A common side effect of our love of dogs today is dogs who are overweight. We LOVE to treat our dogs and they LOVE to be treated!
Like Humans, dogs have different metabolisms and activity levels which means that the amount of food needed to maintain good weight varies greatly from dog to dog. Many people have absolutely no idea of the proper amount of food which constitutes a feeding and if you go strictly by the instructions on the dog food bag......you will very often be feeding your dog too much!
When your dog is in good weight, you should feel just a hint of padding over the ribs when you apply gentle pressure to that area. You should be able to feel the ribs slightly. Your dog should have a tuck up, meaning that the underline of the dog should go upward after the ribcage. Looking down at your dog, you should see a narrowing of the body between the end of the ribcage and the hip area of the dog.
Helping your dog to lose weight is not nearly as painful as it is to try to lose weight yourself. The dog cannot go to the refrigerator and self feed and cannot snack on their own when they feel like they need a snack. It is totally up to YOU to measure the amount of food and snacks they need to maintain proper weight. It is not nearly as difficult as you might think it would be. Sometimes, just a minor change in food amount and exercise will be just the ticket. No major changes are generally needed!
First and most importantly.......measure the amount of each feeding with a measuring cup. Not a coffee cup or a bowl. Many times when clients ask us about weight loss for their dogs, they can only give a rough estimate as to the amount they feed at each meal. Make sure that a cup is eight ounces. Coffee cups vary greatly as to size!
If your vet advises weight loss, reduce dry food in small amounts and feed adult dogs at least two times a day. ( puppies more often). Feeding twice a day is also a precaution against bloat. Several smaller feedings is much better than one large feeding!
If a dog is eating 1 1/2 cups of food twice a day....reducing it by even 1/8th of a cup per feeding is often enough to begin to see weight loss. Also be careful with the amount of treats your dog receives daily. Some of the large dog biscuits contain as much as 1/4 cup of food per serving!
Speaking of treats!......Treats such as carrots whole and raw are great dog treats. They take a while to eat and also satisfy a need to chew. When puppies are introduced to carrots young, they generally take to them right away. Sometimes older dogs can be coaxed into liking carrots if you spread a small amount of peanut butter on the first carrot or two. Apples are also a good treat, but you should remove the apple seeds.
Replacing part of your dogs food at mealtime with canned, no salt added, green beans can also be helpful.
Watch additional treats. If you like to snack your dog or are working in obedience and using treats, remember to consider those items as part of your dog's meals.
Adding additional exercise, is especially important. Walking is great exercise for dogs and humans alike, but your dog also needs to run to get really good exercise. If you have a fenced yard, games like retrieving a ball or playing hide and seek with you are great fun and good exercise. You can also hide an item in the yard for your dog to find if your dog does a sit stay and knows the command find it! They are easy to teach!
Leaving food down at all times and allowing your dog to eat by "free choice" is a poor method of feeding your dog for a number of reasons:
1. A good relationship with your dog is one where YOU are the provider of all things good and
fun! It is actually a bit of a very subtle dominance exercise that YOU are the provider of your
dog's food. We have clients who come for training that have a horrible relationship with their
dog to the point that the dog is totally in the captain's chair in the relationship, not even needing
the owner to obtain food. Dogs who have been fed in this method are often initially difficult to work with in obedience because they seem to resent the concept that they are required to do anything
to earn food. It is always present at home so they feel entitled to getting it for absolutely nothing
on their part! YOU reinforce the idea that YOU are in charge when you provide scheduled meals
day to day.
2. Another reason that feeding "free Choice" is a bad idea is that a change in appetite can be an
indicator of a health problem. Some people who feed free choice, ( especially in multi dog homes)
have absolutely no idea of what the dog is eating each day . A change in appetite might take
longer than it should to notice if the dog is being fed this way. You might notice when you see the
dog has lost weight, but if you are feeding scheduled meals, you will know the first time your dog
does not eat properly.