Obsessive behavior in dogs has numerous causes. Some are medical, others are behavioral, and in rare cases they can be psychological. Where food and drink are concerned, it’s essential for you to distinguish between your dog having strong survival instincts that urge him to eat and drink whenever he has the chance and genuine obsessive behavior. Let’s face it -- some dogs are just greedy and you needn’t treat this problem as an obsession.
A dog’s survival instincts cause him to be motivated by food, but some dogs are so motivated by their instinct for eating and protecting their food that it becomes an obsession. This often manifests with food stealing and food bowl aggression.
Noted dog trainer Cesar Millan believes that food obsession is a common problem for large powerful breeds, but any dog can become fixated with finding and protecting food. Cesar recommends leashing the dog when food is around so that you can control his movement and prevent him from gobbling up the food. Use sound, such as calling his name or clapping, to divert his attention from the food if he fixates on trying to get to it. Once you attract his attention, reward him verbally to reinforce his good behavior.
Dietary deficiencies may cause your dog to attempt to eat non-food items because of strong cravings. You can spot dietary deficiencies by examining your dog’s physical condition; a dull coat and obvious lack of weight are two telltale signs that your dog isn’t getting the right nutrition. Consult your vet if you suspect this to be the cause. Anxiety and boredom can also drive obsessive eating of non-food substances. Pica is the name of the obsessive compulsion for eating rocks, stones, household objects and even self-mutilation through eating fur. There is an important distinction between pica and unwanted chewing; a dog with pica will try to digest the non-food items, rather than simply destroying them.
Take your dog to the vet for a health check to make sure he is getting all the nutrients he needs. If necessary, alter his diet. Cheap commercial canned foods often lack the full balance of nutrients required for a healthy diet. If your dog is suffering from pica due to boredom, use food puzzles to keep him occupied while you’re away and make sure he’s getting plenty of stimulating play and exercise. If you suspect it is anxiety related, observe his daily routine and note down any triggers for anxiety, such as visitors to the house. Use distraction and positive reinforcement training to help him make peace with the things that cause anxiety.
A dog should drink an ounce of water for every pound of his body mass every day, anything over this is excessive. If your dog is constantly trying to drink water, be it from the toilet, puddles or pool, it can be a sign of diabetes, Cushing's disease or kidney problems, so visit the vet.
Once you’ve ruled out medical problems, you can curb excessive drinking by limiting your dog’s access to water sources. If necessary, leash him when in the yard so he doesn’t try to drink from the pool and weigh down the toilet seat so he can’t open it with his nose.
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