5 Everyday Habits That Help Keep Your Dog Fit
We all know the secret to losing weight, right? Eat less & exercise more. But unfortunately it’s not always quite so simple, but when you break it down into smaller mini goals it’s much easier to manage.
Just like us many of our dogs are suffering from obesity. In the U.S. pet obesity has gotten to the point of being an epidemic with 50% of dogs & cats being overweight.
Obesity leads to many health concerns, and ultimately it can shorten your dogs lifespan.
If your dog needs to lose a few pounds here’s 5 habits that will help keep your dog fit.
1. Feed Less if Your Dog Needs to Lose Weight
I used to be by the book when it came to feeding Laika; but somewhere after her 1st birthday she started to get a little plump. Turns out just following the recommendations on the back of a food bag can lead to overfeeding. Since Laika isn’t a working dog she doesn’t need all those extra calories to keep her going all day.
Throughout a dogs life they’ll probably require different amounts of food. Laika certainly needed more food to keep her going when she was a growing pup, but since she’s turned 1 we’ve decreased her food to a point where her weight is now consistent. Overall she eats about 15% less than what a bag of dog food recommends – but it works for her -my non working suburban dog.
One study found that feeding your dog 25% less can lead to a longer lifespan, on average it extends a dog’s median lifespan by 1.8 years.
Be Careful When Reading Dog Food Labels
Each dog food has it’s own recommendations on proportion sizes based on your dog’s weight. But there’s a problem with vagueness; some bags say to feed between 1/2 – 1 cup per 20 pounds – and that’s a 50% difference per meal. And if you have a 80 pound dog that’s anywhere from 2 – 4 cups which is quite a large difference in meal size.
Consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about making a change to your dogs diet. They can help you come up with a plan that’s right for your dog.
2. Measure Out All Of Your Dogs Meals
“His eyes were bigger than his belly.” If you’ve ever heard that before you’re probably familiar with how easy it is for us to take more than we can handle. It’s easy to over estimate our measuring skills. And as humans something as simple as the color of our plating can influence the amount of food we eat.
Participants who had low contrast between their food and the plates they served themselves on served themselves 22% – or 32 grams ‘ more pasta than participants with high contrast between their food and the plate they served themselves on. – The Color of Your Plates Matter
When it comes to estimating food portions just eye balling it isn’t very accurate. An extra ounce a day might not seem like much, but over a year it comes out to 45 cups. Keep track of your dogs diet by measuring all of their meals with a measuring cup or scale.
3. Keep Yourself Motivated For Your Daily Dog Walk
The daily dog walk is more than just a way to get some exercise, it’s often the only chance your dog has each day to go out and explore. It’s such an important part of our dogs day, yet only 60% of us taking our dogs for a walk each day.
Here’s a few ways I keep myself motivated to walk with my dog everyday:
- Remind myself how much meaning the walk has for my dog (physically & mentally).
- Remember that the physical activity is great for the both of us.
- Use it as an opportunity to get in some training such as impulse control or loose leash walking.
- Make it exciting by exploring new trails.
- Invite a friend or family member to join us.
- Invest in some super comfortable shoes. (don’t underestimate the value of a good pair of sneakers)
4. Engage in Some Interactive Play With Your Dog
It would we great if we all lived right by the beach or had access to a full agility course for our dogs, but many of us don’t so we have to improvise a bit.
But luckily our dogs aren’t that picky when it comes to play. My dog loves it when I blow bubbles for her, and if it were up to her she’d happily do that for hours. It’s one of the easiest ways to get some exercise in for my dog, and there’s very little effort involved on my part.
And it’s not just bubbles, to keep my dog entertained & active we play a lot of indoor games. We do some nose work, play tug of war, hide the treats and use a variety of interactive treat dispensers and puzzle toys.
Don’t underestimate the importance of play. It reduces stress, creates a strong bond and gives your dog meaningful interaction. And best of all it’s a way to give your dog their daily exercise, even on those rainy days.
There is a growing acceptance among scientists that play is very, very important and the type and frequency of play are a really good indicator of a dog’s quality of life. – Mark Evans former RSPCA chief vet
5. Skip Out On All Those Dog Snacks & Treats
Confession time: I don’t have any dog treats in my cupboard. On occasion I’ll make some yummy peanut butter treats for Laika if we’re training or working on something new. And I am a big fan of stuffing Kongs with something tasty, but most days she doesn’t get any snacks at all.
Rather than buying treats from the store I use a lot of fruits & veggies as rewards when training. They’re great because they’re low in calories, and they’re something I’ve already got on hand.
I think of dog treats like I do desserts. They’re a nice bonus, but not something we need to have everyday. If your dog needs to lose a few pounds one of the easiest ways to cut calories is to skip out on all those extra snacks. Food does not equal love.
How Do You Keep Your Dog Fit?
How to you keep your dog fit? Do you walk your dog everyday? Do you measure out their food? Have you ever had to cut down on your dogs food portions?