Losing weight can be challenging for overweight dogs, but the health benefits are well worth it. At a healthy weight, your dog will be more resistant to disease, feel better, and live longer. No one get’s excited about cutting calories, (especially when you’re a hungry dog) but we have a few tricks to make dieting simple, effective and a little fun.
Set a Goal and Start Counting Calories
Determine both your dog’s current weight and his ideal weight. Talk to your vet about what your dog’s weight should be or bring your dog into The Happy Beast and we can make a suggestion. The easiest way to determine the calories in your animal’s current and ideal diet is…. to let us do it for you! Once you have a target weight, we can factor in age, breed, and activity level to help determine how many calories your dog needs. As a general guideline, look at the feeding suggestion on your dog’s food to find your dog’s IDEAL weight and feed 75% of that amount. For example. If your dog’s goal weight is 30 lbs and the label of his dog food recommends 1 cup of food, feed him only ¾ cup.
Treats are OK!
Cutting out treats is a foolproof way to reduce calories, but it’s definitely not necessary for success. In fact, a couple of treats during the day may help your dog feel more satisfied. Just make sure to factor treats into your dog’s daily calorie “budget.” Look for treats with the calories printed on the label. Fruitables’ Crunchy Treats and Boulder Dog Food Co.’s Bison Cubes have just 8 calories per treat. Decide how many treats you want to give your dog each day, and subtract the calorie-equivalent from his normal meals.
Chewing on bones and tendons also provides important dental care. If chewing is part of your dog’s routine, choose lower-calorie options and feed your dog less on days he gets a treat. Marrow bones and bully sticks have enough calories to replace a whole meal for a medium size dog. A tendon or cow cheek would replace fewer calories.
When I’m Bored… I Eat
Make dinnertime a game! Dogs have a natural instinct to forage for their food. Instead of feeding your dog out of a bowl, make him work for it! Fill a puzzle toy like the PetSafe’s Magic Mushroom with a serving of kibble and let him knock it around until the food falls out. If you’re feeding canned or raw food, stuff it into a Kong or spread it out on a large, flat plate. All of these will force your dog to slow down meal time and enjoy smaller bites (instead of gulping down everything at once) leaving him more satisfied. Feeding this way also provides mental stimulation and reduces boredom.
Add Fresher Foods
Besides their basic nutritional benefits, fresher foods help your dog feel more satiated. Kibble is typically very calorie-dense so it doesn’t take up much space in the stomach and can leave your dog feeling hungry. Because of their high moisture content, dehydrated, canned, and raw foods can help your dog feel full. Replace some or all of your dog’s kibble with a fresher food. Try Steve’s, Primal and SmallBatch frozen raw, Grandma Lucy’s, Sojo’s or The Honest Kitchen dehydrated.
Exercise doesn’t need to be a lofty goal. Thirty minutes a day is a good starting point, especially if your dog isn’t very active. Divide that time up into a few ten-minute walks or five-minute games of fetch.
Ready to start your dog on a healthy weight program? Stop by The Happy Beast and we’ll lay out an easy-to-follow plan for you and your dog!
I used to hate taking Pi for walks. She pulled. She growled at strangers. She went crazy every time she saw a rabbit. But now we walk happily all over town. 15-minute walks easily turn into two-hour long adventures. We have discovered beautiful open spaces, interesting old houses and smelly things for Pi to roll in. Pi is a calmer, happier dog and I’m a cheerier, more relaxed person when we make a point to walk every day!
Turns out, there’s science behind this. Dogs and wolves come from a common ancestor – one that foraged for food, covering miles of territory every day. Today, our canine companions don’t have to go searching for food (that’s what they have us for!)- but walks help satisfy other basic needs. Sniffing out other animal smells and encountering new things in their environment provide great brain stimulation. Even a ten-minute walk can help mentally-exercise your dog! (Just like ten minutes of doing tough math or word problems can help exercise our brains.)
Walking is good for us too. A study done at the California State University- Long Beach, showed that walking benefits humans in more ways than just the physical exercise. The study followed 37 subjects over a 20-day period. Professor Robert Thayer, leader of the study noted, “We found that there was a clear and strong relationship between the number of steps [participants] took and their overall mood and energy level,” (If you want to read more about that study, click here: http://www.csulb.edu/misc/inside/archives/vol_58_no_4/1.htm)
It took some time, patience, and a lot of training treats to get Pi to walk nicely on a leash, but the effort was totally worth it! I recommend using a training tool so you have a little more control over your dog if they get distracted. I used a Easy Walk Harness and a Halti head collar when I was training Pi to walk nicely. I still pull them out when we go to a new trail or exciting environment where she might “forget” her leash manners.
Walking Pi in the morning also allows me time to gather my thoughts before starting my workday, and walking her in the evenings helps me to unwind and review the day. Pi’s always happy to get out and see who’s peed on each fire hydrant since she smelled it last. If walking isn’t part of your routine yet, take your dog for a 5-10 minute walk around your block. I’m willing to bet you’ll both have some fun. If you and your dog are already getting out for regular walks, we want to hear about that too! Tell us where your favorite route is!
Here are four ways for us to change an animal’s life for the better this year (Which will ultimately make our lives better too!)
The motivation behind Change a Pet’s Life Day is to help animals in shelters and rescue groups find their forever homes. PetFinder.com is an awesome site that lets you search for animals by breed, size and age or you can browse through all the dogs and cats in your area. You can find puppies and kittens or older animals who already have some training. Providing a great home for an animal in need is the ultimate way to change their life!
If you’re not ready to commit to keeping an animal for the rest of his life, consider fostering! Most rescue groups are based solely in fosters homes and many shelters rely on fosters for animals who are stressed by the shelter situation. Dogs in foster homes tend to find their forever family faster than ones in shelters because they’re out and about meeting friends and neighbors! (Be warned: many foster families “fail” the process and end up adopting their foster pup! It’s a happy accident!)
We’ve made a friend at The Happy Beast who volunteers for the Colorado Rabbit House Society in Broomfield- a rescue devoted entirely to bunnies! She told me they are always looking for volunteers to feed the rabbits, clean the cages and to take care of daily chores. How fun would it be to spend an afternoon with a whole bunch of rabbits??
Check out volunteermatch.org to find opportunities to volunteer with animals in your area. We can put you in touch with our favorite rescue groups too!
Exercise & Train
Behavioral problems are the most common reasons given when people drop their animals off at a shelter. While most of us can’t imagine giving up our pets, providing them with a balanced and active home can make sure we’re never faced with that dilemma! Make sure your pets get plenty of mental and physical exercise. Play with your cats and give them a variety of toys. Walk your dog, take him on hikes and teach him new tricks.
Alright, now get out there and change some lives!
Sticking to resolutions can be hard, but everything’s easier with a buddy. This year, let’s make New Year’s resolutions for you and your dog! Here are three easy ideas for you and your pup to do together.
You don’t have to join a gym or start training for a marathon. To get started, take your dog for a walk around the block. Getting out for a ten minute walk promotes healthy blood flow, allows you to soak up Vitamin D from the sun and helps boost your mood, altogether protecting his you from stress and disease. Your dog will benefit from the mental stimulation provided by the ever-changing smells in the environment and the relationship-building power of leashed walking. (Read more here!)
- Eat Fresh Food
YOU: Grab a salad for lunch or replace your afternoon sugar snack with an apple.YOUR DOG: Add a little life to your dog’s food! Dogs fed mostly kibble miss out on all the awesome nutrients and enzymes found in fresh foods. Adding a dehydrated food like Sojos or The Honest Kitchen is an easy way to provide the benefits of home cooking without having to do all the work.
- Take a Fish Oil Supplement
Omega 3s reduce inflammation, joint pain and promote healthy skin, fur and hair! This one’s easy. Keep your dog’s fish oil next to yours, and when you take two, he takes one (or two if he’s a big guy.) I’ve been giving my dog the awesome Omega 3 supplement from InClover called Glow. She LOVES these little treats, and reminds me to give her one every day.
Happy New Year’s to all you happy beasts and good luck with those resolutions!
545 W. South Boulder Rd.
Lafayette, CO 80026
Northeast corner of Hwy 287 and W. South Boulder Rd. in Waneka Marketplace shopping plaza, just a few doors down from Sprouts.