Maintaining a healthy weight for your dog is important for their overall health and well-being as it lowers the risk of certain health problems such as arthritis/joint pain, high blood pressure, breathing problems, back problems, diabetes and a variety of other diseases and could in fact shorten their lifespan. Another concern is that an overweight dog is at risk of problems arising should they require anaethesia for a medical condition. A rule of thumb to tell if your dog is overweight is by looking at them sideways and their waist/abdomen should be higher than their chest. If the stomach is hanging down it is a sure sign your dog is overweight. If you have a long haired dog you can feel if their stomach is hanging lower than their chest. Should you be concerned your best option is to consult your vet. Other than a medical issue the main cause of a dog being overweight is eating too much and not getting enough exercise.
There are a number of ways to keep your dog at a healthy weight:
Be consistent: Try to feed your dog at the same time, in the same place in the same bowl. This also applies if you have more than one dog as they like their own safe space to eat and should be fed at the same time to prevent any jealousy or squabbling over food. Some dogs are very protective of their food or may eat more slowly so you may have to separate them when feeding to prevent one getting more than the other.
Monitor their food intake: Keep track of how much food your dog is eating, and make sure you are following the recommended feeding guidelines for their age, breed and activity level. Avoid overfeeding, and don't give your dog table scraps or treats too often Make your own healthy treats or use some of their daily allowance of food as treats during the day.
Choose high-quality, nutritious food: Try and buy the highest quality food you can afford which contains all the necessary nutrients they need to maintain a healthy weight. Avoid low-quality, high-fat foods that can contribute to weight gain.
Consider portion control: If your dog is prone to overeating, consider using portion control methods such as feeding smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Divide the portions in such a way that they do not exceed their daily recommended intake or you can use puzzle feeders to slow down their eating.
Ignore begging: Most dogs, if given the chance, will beg. They are driven by smell and they will try and get a taste of what you are eating. Begging is a learned behaviour and they must be taught early that begging is not acceptable. The minute you give in to them and give them something you are eating the die is cast and they will continue to do it for the reward it gets them. To stop them begging or prevent begging from starting completely ignore them, don’t look at them, don’t speak to them or shoo them away. The best way to prevent begging is to feed them before you eat, put them somewhere else when you are eating or give them something of their own to play with to keep them occupied. As soon as they realise they will not be getting any scraps they will eventually lose interest. If they are used to getting scraps it will be more difficult for them and you to stop the behaviour but consistency is key. Remember they are not starving; you are feeding them what they need so you do not have to be taken in by those big soppy eyes.
Provide regular exercise: Regular exercise is important for maintaining a healthy weight in dogs. Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise every day, whether that's through walks, runs or playtime in the backyard.
Watch for signs of weight gain: Keep an eye on your dog's weight and watch for signs of weight gain such as a decrease in activity level or difficulty breathing. If you notice any of these signs, consult with your vet to develop a plan to help your dog lose weight.
Visit the vet regularly: Regular check-ups with your vet can help identify any weight-related issues early on and provide you with guidance on how to keep your dog at a healthy weight.
Remember, maintaining a healthy weight for your dog is a lifelong commitment. By providing nutritious food, regular exercise, and monitoring their weight and food intake, you can help your dog live a happy and healthy life.