In the wild, an animal grabs food when it’s available, to make it through lean times. Selective breeding has left many dogs with the desire to gorge on food, but has not been kind to the dog’s ability to get away with it.
The tendency to fatal gastric torsion (bloat) is inherited in several breeds.
Dogs also commonly develop acute pancreatitis when people share scraps with them. Pancreatitis can have temporary, permanent, or even fatal results. Some common foods that people can safely eat are toxic to dogs. Even without severe illness, the vomiting and diarrhea from indiscreet feeding can create a spectacular mess.
When a dog has a food allergy, a weight problem, or food sensitivity, a special diet can bring wonderful improvement. But a dog’s diet includes every treat and table scrap. Each single bite affects the dog’s health. Consult your veterinarian about what foods are safe for your particular dog.
We can’t expect dogs to have self-control about what they eat because dogs have no way of understanding the consequences. It’s like expecting a 2-year-old child to understand that running into the street can result in being hit by a car. In both cases, managing the situation is the job of the caretaker.
One result of overfeeding that some people consider cute is the fat dog. A dog has no ability to “go on a diet.” The dog eats what we give because that’s the nature of a dog. Perhaps some people overindulge their dogs with food because the people themselves would love to eat everything in sight.
It may be a sensitive subject with you. But think about it: your dog’s weight and your weight are two different things. You have the ability to give thought to what you eat and how it affects your health. If you choose to eat junk food, at least you do it knowingly and by choice. Your dog doesn’t have this knowledge and therefore doesn’t have a choice about eating healthy. The choice for your dog is in your hands.
Orthopedic problems are common in dogs, and their bones and joints tend to become more painful through life with injuries and age. Putting extra weight on those weakened structures is harmful and painful for the dog.
The dog can’t understand the need to keep a slender weight in order to feel better, but as the ones who love and care for our dog, we can. We also understand that a dog in pain may be cranky and may even bite. Since dogs who bite often lose their lives, it’s really not a stretch to say this is one more way that being overfed is a threat to a dog’s life.
Serious dog fights can also result from begging because of the risk of conflict over food. Things often get out of control when dogs compete for something as primal as food. It’s safer to feed your dogs in a structured manner that will not trigger them to this level of arousal.
Healthy Food Handling
When you first get a new dog, it works well to use pieces of the dog’s meals for training and getting acquainted. All dogs require food and most of them enjoy it. How the dog takes food from you also tells you some useful things about the dog, such as whether the stress level is too high and whether the dog is feeling well.
If you give only the food the dog needs to eat anyway, you’re not overfeeding. Just reduce food at mealtime by what you feed between meals. You can do this with your dog lifelong.
When you hide bits of food for the dog to find or put food into toys for the dog to work it out, this makes a dog’s life more stimulating. It can be both mentally and physically healthy, provided the food is of the appropriate kind and amount for the dog. This technique has been used to treat some behavior problems. Just make sure the toy is safe for the dog.
It’s safer for dogs to eat smaller meals more often, so keep an eye on the feeding schedule. Consult your veterinarian to make sure your dog’s frequency of eating is adequate. This can be especially critical with medical situations such as tiny-breed puppies prone to hypoglycemia.
Have your veterinarian evaluate your dog’s weight regularly and help you determine the appropriate daily amount of food. The veterinarian can tell much about a dog’s proper weight by feeling the internal structures of the dog and how much fat is covering them. Few people other than veterinarians are that familiar with internal dog anatomy, and the external shapes of dogs can be so different from each other—even in the same breed—that an expert opinion is a tremendous help.
Sometimes dogs are extra hungry for some reason or other. The dog may be on a weight-reduction program, or taking medication that drives hunger. Smaller, more frequent meals can help satisfy these dogs and reduce their restlessness.
In the case of the dog on medication, weigh the dog frequently and stay in touch with your veterinarian to make sure the dog isn’t dropping weight it needs to hold. Some situations require a surprising increase in feeding. But the need for an increase is likely to be temporary, and you’ll need to monitor and reduce the food again at the right time.
Watching a dog’s weight and food intake is a lifelong responsibility that makes a real difference in your dog’s quality of life. Even if you find it impossible to resist that piece of cake for yourself, make up your mind to resist feeding your dog incorrectly. Our dogs deserve this loving care from us.
A great way to control the human waistline is to cultivate pleasures other than food. Instead of pigging out, we do other things to enjoy life. We can do the same for our dogs.
The dog has whatever life we provide. If the only interaction a person offers a dog is a steady stream of hand-feeding, this will be the relationship between the person and dog. Life with a dog can be so much richer than that.
Think of ways to develop more mindful and purposeful interactions with your dog. At first you may use food to give added meaning to these interactions. For example, you could praise your dog as you give a treat, and then praise the dog before giving treats. Quickly your dog will know your praise means you’re pleased, and will take pleasure from the praise without a treat.
As you and your dog become closer, you’ll be touching more, and touch can become a reward to most dogs. Make it more meaningful by spending time every day getting your dog used to relaxing with your touch.
Games make dogs happy, and it takes time and practice to develop games with your dog. Start teaching games when your dog first comes to live with you. Retrieving is the healthiest game to play with a dog, and dogs find it extremely rewarding once they get the hang of it. Some find it more exciting than treats.
You and your dog can develop other games and interactions that are special to the two of you—such as howling together, provided you don’t live in an apartment! With a little imagination, anything that encourages the dog towards fun, safe behavior can make a good game.
Enrich your dog’s life with privileges and outings. Training makes it possible for you to do more things together safely, things a lot more interesting than begging!
His passion, enthusiasm and love for the dog is evident in his many years of experience as well as his hunger to learn more and it is all this that has made him what he is today! He has had extensive training in the area of canine behavior and training! His studies have included 2 summers in the kennels of the New Skete Monestary, 1 year mentoring with Dr. Ian Dunbar, 1 year mentoring with Ed Frawley, and 2 years association with Michael Ellis!
He is a current Professional Member of the International Association of Canine Professionals and owns and operates his own dog training business with 45+ years of professional Canine Training experience in his kitty! You are in good hands with Scott!