White Jack Russell Terrier with brown ears greedily pulling a small wagon full of dog toys.

Why are Dogs So Greedy?

Do you have a dog who seems really greedy? Some dogs always seem hungry and will eat everything and anything they can get their paws on. Additionally, dogs may seem greedy with their toys, especially chew toys, where they sleep, and how much attention they get in a home with multiple pets.

Dogs are greedy not because they are bad or lacking in moral fiber. Rather, greediness, or what appears to be greediness in dogs, is due to a dog’s strong survival instinct. Despite several thousand years of being domesticated, a dog is still hard-wired to be concerned about food and resource scarcity.

Keep reading to learn more about how dogs can be possessive of their food and other resources. And discover circumstances in which they may actually share with other pets.

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Survival and Scarcity

Dogs living in the wild and their ancestors, the wolves, spent most of their time hunting for food. Dogs often hunted alone for small prey, but they also hunted together in groups to pursue larger animals. After a kill, the dogs typically gorged themselves before dragging the remains back to their den. The rest of the pack ate the remains immediately before it spoiled. And there was no guarantee that they would find food again soon. All that was leftover to be chewed on were the bones!

Therefore, finding enough food was a daily activity and always on a dog’s mind. Wolves and dogs also ate some plants and grass as part of their diet, but meat was their primary food source for adequate nutrition. Having enough food in our world for dogs and humans alike, has been a more recent part of our history. Therefore, dogs retain a strong instinct to eat as much as they can.

It is no wonder that our dogs are so interested in mealtime and almost always seem hungry! My dogs always succeed in reminding me when it is time to eat. If I try to sleep in on the weekend, I am usually awoken by a dog licking my nose. If I try to roll over I get whacked on the head with a paw. And again, in the evening, as soon as the clock strikes 5pm, I find two dogs staring at me relentlessly. If that doesn’t get my attention, they will whimper, whine, or bark until their dinner is served.

Resource Guarding

If your dog seems greedy with his toys, he is probably just trying to protect his possessions. Dogs in the wild did not usually have toys other than sticks to play with. But they did have bones they buried or hid to gnaw on later. Raw bones were an important part of a dog’s nutrition as they provided essential minerals and vitamins needed for good health. Bones also satisfied their chewing instinct and helped to keep their teeth clean.

My two dogs, who are siblings, actually share most of their toys and will sometimes play tug-of-war together. However, they get a little more protective of their favorite chew toys, especially ones that are edible. Every morning they each get a small non-rawhide chew stick made from beef protein (my favorites are Earth Animal from Amazon or Chewy).

The first time I gave them each chew stick, they went nuts with excitement. But after one really bad dog fight with a lot of growling, baring of teeth, and mean stares, I learned to separate them on opposite sides of the room each time I gave them a chew stick. They eventually learned to leave the other dog alone and stopped fighting. But I still keep on an eye on them until they have both finished just to make sure there is no fighting. See more about this in my post about Why Dogs Fight Over Bones and Chew Toys.

Protecting their Turf

Dog supplies and accessories--my mixed breed tan and black colored dogs lying on their day bed under the stairwell.
My dogs each have their own day beds.

Wolves and dogs in the wild usually live in packs. They raise puppies together, hunt together, play together, and even sleep together. However, they also have a social order within the pack. Puppies get fed first and older dogs last, as an example.

And, even though dogs tend to sleep together and on top of each other in their den, they will often try to position themselves as close as possible to the leader of the pack. This helps to ensure their safety since the alpha dog is usually the strongest of the group and probably the best fighter. They would also guard the den to ward off potential attackers or strange dogs who were not part of their pack as well as

Protecting their den and positioning themselves in the best place to sleep seems to be another survival technique. Therefore, a domesticated dog continues to carry this instinct and may not welcome another dog into his bed.

When I first brought my two 6 year-old rescue dogs home they seemed fine sleeping in the same large bed together. They had been together their entire lives and had probably been used to sleeping together. However, after several weeks I noticed some competition. Whichever dog got into bed first would often stretch out and take up most of the space, forcing the other dog to sleep somewhere else.

So now they each have their own bed (in every room), and that solved the problem. They will still sometimes cuddle together in the same bed, but it also seems important to them to have their own space. See my post about the numerous beds in our household — How Many Beds Should Your Dog Have?

Domesticated Dogs Live in a Controlled Environment

Let’s face it. We pretty much control everything about our dogs lives. Most dogs are fed on a schedule in controlled amounts. They have limited access to the outdoors via their yard or on leashed walks. We tell them where to pee and poop, and we give them designated sleeping areas and beds.

It is no surprise that our dogs get excited about food and want to protect whatever toys, beds, or other resources they have. Most dogs only get food when we feed them, which in some ways mimics survival in the wild. Since they have no control over when and how much food they get, mealtime is a pretty big deal. They may gobble it down as if it were their last meal!

Free-fed dogs may be less concerned and greedy with their food, meaning food is left in their bowl to munch all day or until they are full. Yes, some dogs actually stop eating when they are full!

My sister has two small terrier-mix dogs who are free-fed, and they eat when they are hungry. But she recently adopted a Golden Retriever puppy who needs to eat on a schedule so she won’t become overweight. She loves food and will eat everything in sight! Unfortunately, my sister is now trying to figure out how to keep the smaller dogs’ food away from the puppy so she doesn’t eat their food.


Because we are the giver of all things for our dogs, they are eager to get our attention and be close to us. Not only that, but our pups are eager to bond with us. Dogs are very social creatures, and we are their pack family. We have work, school, friends, relatives, and events, but our dogs only have us. We are their entire world.

As a result, outsiders (the neighbor’s or a friend’s dog) may feel like a threat if they come over for a visit, and our dog’ may get jealous and stick close to us to get more attention.

I raised two Beagle puppies from the same litter many years ago. As they grew up, they shared their beds, toys, and rarely fought over food. However, they suddenly became greedy and jealous once they became 12 months old. They fought over everything and had to be kept apart. They each got their own bowl, bed, and toys and ate in separate rooms.

With the help of a trainer, we managed them and prevented fighting. However, the jealousy continued. If I had a dog sitting in my lap, she would bare her teeth and growl viciously if her sister dared to walk by too closely. Fortunately, this lessened over time until they finally outgrew it.

Do Dogs Ever Share?

Unlike humans, dogs are really not into sharing (neither are some humans!) To survive, dogs protect themselves from other canines outside of their immediate pack. As mentioned earlier, dogs may bring home food for their pups and other pack members. But even within the pack, a dog protects bones, food, or other resources that he regards as his own.

Guarding food, coveted objects, mates, and physical space are highly adaptive traits in a natural environment. If dogs had to fend for themselves tomorrow, guarders would have the survival and reproductive edge over non-guarders.

— Jean Donaldson, The Dog Trainer’s Resource, APDT Chronicle of the Dog Collection

Resource guarding is a a survival tactic and not a statement about a dog’s ethics. Dogs do what they need to do to get through each day.

I was once told by my dog trainer, Athena Labberton owner of Let Us Do the Training, that a dog does not have a moral compass. Dogs do not make judgments or have opinions. They simply act, react, and experience basic emotions based on their current situation.

In Conclusion

If your dog seems greedy, he is not a bad dog. He is just doing what a dog does — trying to get along in life and survive. So give him a break and try not to judge. Train and manage your pooch if his behavior becomes problematic around other dogs. But also realize that your favorite furry friend is hard-wired with thousands of years of animal instinct inherited from his ancestors, and he is doing the best he can!

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