Have you heard the one about the sled dog who worried he was fat? His mom assured him he was just a little husky.
Recently it seems a lot of the dogs in my life- my older dog, my brother’s senior Chihuahua, and my friend’s young terrier mix- are getting a little, well, plush-sized. It’s not uncommon and it’s not hard to do: we want our dogs to be happy and we want to reward them for good behavior by using food for training. If you notice that your dog is packing a few extra pounds, now is the time to take a step back and make a new plan. We want healthy, well-behaved dogs- not dogs that are too fat and sluggish to do anything!
First, check your dog’s daily calorie intake. If you are using lots of food treats for training, especially if you are working on serious behavior issues, you will need to cut back on regular meals. Also consider feeding meals from work-to-eat toys like a Buster Cube or Kong Wobbler that will help a dog burn some energy while enjoying their breakfast or dinner. You might think about using your dog’s regular dry food and working basic obedience around meal times, teaching your dog his sits, downs and stays while he earns part of his meal.
Obese dogs need to be eased into new exercise routines. Increase your walking pace or distance on flat ground at first. Try to use swimming or playing fetch in safe bodies of water if at all possible as it is easier on joints and keeps the dog from overheating. As the dog slims down, you can incorporate stairs, obstacles and speed to your routines.
One of my favorite activities with dogs of all shapes and sizes is “barkour” or “dog parkour”. This is something that you can do anywhere that you normally walk your dog, or you can seek out more challenging environments. In New Orleans, I took my dogs to the lakefront and walked them up and down cement areas of the levees, around light posts, over and under benches, balanced on curbs and practiced weaving in and out of road safety posts. Now that we are in a more rural area in Maryland, we are utilizing fences, picnic tables, boulders and fallen trees. A quick Google search of “dog urban agility” will reveal a ton of ideas that should spark your creativity. These games on walks also help a dog’s overall focus, confidence and general behavior training.
Have fun with your dog! Getting up, out and around to keep Buster in shape will be good for both of you. Just make sure as always to check with your vet to rule out any serious health issues before you hit the trail.