Exercise with your dog

Fit not fat. You and your dog – TOP TIPS for the New Year

It’s that time of the year again, when many of us make New Year’s resolutions. What about our dogs though? If they could, many would probably want to lose weight and get fitter; just like ourselves. Did you know that 60% of dogs in this country are overweight or obese? We all know that being overweight causes health problems for us and the same is true for our dogs.

Remember: Dogs have a happier life if they are not overweight

So how do you know if your dog is overweight? There are many different types and breeds of dogs, and therefore it is impossible to say what each should weigh. Therefore, let’s forget about ideal weight for a moment and concentrate on:

Ideal shape

To tell if your dog is a healthy weight, we use a system called Body Condition Scoring. Regardless of breed or type, all dogs should be the same basic shape. Your dog should not be bony, but you should be able to feel his ribs and he should have a distinct waistline.

Once you have looked at the pictures and read the information, look at your own dog from the top and from the side. Give your dog a grade from 1-9 (Be honest!)

If you would rather pop into one of our veterinary practices, our vets and nurses will be very happy to assess the Body Condition Score of your dog.

When your dog’s food (energy) intake is more than the energy he needs for his life stage and lifestyle, then the excess is stored as fat. As he becomes more fat, he is often more reluctant to exercise and a vicious circle of over eating and inactivity results.

Don’t worry - this process can be reversed!

Increase exercise

What better way to get fit, have fun and keep fit yourself than to have a buddy to do it with – your dog! If your dog has a Body Condition Score of more than 5 then he is overweight. However, unless your dog is particularly thin, most dogs would benefit from more activity in their lives. There is a variety of ways in which you can achieve this, and you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic.

Here are few tips to help you keep your resolution:

  • Even if you only have 10 minutes to spare, take your dog out! He will enjoy the smells and sounds, especially if you vary the route. He won’t resent you for not having more time.
  • Build exercise up gradually if your dog is not very fit. You can go 5 minutes in one direction and then back again. Gradually increase the distance you go each time.
  • Start to include going up hills as long as your dog can manage them and doesn’t suffer from arthritis. Hills use up more energy than walking on the flat.
  • Many dog walking areas will have regular visitors and if your dog enjoys socialising with other dogs, walking with like-minded and supportive people is good for owner and pet alike.
  • For those who have young and very active dogs, then mental stimulation can be more important than weight loss. Try out an agility class or join in on an organised dog walk in your local area.
  • Older dogs or those with mobility problems still need to get out and about for their mental well-being, just be sensible and take it easy.

Exercise alone will not work

Don’t blame lack of exercise for your dog being overweight. Most dogs are overweight because they are given too much food. We all need to think differently about the way we feed dogs. Our pet dogs' wild ancestors had to work for each meal they got. Introducing activity related feeding is one of the ways we can help our dogs lose weight and have fun at the same time!

  • Always weigh out the food on digital scales, rather than using a cup measure.
  • Ask your vet about special lower calorie diets. These really work!
  • Throw away the feeding bowl and use interactive dispensers (balls or mazes etc) these are a much more fun way to feed your dog and will use calories doing it!
  • Throw and fetch games. If your dog will retrieve, then a portion of the daily kibble allowance can be used for rewards. Don’t give extra treats though.
  • Chewing uses up calories and is enjoyable but be careful as chews often contain a lot of calories so decrease the total daily amount of other food accordingly.

Good luck with your New Year resolutions, and if you would like more help and advice to get going, then just pop in and make an appointment with your local Healthy Pet Club practices’ friendly team of vets and nurses.