3 Ways to Help Your Obese Dog Lose Weight

We here at Darwin Dogs welcome guest blog posts.  Farah Al-Khojai of Pets Delight has written a wonderful article regarding your pet’s weight, and how to get it back under control.  We strongly encourage keeping your dog healthy and active, and encourage you to take your dog’s weight as seriously as any other health issue that may occur.  
Boot and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boot and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

Many of us love our dogs just as much (or maybe secretly more than) we love other humans. And it is easy to see how that is possible; after all, they are man’s best friend!

Given the depth of our love for our dogs, it would seem logical that we would all want to have them by our side for as long as possible. Yet, over the past decade, dogs around the world have been getting fatter and fatter.

Just like with the human obesity epidemic, dog obesity has serious health consequences for your furry friend. An overweight dog is more prone to diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, lung problems, high blood pressure, immune dysfunction, cancerous tumors, and respiratory diseases. Not to mention that it will also cost you, the owner, a lot of money and emotional turmoil.

Recent reports have shown that owners of overweight dogs tend to spend 17% more on healthcare costs and 25% more on medications than owners with a healthy weight dog. Over a four-year period, the dollar amount of this difference is around $2,026.

So, for the sake of the lifespan of your best friend and the thickness of your wallet, here are five ways to help your obese dog lose weight.

  1. Set Realistic Goals

In a lot of ways, helping your obese dog to lose weight works the same as assisting your overweight friend. The principle for both is the same — to lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than you burn. The slight difference is that you can’t have one-on-one conversations with your dog, so you are unable to know what is going on with them.

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Make an appointment with your local veterinarian to discuss your dog’s health. The veterinarian can help you figure out your dog’s ideal weight, as well as screen him or her for diabetes, Cushing’s Disease, and hypothyroidism — all of which can contribute to obesity.

From here, you can create a timeline of realistic goals. You don’t want to overwork your dog or overdo his or her changed diet; be patient with him or her, follow the plan, and the results will come.

  1. Calculate Calories & Measure Meals

The first step is to cut back on the amount of calories your dog is consuming each day. This shouldn’t be as difficult as it sounds because chances are he or she needs a lot less food than you think.

Use a measuring cup for precise portioning and consider changing to a grain-free, high-protein food as it will increase the nutritional value but not necessarily the caloric amount.

Orion gets some positive, this time a treat. Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

However, if you are giving your dog the right amount of high-quality dog food and they are still having weight issues, then you may be guilty of giving them one too many treats.

Don’t give your dog a treat unless they really deserve it, and even then, try to reward with fun, not food. Next time they are well-behaved, give them a round of fetch, a 5-minute belly-rub, or a fun toy.

  1. Get Those Legs Walking…Daily

Once you have the caloric part of the equation sorted out, it is time to work on the burning part, otherwise known as exercise.

Ensure that your dog has at least one daily walk, though one in the morning and another one in the evening would be more beneficial. In fact, 15 minutes of strenuous activity two times per day is a great place to start.

As your pet gets more used to these walks, start to provide extra exercise opportunities. That might mean upping the intensity and going for a jog or playing a game of fetch in the park for 20-30 minutes.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

If your dog has joint problems due to obesity or aging, swim therapy is an excellent option as it encourages movement but takes the pressure off of suffering joints.

On average, dogs that maintain an ideal body weight are likely to live almost two years longer than those who don’t. But there are no quick fixes for obesity. Instead, addressing it takes consistency and time.

Obviously, the more extreme the obesity, the more time and attention it will take to get your dog down to the ideal weight. Just like with humans, moderate, habitual changes have the most effect. So, concentrate on making lifestyle changes that harmonize exercise and a healthy diet in your dog’s daily routine.

AUTHOR BIO

Farah Al-Khojai is the Managing Partner of Pet’s Delight. A passionate entrepreneur, Farah holds a Bsc in Government from the London School of Economics. She is always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow the pet and equestrian retail and wholesale market in the UAE and beyond, and is proud to be at the helm of the first and the largest pet care provider in the market representing world-class brands including Origen, Applaws, Hunter, Savic, Flamingo, Ruffwear and Rogz.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog training in Cleveland, Ohio

Leash Walking Without The Drama

Freedom is not the absence of obligation or restraint, but the freedom of movement within healthy, chosen parameters.

Kristin Armstrong

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Last week I had a rather full schedule training, including a couple of dogs who were, for lack of a better term, “aggressive”.  And this is how my week ended.

image1-8I really wish I could say I got it doing something exciting. It didn’t happen while I was training dogs.  It happened while I was painting.

I’m officially middle aged.

Anyway, I’m supposed to rest it for at least a week, so as far as sprains go, it’s not too bad.  Now that brings to light a few questions, though:  how am I supposed to do this week’s training sessions, which includes one aggressive dog, as well as 3 super-hyper dogs, whom will undoubtedly need work on leash walking.

The answer is that if I can’t walk dogs with a mildly sprained wrist, then I can’t walk dogs.

The secret to working with dogs is to never make them feel restrained.  In other words, I shouldn’t need muscle to walk a dog.  If I am able to drive a car (which I am), then I am okay to walk a dog.

The biggest complaint I hear about people walking their dog is that the dog is pulling the whole time, causing the owner’s arms to become tired very quickly.  But let’s think about it  rationally:  the dog physically can not be pulling you unless you are pulling back.  In other words, you are pulling backwards just as much as they are pulling forward.  You are trying to muscle your way through the walk.  Even worse, the reason why your dog is pulling is because you’ve restrained them…no, not with the leash, but with the tension attached to the leash.  You’ve engaged their fight or flight response, causing them to pull forward, which in turn engaged your flight or fight response, causing you to automatically pull backwards.

Number5

But what if you didn’t fall into that vicious cycle?  What if you didn’t sink your feet into the ground, and pull back with all your force?  No, I’m not stating you should let your dog run amok while you follow meekly behind.  But rather than using brute force, have you tried answering your dog’s question instead?

Dogs ask a lot of question, all the time.   Answering your dog’s questions is called “Piloting” them.  Some questions you can ignore (“Is it okay if I scratch my ear now?” or “Mind if I take a nap?”).  Others you want to give a profound, hearty “yes” to, (“Should I potty outside?” or “Should I sit politely to get that treat?”).  But the most important ones sometimes require a “no”, such as, “Can I jump on your guest?”, or, in this case, “Can I lead our walk?”.  The answer must be “no“. So how do you “answer” your dog with a negative?

Easy.

Stand up as straight as you can, pretend your dog is a lot taller, and simply invade their personal space.  Keep your feel like a letter “V” so you don’t accidentally step on their paws.  The moment they are no longer “asking” the question, you are done.  So, for instance, if my Sparta were barking at something outside the window, I would simply stand up straight and get between her and the window she’s barking at, and back her off the window using strong, confident body language. I’m “claiming” the window, or, as we put it, answering her question, “Should I be worried about that dog outside?”.  The answer is “no”.

How can I tell when she’s accepted the answer?  She will stop barking for a moment, perhaps look at me, sit down, turn her head away, or even just walk away.  She is no longer actively engaged in the window, or what’s outside, therefore, I no longer have to answer her question.  I’m done.  No force involved.  I didn’t drag her away from the window, I merely crowded her out from it, using my body.

So how does this work on a walk?  Well, let’s start with the three most important steps:
1) Control yourself. No anger, no yelling. Good, confident body language. Fake it if you have to.

2) Control the situation.  Did you just walk out that door with the dog dragging you, and then continue walking? Control each and every moment.  If you lost control, that’s okay, just reboot to regain control.  Don’t just follow the momentum. Create calm.  It’s okay to stop and start over.

3) Answer questions as they come up, using the body language.

Okay, now you’re ready.

Go to the front door.  Put Fido’s leash on.  Now I want you to “claim” the door.  In other words, Fido’s first question is going to be, “Do you want me to lead you out the door?”  Your answer is “No”, so simply pivot on your foot that’s closest to your dog, and now you should be facing Fido, with your back to the door. You yourself should look like you are a door that just slammed in Fido’s face.  Using your body language, gently back him away from the door, using an occasional tug, tug, tug on the leash if necessary, but never holding him back physically. Now he’s calm?  Okay then, you’re ready to walk outside.

Take each step slowly.  If he tries to drag you down the front steps, stop, give a series of gentle tugs until he is close by you again.  His ears should never be past your knees – if they are, he’s leading you.  Simply answer his question; the moment his ears get past your leg, give a gentle tug on the leash, and/or pivot on your foot so you are now facing him, again, looking like you are a door that just closed on him.

3

 

When Fido backs up to where he belongs, and/or looks away, you’re good to “unslam” the door and move on.  No pulling, no yanking, and now restraining.  Merely answering questions.

At first, Fido is going to have a lot of questions that need answering, because let’s face it, he’s always lead you on the walks before.  Stick with it.  Answer his question each and every time he asks if he should lead.  The first 10 minutes are going to be very frustrating for you.  The next 10 minutes will be less so.  The final 10 minutes are going to be like a whole new, positive experience.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio