog should be fed.

There should be guidelines on the packaging of your food or you can use this calculator.

You should only leave your dogs bowl down for a maximum of twenty minutes before taking it away again.

It is important to make your dogs food more attractive if he does not finish most of it.

How to stimulate a dog’s appetite

In my experience dogs who are picky eaters are usually fed dry kibble. 

There are a few easy ways to make dry kibble more appealing. 

Mixing kibble with a bit of warm water for example will make it more appetizing because the kibble will smell better. 

It takes a little bit of time and effort to add some diced raw vegetables to the mix – try some sweet potatoes or cabbage.  

Try making bone marrow broth and adding it to the kibble if you want to guarantee that the bowl will be empty. 

The discussion of spicing up your dogs kibble leads me nicely to the next question. 

How do I make my dog eat more in the morning?

To all of you who want your dog to eat more in the morning than they currently do I suggest that you try some of the ideas above.

If you have time walk your dog before you feed him.

Most dogs who pick at the food in the morning have not had a proper walk before getting their food.

Three reasons make walking your dog before feeding them an excellent way to improve their appetite:

  1. They burn calories while exercising.
  2. You’re also spending a lot of time with them. 
  3. As a result of their day being broken up. 

Some of you would not be able to do this because of the time you start work in the morning or because of the demands on your time.

However if you can try it. 

In the summer it is much easier than in the winter!


It is good news that there is no firm evidence to suggest that your dog is doing themselves any long-term harm because of this strange habit but if you would like to change the times that your dog eats hopefully I have given you some inspiration.

At what time should I feed my dog at night?

Food should I be left out all-day

Food for puppies should be left out

At what time should I feed my dog at night?

Leaving food out for a long time

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Amanda Dogs Trainer

Amanda (Author)

With over a decade of experience, Amanda is a distinguished dog trainer. Her expertise in canine behavior has transformed countless lives, fostering harmonious human-canine connections. Through compassionate and personalized approaches, she empowers owners to understand and connect with their furry companions, creating a legacy of joyful tails and transformed lives.

Osvaldo Maciel Dogs Trainer

Osvaldo Maciel (Content Reviewer)

Osvaldo Maciel, a stalwart in the field with 14 years of experience, is a revered dog trainer. His journey is defined by a profound understanding of canine behavior, shaping unbreakable human-canine bonds. Osvaldo guides owners to connect with their beloved pets, leaving an indelible mark of happiness and transformation. His legacy shines through the countless lives he has touched.

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