Q. I have a fat Corgi who needs to lose weight but won’t stop begging for food. She’s so obsessed with what goes into her mouth that she’ll even eat paper.
You happen to be owned by one of the more extreme examples of a highly food-driven dog. My own Slumdog consumes toilet paper as if it’s served on a roll for his culinary convenience and enjoys paper currency in all denominations, too.
A great many dogs are similarly obsessed. In my experience, 90 percent cannot be trusted on a free-choice diet in which they’re expected to moderate their own caloric intake. A bottomless-bowl feeding policy almost always leads to obesity.
Here’s a brief list of solutions:
• Feed pets on a schedule so there’s never free access to food. Pets who eat more slowly and tend to have food “stolen” by others (or, conversely, those who “steal”) should be fed privately.
• Start early. It’s crucial for pet owners to understand that when they give in to pets’ “hunger” impulses early on, they’re laying the groundwork for a never-ending series of “Feed me!” moments.
• Redirect the behavior. When she begs, take her for a walk, put her in her crate with a chew toy or otherwise redirect her attention.
• Feed in a new location. Getting away from places where the begging behavior gets rewarded makes it easier to eliminate.
• Don’t personalize it. Be honest with yourself: Are you having trouble because you know how you feel when you’ve got cravings? This is a common human reaction that doesn’t ultimately serve our pets.
• Seek professional help. Hiring a trainer or behaviorist is first on my list of recommendations here, but for some severely affected pets, a veterinarian might be of assistance in the pharmacological department. A small percentage of food-obsessed pets suffer from an obsessive-compulsive disorder of sorts that may respond to medication.
• Be patient. Whatever you do, keep trying. She’s worth it.