The big puppy eyes - your dog's secret spell to get treats
If you’ve ever had a meal in your dog’s company, then surely you know that look you just can’t resist. You try, for about 5 minutes, after which both you and your dog know that you’re going to give in and treat him to what ever is on your plate.
For some breeds, this can be a dangerous game to play, as they are more prone to a big appetite and to obesity.
As a group of Cambridge researchers were studying genetic variations in Labradors, one of the most popular breeds in Europe and the US, they noticed something interesting. 310 dogs had their genes mapped, and the results were cross checked against the weight of the dog and their owners’ stories regarding the eating habits of their canine friends. The conclusions showed that a quarter of the Labradors had gene variants that were connected to obesity.
Specialists advise that any attempt to modify this gene in order to curb Labradors’ appetite or to get better control of their weight gain can have a negative impact on the health of the animal.
Therefore, those of you who have greedy pups must make sure you keep a close eye on their food intake. Weight gain can lead to similar risks as in human health: higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as problems with muscles and joints.
The expression “big puppy eyes” exists for a reason, and as your furry friend gives you that look and begs for whatever you’re eating, you need to keep in mind that some foods can be toxic to him, even though he craves them. Chocolate is a classic, but the list can be quite long and includes most sweets, alcoholic beverages, grapes and raisins and a few other items we’ll expand on in a future post.
And, as if eating wasn’t complex enough, you also need to keep an eye on how fast your doggie is chowing food down. Labradors are frequent patients at the vet’s either because they choke on their food, or because the food they do manage to swallow is not properly chewed and causes digestive problems. In extreme cases, this can lead to a perforated intestine, or even a condition called gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV)— also known in more common terms as bloat. GDV is the stomach or the intestines expanding and, sometimes, twist inside the abdomen, which quickly becomes acute and potentially lethal.
So it looks like slow eating is not just the latest restaurant fad, but it’s also good for your dog.
Here are 5 simple ways you can get him to eat slower:
1. Puzzle Toys
What better way to slow your dog down than giving him a puzzle to solve? Using a treat-dispensing puzzle toy will not only provide one small treat at a time, but also a great opportunity for brain training. Here’s an example: Pet Pocket Box Buster is an interactive toy for dogs developed in collaboration with veterinarians and behavioral specialists. This one has four modules, which gives you many opportunities to hide treats under the bones and food in the food frames. Adjust the difficulty by closing the pockets loosely or tightly. A good way to start is to sit on the floor and pack the Pet Pocket with treats while your dog is watching. Show your dog how the Velcro is opened, and you can close a few of the pockets very loosely so your dog quickly understands the concept. If your dog is very small, the pockets may be difficult to open - here you can also help the dog by simply closing the Velcro halfway.
Buster is a level 3. Level 3 are for the skilled puzzle-solvers, that are good at using their noses, teeth, and paws when it comes to interactive toys. If your dog is more of a beginner, you can find simpler versions here.
2. Is it Dinner Time or Training Time?
No need to make them separate! Your dog needs to be trained regularly anyway, and dinnertime gives you the ideal set-up: there’s time together, there are yummy rewards, and there’s fun. Not to mention that training on an empty stomach is much more effective than after your dog has had a meal!
Use his usual food and make small rations, which you dispense one by one as he successfully fulfills tasks and responds to commands. Whether you work on reinforcing good behavior, or a new trick, dinner will turn into your dog’s favorite time of the day, and will give you the satisfaction of having a well behaved and, most of all, healthy pup. Instead of gulping his meal in 10 seconds, he’ll take more controlled amounts, in small bites and over a longer time. Just as is recommended for us :)
Dogs fed once a day are much more likely to develop complications than dogs fed throughout the day. It’s important to mention right away that leaving your dog home alone with a big bowl of food is not the solution. However, hiding little treats for him to find would make it not only healthier, but also more interesting to spend time alone while you’re at work. You can read more tips about helping your dog thrive on its own here.
Hand feeding is one great way to strengthen the bond with your dog and work on behavior issues like resource guarding and bite inhibition. If your dog needs to learn better table manners, try feeding him small amounts of food from your hand, while you hold on to his food bowl. Make sure he’s chewed properly before offering another handful. Always feed your dog when he’s calm, and is behaving properly, in order to reinforce good behavior.
5. Team Up With Veterinarian and Dog Owner Advisor Vibeke Nordrehaug
Figuring out a diet that is suitably balanced for your dog according to breed, age and life style, as well as portion control are the first measures you can take in order to get your dog to slim down and keep him in good shape. When he gives you the big puppy eyes.. be strong!
Especially when trying to maintain a good diet, healthy treats are a must! We recommend using these natural snacks, all made in the Nordics to the highest standard of quality.
Every family is different, so you need to find what works for you and your dog specifically. Teaming up with an experienced veterinarian like Vibeke can be essential to your dog’s long term physical and mental health.