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Dear Dr. Chris:
My 1 ½ year old Pomeranian, Angel, wants to eat all day. She is fed twice a day and we are trying to cut back but she follows us around the house begging all the time. She is getting overweight. What can I do?
Ahh, I can see Angel has you well trained!
Dogs are very smart and she has learned in the past that if she is persistent with her begging, she will eventually get a treat.
Even worse, when you gradually cut back on the treats and only give in occasionally, this only teaches them to be even more persistent and beg even more because they instinctively know that they will eventually get a tasty morsel from you!
They are just like children who wear down their parents at the store until the parent eventually gives in and buys them something.
It is very important that you get a handle on this right now while she is young. Numerous studies have shown that dogs that are kept in a healthy weight range, live approximately 25 percent longer than dogs that are even moderately overweight. In addition, having an overweight dog can cost much more in medical expenses due to the increased risk of diabetes, arthritis and other chronic illnesses.
So what can you do now?
I often hear from clients that their pet always seems hungry. I tell them that I’m always hungry too but that doesn’t mean I should eat all day!
There are two issues that you need to deal with; her weight gain and her behavior.
Weight loss in dogs is similar to people. It can be difficult and is fastest through diet AND exercise. Angel is old enough to be put on a light or lower calorie dog food if she is overweight. This will help if she continues to eat a similar quantity of food because it will contain less calories.
In addition, observe how much she eats in a day. Include dog food, treats and people food. Once you know this amount, reduce the quantity you feed by 20%. In addition a 20-30 minute walk every day will improve her help and yours a well.
With regards to her behavior, the best thing but also the most difficult thing is to ignore her plea for food and completely stop rewarding her begging behavior. This is often the hardest part because most people feel like they are neglecting their dog’s needs. It is time to practice tough love and reward the behavior you want.
If she is begging, you can offer her attention, take her for a walk or work on training such as sit, stay or even just have her sit with you on the couch watching TV with NO food treats. Remember to reward her with attention and affection when she is relaxing and behaving the way you want her to not while she is misbehaving. In a nutshell, reward the good behavior and ignore the bad.
If everything else fails, talk to your veterinarian about prescription diet options as well as a prescription appetite suppressant for dogs. There are some dogs that are truly unbearable when restricting their food and this should be considered if necessary. Angel’s long term health is at risk if we don’t get this under control now.
Dr. Chris Smith, VMD
Your Dog’s Favorite Veterinarian
Wow that was odd. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked
submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted
to say excellent blog!
I give my Yorkie mix baby carrots and romaine stalks for treats. He loves romaine more than anything – also good for training. And the plus is he can have as much as he wants.
Try this : everytime she begs for food, do sthing else she does not especially like, like brushing her or cleaning her eyes or ears. She will then associate begging with this and will stop. It worked for me. And as Judy said, replace dog treats by veggies or fruits
I have never owned a dog that was overweight. I give treats sparingly through the day (if I go somewhere and I crate them and at night when it’s bedtime) and my dogs get a 2 mile walk every day, plus playing in the yard and the occasional trip to the dogpark. I split their food into two meals, morning and evening, because I would hate to have only one meal a day, too! One of mine needs to eat too much to feed in one meal…I don’t want to risk bloat. They get organic food and biscuits, and I do give them carrots once in a while. If they beg while we are eating I tell them to go lie down, and they now do that. I have learned to just ignore them when they beg. They are at a good weight, which means they aren’t starving. You just have to hang tough! Once they learn that begging won’t get them anywhere that behavior will dissipate.
When I was attending a dog obedience class with one of my dogs, the instructor emphasized how important it is to keep your dog at a healthy weight. Her dog had had a stroke and survived because it wasn’t overweight (and it was an older dog). I kept that thought in the back of my mind for decades …
My dogs are fed in the morning. We walk at least 1-3 miles everyday (and they will walk under a large umbrella with me in the rain). At night, I trained them to eat raw carrots. This keeps them busy, and I find that I have never had a dog with bad teeth in old age (one dog lived to be 17 years with all its teeth!) and I’ve never had a dog with eyesight problems. The carrots help to clean the teeth, provide exercise/chewing interest, and they undoubtedly have helped with eyesight.
I feel that eating the carrots is better than giving a second partial meal in the evening if they have played hard and might be hungry. I buy 5 pound bags of carrots, and we go through them quickly.
I start my little rescue dogs on them as soon as possible, too — and puppies as soon as they can handle a strip of carrot (like you would find on an appetizer tray). They mess around and make a mess at first, chew it into pieces — terrible mess of confetti carrot pieces! But, during the next few times, they learn that they can eat the carrot … and so it begins! I’ve never had a dog not eat carrots! They help with weight control, too, I am sure!
People over-treat dogs. We don’t buy treats. I use turkey franks (sliced thin, like a nickel or dime) for training — and for training only (or pilling, when meds might be needed). Dog biscuits are given as small tasty rewards at night when they bed down in their crates. All I have to do is go to the biscuit jar, and my 6 run for their dens/crates and hop in and wait for that treat.
Giving treat for no reason … that’s just overfeeding your pet in my book.
hi i have a dog named juciy she likes to eat a lot of things and eats candy and cat food can you please give me something to do about it please thanks