Have you noticed that your dog always wants to play after eating? Literally right after, long before their food has a chance to digest. Why do dogs do this? And should you entertain and allow such behavior? If not, how long should you wait before allowing a dog to play? And how can you get your dog to calm down after eating? Well, here’s everything you’ll want to know.
So, why does your dog want to play after eating? Dogs often like to play after eating because of the carbs, fillers, and sugars in many types of dog food. Sometimes a dog can have an allergic reaction which causes an energy spike. Other times, your dog can simply be excited at the new taste of his food or at something else in his environment.
As you can see, there is no singular definitive cause.
It’s all going to boil down to context.
Perhaps you instantly recognize a pattern, maybe you can put your finger on the underlying cause already.
But chances are you don’t.
So keep reading as I walk you through each cause before turning to those responses.
That way, you’ll be in the best position to nip this behavior in the bud.
Why Do Dogs Get Excited After They Eat?
Dogs can get excited after they eat either because they’re reacting to the food they’ve just eaten or to a development in their environment.
Your Dog Is Reacting To Food Ingredients
It could be your dog is reacting to the content of the food he’s just eaten.
If your dog’s diet is high in carbohydrates with a high glycemic index, he can feel the impact of a blood sugar spike. He’ll then want to run off that energy.
Foods and fillers in dog products such as wheat and corn can cause similar mood swings in dogs to children who’ve just eaten candy. First comes the sugar rush with a burst of energy, followed by a crash landing.
Dogs don’t need very many carbs, so if your dog is eating too many, he could be experiencing spikes of energy as a result.
And sometimes, a food allergy is the culprit. All too often, people don’t investigate food causes when it comes to looking at a dog’s behavior.
There is a good body of evidence to show that a dog’s diet can significantly impact his behavior (as well as ours!)
So, if you want to improve the nutrition of your dog and put them on a high-quality, all-natural diet, check out Sundays for Dogs.
Your Dog Is Happy
Some dogs get the zoomies after they eat because they are happy! It’s as if they’re celebrating life, expressing their joy at the feeling of being satiated.
Given that dogs in the wild had to work hard to find food and would sometimes go without for days, it’s understandable that some dogs have a lot of excess energy to burn once they’ve ingested those calories. After all, they haven’t had to work for their meal.
Sometimes the zoomies are contagious: one dog gets excited, and the others want to play too.
Should Dogs Play After Eating?
Dogs should not play immediately after eating.
Don’t engage in any form of play with your dog for 2 hours after his meal. This includes:
- Going on brisk walks
- Chasing animals
- Running around (whether with you or with other dogs)
- Playing fetch or other active games
The reason dogs shouldn’t play after eating is to avoid digestive problems such as Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV), also known as bloat.
GDV can come on when a dog either exercises or plays after eating or if he’s eaten too fast.
How GDV Happens
If your dog plays right after eating, his stomach could start to twist. A twisted stomach will prevent gas from leaving the stomach, thus causing bloat.
When your dog’s stomach is in a twist:
- The blood flow to other organs is inhibited, including the heart: this can cause full-body shock or arrhythmias
- Your dog will find it more and more difficult to breathe as his stomach inflates
Signs of bloat include:
- Stomach pain or discomfort
- A bloated stomach
- Pacing (or another form of agitation)
- Trying to vomit (and not succeeding)
- Labored breathing
- A pale nose or mouth
- More drooling than usual
If you suspect bloat, get your dog to the vet immediately: it can quickly become fatal. A dog with GDV may only have one or two hours to live.
If Your Dog Seems Desperate For A Walk
If your dog is desperate to go outside after eating (usually within 5 to 30 minutes, depending on his age), he probably needs the toilet.
Take him for a slow and short walk with the only purpose being to relieve himself.
How Long Should a Dog Wait After Eating Before Playing?
Your dog shouldn’t play until 2 hours have passed since his last meal. However, this is for the average dog. It does ultimately depend on the amount of food consumed, the food consumed, their age and breed. Some breeds are more susceptible to GDV, while others tend to have eating habits that put them more at risk.
As you can see, the ‘wait 30 minutes after you swim’ rule for humans is stricter for dogs.
Here is why.
Breeds Susceptible To GDV
Although this rule is true for all dogs regardless of breed, large breeds and those with deep chests are particularly susceptible to GDV.
Examples of these breeds include:
- Saint Bernards
- Irish Setters
- German Shepherds
- Irish Wolfhounds
- Great Danes (these dogs have the highest risk: 39% of Great Danes will get GDV at some stage!)
In addition to the above breeds, some dogs have direct relatives with a history of GDV. If this is your dog, be extra careful.
Eating Habits That Can Cause Digestive Problems
Here are some eating habits that can cause digestive problems, including GDV:
- Dogs who eat quickly
- Dogs who eat from raised bowls
- Dogs who eat one large meal each day rather than two smaller ones
Here’s what you can do to improve your dog’s eating habits (and his safety):
- Feed your dog two or more smaller meals per day
- Use food puzzles to make your dog slow down while eating (you can put dry kibble inside). Interactive toys also make mealtimes more entertaining for your dog
- Make sure your dog has a regular exercise routine so that he isn’t anxious about when he’ll next get to go outside (this can help him eat more slowly)
- Feed your dog from bowls on the floor rather than from bowls raised up high
- Give your dog food from a food dispenser which will force him to slow down
How Can I Get My Dog to Calm Down After Eating?
To get your dog to calm down after eating, skip foods with high-glycemic carbs. Get your dog tested for allergies. Take him for a calm walk, train him to stay calm, or use other ways of feeding him. Consult a vet if you still need help.
Skip Foods With High-Glycemic Carbs
Help your dog manage his energy by avoiding giving him dog food with high-glycemic carbs.
If your dog is experiencing the human equivalent of a ‘sugar rush’, it will be more challenging for him to calm down after eating.
Again, I suggest you take a look at Sundays for Dogs.
Get Your Dog Tested For Allergies
If your dog has excess energy because of an allergic reaction to his food, you may not realize it for quite some time, if ever. Have your dog tested to see if he has any allergies.
If your vet discovers allergies, make the relevant food changes.
Your vet can help you devise a nutritional plan for your dog that will keep his allergies in mind.
Take Your Dog For A Calm Walk After Meals
You can get your dog to associate mealtimes with quiet and sedate walking (though this may take patience on your part). Train your dog to walk calmly on the leash so that he can go to the toilet.
Don’t let him run around sniffing things: you want him to learn that mealtimes mean being calm and peaceful.
Walking off some energy slowly after a meal can help your dog to be calmer at other times of the day, too, which is never a bad thing.
Read more: Can I Walk My Dog 30 Minutes After Eating?
Train Your Dog To Stay Calm At Mealtimes
You can train your dog to remain calm when he’s around food: this will help him eat more slowly. It’s also another way for your dog to associate mealtimes with peaceful times.
Get your dog to ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ while you put his food down. Train him to wait until you give him the command to eat.
If your dog engages in any excitable behaviors (such as barking) at mealtimes, use training to get him to associate the behavior you want with rewards.
For example, if your dog barks when you get out his food:
- Ignore your dog until he stops barking
- Wait a few seconds (if he’s quiet) and then continue to get out his food
- If your dog barks again, stop again, go back to what you are doing, and wait for him to be quiet for a few seconds again
- Keep going until you can go through the whole process of preparing and dishing up his food while he is quiet.
Use Other Ways of Feeding Your Dog
Try other ways of feeding your dog so that he is calm while he eats. If he can eat calmly, you’ll have a better chance of him staying calm once he’s finished.
See above for some ideas on different food dispensers and tricks to get your dog to eat slowly.
Consult Your Vet
If you are finding it difficult to get your dog to calm down after he eats, consult with your vet. Your vet can suggest dog food that is best suited to your dog.
A vet can also help you establish a solid daily routine, which can help your dog calm down both during and after meals.
It’s entirely normal for dogs to get excited after eating.
Insofar as many dog owners experience it with their dogs.
That being said, that doesn’t mean you should accept it or not do anything about it.
First things first, you need to try to identify the underlying cause.
Observation is key here.
From there, it’s all about implementing some of the strategies I’ve discussed here today.
You should find that with some consistency and a little time, this erratic behavior starts to become a thing of the past!
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.