The Old Trainer: More exercise, less food only way to get overweight dogs into shape

November 16, 2013 

D ear Old Trainer: I just moved into a condo and want to get a dog. I only have one bedroom and a small yard. I am not a runner, but I try to walk a mile every day. What size dog do you recommend for that situation?

– Susan, Berkeley

Dear Susan: Temperament and energy level are more important than size when you live in a condo or apartment, Susan. Some large dogs like Burmese mountain dogs are born couch potatoes and so relaxed they don’t need much space.

Still, I suggest a smaller breed. A Shih Tzu, King Charles spaniel, Papillon, silky terrier, pug, Yorkshire terrier or a mixed breed with any of those bloodlines. They are all calm, loving breeds that thrive on moderate exercise and require little space. Check with local rescue groups and shelters. They have all those breeds and others with the same traits. Visit the dogs and let one adopt you. The one that picks you will be the perfect companion.

Dear Old Trainer: My vet told me Burt, my 3-year-old Lab, is overweight and has to lose 15 to 20 pounds. I only feed him the amount recommended on the dog food bag, and I walk him a couple of times a week. Is there a fat farm for dogs? What kind of diet will work?

– Vaden, Glenwood Springs, Colo.

Dear Vaden: Forget fat farms and diets. Diet implies something temporary; Burt needs a permanent lifestyle change. Obesity damages the health of canines just as it does humans and there is only one way both species lose weight – eat less and exercise more. Burt has to burn more calories than he eats. Period.

First, ignore the instructions on the bag of dog food. Dog food companies are in the business of selling more food, not keeping dogs lean. The recommended amounts might work fine for a young working dog in optimum condition, but Burt does not fit that description.

Feed him once a day and give him one-half cup food for every 15 pounds he weighs. If you give him treats or table scraps, account for that in the one-half-cup rule. Make sure the food contains at least 25percent protein.

Exercise Burt every day. He needs the equivalent of running two miles a day. Use an expandable leash, not a short one. If two humans walk their dogs one mile, one with a short leash, one an expandable, the dog on the expandable leash gets five times the exercise.

It may be hard to find time to exercise Burt if you work long hours, but there are alternate ways to do it. Take him to the dog park and let the other dogs give him his workout. Throw a ball or a Frisbee for half an hour a day, rain or shine. If you have a hill nearby that’s even better. Throw the ball down the hill and let him run back up.

You will find those sessions with Burt are some of the most pleasant times of your life, so set a schedule today and stick to it. Burt will be in shape when you can feel his ribs but not see them.

Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained, and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to theoldtrainer@gmail.com.

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