Everybody likes to treat their pets; it’s only natural. And yet, the regularity with which many pet owners use food as a reward for good behaviour is likely leading to health problems including obesity; these conditions can involve long-term medical care which many owners struggle to afford. According to figures from Direct Line, 2.7 million pet owners in the past year have been informed that their pet is overweight (and this is just the UK alone). The problem seems especially rife in certain breeds of dog; pug owners are over three times as likely to have overweight dogs compared to border collie owners.
Rottweilers are another breed often prone to weight gain, in part due to their stocky builds but also because of their food-orientated temperaments. Curbing your hungry Rottweiler’s appetite for treats isn’t easy, but it may be necessary to ensure your dog’s good health, especially if your vet has suggested that your dog may be overweight. Here are four ways to help your Rotty get back some healthy habits.
- Stop giving in
This is the number one rule of stopping any dog behaviour you don’t want to continue. If you’ve already responded to begging eyes or a paw on your leg by giving treats, your dog is already learning that this technique works. The only way to break this habit is to completely stop giving your dog treats when they beg; while this won’t have an immediate effect, your dog will slowly realise that these behaviours no longer work, and this difficult step will get easier in the long run.
- Save special toys for mealtimes
If you’re eating something for dinner that you know your dog would love a helping of, it’s time to get out the ‘special’ toy – one your dog doesn’t often get to play with to keep him busy while you eat. This might not eliminate begging, but it should help in a pinch, and hopefully it can one day become a part of the daily routine which you both look forward to.
- Make your dog earn his treats
Many pets get treats for simply existing; while they do deserve lots of love and attention no matter what, it’s important to save treats for times when your pet actually deserves a reward. If your dog needs to work off a few pounds, it might be a good idea to tie treats into physical exercise (by giving your dog a treat after a long walk, for example).
- Use the ‘place’ command
The ‘place’ command is one of the most important commands your dog should learn, as it teaches your dog to go to a specific place when you command it. This could be the dog’s bed, cage, or somewhere else. You can use the ‘place’ command during mealtimes or other times when your dog is used to being given tidbits, to help both of you break the habit.