The very reason we want to spoil our dogs is because we love them. But we might just be loving them to death. We want them to be happy. We assume that letting them do what “they want” will accomplish this.
Owners want their dogs to be” free” thinking that is the natural state for a dog. Nowadays allowing your dog to be free outside (especially if your dog does not come IMMEDIATELY when called) is just outright dangerous. Being hit by a car is of primary concern never mind the legality of not having your dog on leash and the possible lawsuits. Inside people don’t want to use a crate which is by far the safest place for your dog, especially a puppy, when you are not home. Electrical wires are a favorite chew toy for a teething puppy. Couch cushions and remote controls run a close second. Believe me, dogs can find plenty of trouble to get into while you are not around. Dogs need to earn the right to be left out of crates in the house, this is not a given.
The biggest problems is 60-80% of American dogs are too fat. Many dog owners leave food available for the dog 24/7. Supposedly they do this because they want their finicky eaters to eat whenever their dog wants to. This actually creates “picky” eaters because the dogs can “pick” at the food all day long. It can create fat dogs too since some dogs will just eat because they can (not unlike some people). In my world overfeeding a dog has a big impact on training because food probably is not rewarding enough to the dog to be used as a treat.
If food is “served” and picked up in a timely manner it is easily to detect if a dog has not eaten the normal amount. That is usually an early sign that your dog maybe sick. It is a missed opportunity if food is always accessible since one might not notice as quickly that the dog is not eating.
Another method used to encourage dogs to eat is putting a little gravy on the kibble or adding some canned food or table scraps. This just creates fat dogs or dogs that are overweight for their body types.
One of my colleagues pointed out to me “there is no known case of a dog starving to death with a bowl of kibble in front of him”. Dogs will normally eat to sustain themselves. There are dogs that do have eating disorders due to medication they are on or other illnesses. I am not talking about them.
Another cause of overweight problems in dogs is the owner is feeding the recommended amount on the dog food package. Remember these companies are in the business of selling food. (For example, a shampoo bottle says “lather, rinse and repeat” in order to sell more shampoo. Do you “repeat”?) Every dog differs in bone structure, body type, metabolism and the amount of exercise.
Here is a link to Purina’s “ Understanding your Dog’s Body Condition”
Most trainers and veterinarians recommend that a dog be fed twice a day. This is way I determine how much a dog should eat: First check the bag to see how much is recommended for your dog’s weight and size. For breakfast, I then put down a bowl with that much in it and give the dog the opportunity to eat for 3 minutes or until the dog walks away from the food then the bowl gets picked up. In situations where dog food was available all the time the dog probably won’t eat. I do the same at dinner and continue this process until the dog decides to eat. (The longest a dog hasn’t eaten in my house has been 3 days.) At this point I measure how much the dog left. The next meal I put down the difference. (What I measured initial minus what is left equals the amount the dog ate). The most important part is to pay attention to your dog’s weight. Am I seeing ribs or is there more fat over his hip bone?
My dogs are at what I call “working weight.” They eat all their meals but are still hungry enough to eat my treats but not so hungry they aren’t healthy or can’t think.
Remember “Love is not simply giving. It is judicious praising and withholding as well” – M.Scott Peck