There are few things that motivate dogs as much as food, and this is why positive reinforcement dog training using treats is so effective, and helps dogs to learn and retain commands much more quickly than by using other methods.
However, the level of importance that dogs place on food isn’t always a benefit for their owners, and many of us have learned the hard way about leaving food on tables and counters around our unsupervised dogs, failing to close the bin properly, or otherwise presenting opportunities for food-obsessed dogs to steal a snack!
Whilst every dog has different appetites and preferences when it comes to food, dogs are very food-oriented animals as a whole, regardless of their breed or type. Few dogs have good self-control when food is on offer, and dogs don’t tend to moderate their own food intakes naturally, happily eating past the point of satiation when enough resources are available to them.
A large proportion of dogs in the UK are overweight to some degree too, many significantly so, and this is so common today that a lot of dog owners can’t actually recognise a healthy, lean build in certain breeds when they see it, even thinking that fit dogs that aren’t a little round around the edges are underweight in some cases.
Most dogs will put on a little bit of weight as they get older, but most dogs that are overweight get that way through a combination of overly generous food portions, too many treats, and not enough exercise. It can be hard to say no to a begging dog, or resist the urge to throw a little more kibble in the bowl when the dog makes pleading eyes at us – and some dogs are much more proactive about seeking opportunities to eat than others.
There are also several dog breeds that often seem to be more food-obsessed than others, indicated either by their personalities and behaviour around food or a propensity for certain dog breeds to tend to be overweight more commonly than others, like the pug.
In fact, studies published in scientific journal “Cell Metabolism” five years ago revealed that researchers have actually identified a specific gene variation that predisposes dogs to obesity and an excessive interest in food – and that this gene variation is found in more commonly in one dog breed than others.
In this article we will share the results of the studies published into an apparent “obesity gene” in dogs, and reveal what dog breed is most likely to inherit it. Read on to find out the most food-obsessed dog breed – and why!
Several studies have been undertaken by researchers within the last decade to try to identify and isolate the presence of specific genes that can cause or contribute to obesity in dogs, and a consequent hyper-obsession with food.
Five years ago, research scientists began by examining specific genes in dogs that have previously been identified as have a correlation with obesity rates in people, and noticed a number of similarities between the genetics of obese people and obese dogs.
The first study published involved scientists examining a total of 35 dogs within their study, 20 of which were of a lean, healthy weight and 15 of which were clinically obese. They specifically observed gene clusters that correlate with obesity in people, and identified one specific gene that can develop a variation or mutation – the POMC gene – and all of the obese dogs within the study were found to be missing part of the DNA sequence within this gene.
A larger study was then undertaken using a total of 310 dogs, including both those that were clinically obese and those that were lean and of an appropriate weight. The presence of the POMC gene variation was found once more within the obese dogs, which resulted in those dogs having higher bodyweights, and generally being more pushy and motivated about food than others, begging, scavenging, and crying for treats in a much more acute fashion than other dogs.
This means that if your dog is overly obsessed with food even more than the norm, and particularly if they are obese, they may have this same gene variation too – but the variation in question appears to present itself much more commonly in one dog breed than in others.
Whilst the POMC gene studies into dogs have only been conducted on a reasonably small scale, they have revealed that one dog breed in particular is much more likely to possess the POMC gene variation in a significant percentage of dogs of the breed than others.
In fact, 23% of Labrador retrievers studied were found to possess the POMC gene variation that predisposes them to obesity and food obsession – information which will come as no surprise to many Labrador owners and veterinary professionals!
Whether you own a Labrador of any weight or a dog of any other breed, however, the presence of the POMC gene variation is not the only thing that dictates the dog’s weight. By properly managing your dog’s food intake and exercise levels, you can help your dog to lose weight or keep them within healthy norms – you may just find that this is a little harder if your dog is one of those that really is food obsessed and has the genes to prove it!