Is your dog obsessed with eating everything and anything? Let's help you understand why and also find a lasting solution.
We all wish we had great dogs who are nothing but sweethearts. But let's be honest, how many of you can say your dogs don't sometimes act like barbarians?
From getting aggressive over food to just acting plain obsessed with food, you'll be hard-pressed not shaking your head in disappointment when you look at them.
So what is the problem? Why do they act that way? Is it a result of “bad parenting” from you? What could be the reason?
Food Obsessions in Dogs
This occurs when a dog is hung up on a particular food, or just food in general. Most of the time, this is caused by owners giving them too many human treats, letting them in the kitchen to scavenge for food, and indulging their puppy dog eyes at the dining table by giving them even more treats.
Over time, they will begin to crave these foods and their usual plate of dog food isn't going to cut it anymore. That's when the obsessive behavior comes out in full force.
They climb on top of the counter to steal food, they try to open the fridge, they make your guests feel uncomfortable at the kitchen table by pawing at their foods, and they may even resort to going to the trash can .
Let's just say…not a very pretty sight.
Here's how you can deal with this obsessive behavior
1. Positive reinforcement
Show them there are benefits to eating like a proper, well-trained dog. Just like babies, dogs seem to respond to this and will put in the efforts to act better.
2. Stop enabling them
Those treats from the dining table should end. Just don't indulge their crazy behaviors.
3. Dissociate them from your food
That is, find the proper dog treats for them. It's best if you call them a particular name such as “treat” so your dog begins to regard these treats as being for them.
4. Slow it down
Instead of allowing them to gobble up food at lightning-fast speeds, make this process slower. It also saves them from choking or getting bloated .
5. Stay strong
Sounds weird, huh? But the fastest way these dogs get more food is when you feed them. So, Bruno is staring at you with those big brown puppy eyes and you can't just let him “starve”. Never mind that he ate like two minutes ago.
Stay strong and refuse to feed them all the time. You're not doing them any favors by overfeeding them. This can even make them hungrier and possibly lead to obesity.
Dogs and unusual cravings
This is still a part of their obsession with food, but it's a bit more targeted. According to Animal Clinical Nutritionist at the Veterinary Specialty Hospital of the Carolinas, Lindsey Bullen, “Dogs have a strong preference for sweet, fat, and meat flavors.”
No surprise there!
Cheeseburgers, bacon…they’re suckers for that kind of stuff.
What's more? Indulge them once and suddenly they're craving it uncontrollably.
Here's how you can handle this
1. Turn up the heat
According to the American Kennel Club, heating food up to about 100oF could increase the palatability. This will make them more likely to eat their own foods and not think there’s something so special about your cheeseburger .
2. Cook their foods
This makes it more digestible and easy to eat. It could be how difficult some dog food is to chew that's causing them to gravitate towards your well-cooked ribs…you know, the ones with the meat falling off the bone.
3. Give in to their cravings...
...not so fast! Give in to them, but with healthy alternatives. If they're craving some meaty foods, consider giving them jerky - the kind that’s made from chicken. Also, look up healthy recipes of sweet foods that you can easily whip up for them.
4. Fix their diet
Incorporate some of the stuff they like eating from your plate. That said, make meals for them with some lean turkey, fruits, or even a bit of peanut butter. If their food is yummy and still healthy, you can rest assured they will let you eat yours in peace.
5. Add more fiber to their diet
Vegetables such as carrots, green beans, and broccoli are an excellent way to bulk up their food’s fiber content. It can also make them feel fuller for longer. Let's not forget the added nutrients! .
Pro-tip – a few healthy, safe snacks that can satisfy your dog’s cravings and even help them lose some weight are Apples, Protein (cooked fish and meat), kibble, and air-popped popcorn .
Cravings aren't always yummy or greasy. Dogs can also develop pica.
Pica in Dogs
This is an unusual condition where a dog develops the need to eat non-food items such as metal, plastic, paper, dirt, cloth, rocks, or even feces. This could be caused by psychological reasons such as anxiety and stress.
It could also be as a result of medical conditions including
Ø Vitamin deficiencies
Ø Parasitic Infections
Ø Inflammatory bowel disease and more.
Unfortunately, pica doesn't end at cravings or putting on some extra pounds. It can result in ulcers, vomiting, bad breath, abdominal pain, and a host of other conditions.
Possible Treatments for Pica
Firstly, you should take your dog to the vet. You should never try to handle it on your own. They could be having a serious medical condition that can only be confirmed by a series of tests and treated by a professional.
If a professional determines that your dog’s pica is caused by psychological issues, here are a few things you can do to help them
Ø Increase physical and mental stimulation with exercise.
Ø Enroll them in doggy daycare to prevent them from having separation anxiety when you go to work.
Ø Get some chew toys they can focus on instead of non-food items.
Ø Deter them from eating some non-food items around the house by using anti-chew spray on them.
Ø Consider employing the services of a professional behaviorist to help them .
And that's it! We know you’re ‘mutts’ about your dog and seeing them happy makes you happy too. But overindulging these unhealthy cravings will affect them in the long run.
Be strong and give them the appropriate care they deserve.