Tips to Manage A Food-Motivated Dog

Hank always seems hungry – but should we keep feeding him?

We have two dogs – a retriever/chow mix named Indy Anna, who eats when she’s hungry but won’t always lick her bowl clean; and an Anatolian Shepherd named Hank, who acts like he’s starving regardless of how much or how recently he’s eaten. He’s a healthy weight and our vet says he gets the right amount of food, regardless of Hanks opinion. Having spent quite a bit of time figuring out how best to take care of him I’ve come up with a few things that have helped us and might help you with your own food-motivated dog.

Differing Opinions

Our dog and our vet disagree (dramatically) on how much is enough food. While Hank seems hungry, I’ve had to learn to trust the vet. I spent a few months over-feeding him, followed by a year of trying to get the excess weight off. Now that Hank’s back in shape, I have to stick with the plan, knowing that his appetite will adjust itself now that his weight’s stabilized.

With regular check-ups and a little bit of observation, we’ve been able to make small adjustments to Hank’s diet to help satisfy his hunger without fattening him up. One of those adjustments has been switching him to healthier dog food that will provide long lasting nourishment and energy rather than a belly full of filler. The vet said he’ll miss the filler for a while the same way I miss junk food during a diet but the cravings will fade and his new, healthier lifestyle will pay-off in the long run.

Diet & Exercise

Hank may feel hungry but extra calories can turn into fat. There’s a win-win solution though. When he insists that an extra meal is absolutely essential, we’ll give in but up his exercise accordingly with a little longer run or more time outside. This lets him burn off the extra calories but gives him a smaller, mid-day meal to fill the gap between breakfast and dinner.

Another tip is to add water with his food.  This will fill up his belly with water, making him feel fuller and also making sure he’s staying hydrated.

Snacking

We also try to give him a treat at least twice a day. Before you think I’m suggesting something unhealthy, know that his favorite treats are Nuzzles from The Honest Kitchen and carrot sticks. We save the Nuzzles for good behavior and look for a chance to reward him with those but toss him a few carrot sticks between meals. They’re both low calorie and healthy, especially compared to other dog treats, and will help hold him over between meals.

Learn to Say No

This is the hard part. Some dogs just really like food and Hanks one of them. I can’t blame him—I do too. Except for very rare occasions, we’ve stopped sharing table scraps and leftovers in order to make sure he gets proper nutrition because his needs aren’t the same as ours. He used to beg and we’d give in but we’ve learned to say no.

While puppy-dog eyes are a powerful tool, stick with your decisions and make sure that you know how much and what your dog’s eating in order to satisfy his needs are even if his cravings aren’t. It’s not much fun and a food-motivated dog doesn’t make it easy but it’s worth it and I look forward to having Hank around for a long time thanks to great food, exercise, and a few boundaries.

Meet the Author: Josh Aldridge

Josh Aldridge is a journalist, photographer, and filmmaker whose work always seems to result in muddy boots and broken skin. Covering a wide range of outdoor activities, his images and writing alike depict the interplay between earth's wildest places and the people bold enough to venture out into them. He's only mildly house-broken, drive a Jeep, and spend every possible moment outside—climbing, surfing, scuba diving, and hiking. He lives in Northwest Arkansas with his wife—Natalie, and their two dogs—Hank and Indy.

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