Can you feel your dog’s individual ribs with your fingers? If not, there is a good chance that your dog is too fat. According to research, close to 40% of pet dogs are overweight. Luckily, there is plenty you can do to help your dog get into better shape. You can even work some enjoyable dog training into the process!
First, you may need to change some of your own habits. If you show your affection for your dog by giving a lot of treats, better if you use the treats for training rewards – and cut down on the amount you feed your dog at meal times to allow for those treats. Also, you can use tiny treats; for example, I cut one hot dog into quarters lengthwise, and then into 25 or more slices, and I have over 100 treats right there! I freeze them and use them frozen. One package of hot dogs lasts me and my two dogs for months.
It really is better for your dog if you can keep his weight in a normal range. Not only will he feel and look better, but he is less likely to have arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other problems.
How Much to Feed Your Dog?
There’s a saying; “Feed your dog to condition.” This means feed the right amount so that you can feel those ribs. Remember that the suggested guidelines on the dog food packages are put there by the companies that sell the food! Many of the estimates are too high. Plus, different dogs of the same breed will need different amounts of food, depending on how active they are. A dog that goes running with its owner daily can eat more food than a dog who gets less exercise.
If your dog is fat now, cut down on his food a little and see over the next few weeks if that is making a difference. If not, cut down a little more or try a different food. Veterinarians sell prescription weight loss diets. I have never had to use one on a dog, but I’ve heard they can work well. Eventually your dog should be in good condition.
Interestingly, underfeeding your dog may add to his life span. A recently completed study followed a group of dogs for 14 years and the results indicated that the dogs who were somewhat underfed lived an average of 15% longer than their littermates who were fed normal amounts of food.
Being sure your dog gets enough exercise is important for several reasons. A tired-out dog is much less likely to get into mischief! Another is that dogs are naturally meant to get exercise to stay fit. And of course, you can help your dog lose weight by taking him for walks, letting him run at a dog park if there is a good one near you, and other activities.
An enjoyable training game is to have two people in a yard with the dog. One of them calls the dog. When the dog comes, the other person calls the dog. Back and forth the dog goes. This is a great game for children, who often have more patience with it than do adults. This exercise is a way of teaching a dog to come, and in that context, small treats are used. If the purpose is weight loss, make those tiny treats and don’t give them every time the dog runs from person to person.
Really heavy dogs may have reached a point where walking and running are uncomfortable for them. In that case, you might investigate what water options are in your community. We have a friend whose dogs go in and out of her swimming pool, and love to dog-paddle! There also more high-tech solutions that your local veterinarian or dog trainer may know about. Any way that a fat dog can get some exercise in water can help.
Whatever you can do to help your dog stay trim will help!