You’ve realized your dog needs to lose weight – a huge first step. It’s tough for many of us to admit that our dogs are getting more than “fluffy.”
Now for the even tougher part: figuring out exactly how much weight your dog needs to lose, and how to create lifestyle changes that you and your dog will actually stick with.
Start by consulting your vet for their professional opinion on your dog’s current condition and what kind of changes will be best for your dog.
Then, follow these steps to create a doggy weight loss plan and put it into action.
Set A Weight Goal
If family and friends are starting to comment on your dog’s weight, chances are he’s been over his ideal weight for a long time.
We’re used to seeing dogs at “pet weight.” Dogs who live with families as companions are typically heavier than dogs who are kept at their optimal body condition for showing, sporting and work. That means you’ll need to aim to have a slightly “skinny” dog in order to reach your dog’s ideal condition.
A study of 48 Labrador Retrievers showed that dogs who eat 25% less lived longer and developed chronic health conditions later in life than their heavier counterparts.
You’ll need to set an ambitious weight goal to help your dog live a long, healthy life. That does not mean your dog will need to lose weight rapidly. Your dog can lose about 3-5% of their body weight per month, or 1% per week.
Manage Bad Eating Habits
Dogs tend to pack on the pounds for a number of reasons. Helping your dog lose weight can be as simple as breaking a few bad habits.
Close The Buffet
Very few dogs stay trim with free-feeding – that is, when their owners keep their food bowl topped off, as the dog grazes throughout the day. When given the opportunity, most dogs overeat. For an overweight dog, scheduled mealtimes are a must.
Get Family Members Onboard
In a family household, it can seem impossible to keep track of who is feeding and treating the dog. You may also have some family members who sneak table scraps and treats when you’re not looking. Encourage family members to bond with the dog without using food by volunteering to take the dog on more walks.
Measure Serving Sizes
If you “just eyeball it” when preparing your dog’s meals, your dog is not getting consistent servings of calories and nutrients each day. Get a dry measuring cup that holds the perfect serving size and store it near the dog’s food.
It’s difficult to find the right serving size for your dog. Many dry dog foods list suggested serving sizes on the bag based on your dog’s weight or breed, but these suggestions tend to be inflated. They also do not take into account your dog’s age or activity level.
You need to base your dog’s serving size on their caloric needs.
Use Dr. Karen Becker’s formula to calculate your dog’s daily calories.
Daily calories (canine) = Ideal Body Weight (kg) x 30 + 70
Then, you’ll need to find out how much food your dog can eat each day to reach their daily calorie count. Divide that serving into two meals each day, and you have a customized meal plan!
Serve Better Food
Dogs thrive on a high-protein diet. Some dog foods are made with fillers that pack on calories without fulfilling your dog’s nutritional needs, causing your dog to need a larger serving to feel nourished.
Serve your dog the highest quality food you can afford. A grain-free kibble is typically lower in calories and higher in protein. Dog Food Advisor is a good resource for learning about different brands.
You can also supplement your dog’s diet with fresh foods. Raw or cooked lean meats are a good choice. For a dog who’s always hungry, fresh produce such as green beans, carrots and apples can help them feel full without adding excess calories.
Get Your Dog’s Heart Rate Up
Leisurely walks are a great way to bond with your dog and allow them to take in new scents, but they won’t help your dog lose weight and build muscle.
Agility is a great way for dogs to get healthy while learning new skills. You can take your dog to local classes or even set up an agility course in your backyard.
Playing tug-o-war works out your dog’s entire body and builds confidence. Tether Tug can help your dog get their daily dose of tug without needing you to hold the other end of the rope.