Have you and your dog both put on some pounds while in quarantine at home? Because of the pandemic, most people have been cooped up for the last year and a half, and though some of us utilized our unexpected free time by getting in shape, many of us did not. In fact, many people gained weight during the pandemic, and it should thus come as no surprise that many pets did too!
For some, being home 24/7 with our dogs meant perhaps not getting them out for that morning or nightly walk they used to need when they were alone during day. In addition, just spending more time together can inadvertently lead to more doggie treats, while eating more meals at home can lead to more table scraps, all resulting in extra calories.
As life gets back to normal, if you and your dog have gained a few extra pounds, it’s time to make a plan to get in shape, and as anyone who has tried to lose weight knows, it can be a lot easier to achieve your goals when you have a workout partner. If you have a dog who needs daily exercise, then you have the perfect partner to motivate you, in fact they are even better than a human partner because they thrive on routine and consistency, which will help you stick to your plan!
Is My Dog Overweight?
According to a recent study, a whopping 56% of dogs in the US are overweight or obese. We all know when we are overweight, and we can all recognize a fat dog when we see one. But with some dogs, it can be a little harder to tell, possibly due to the breed, or even the amount of hair they have. So, although they may not appear overweight, it’s important to find out for sure, because even a few extra pounds can negatively impact your dog’s overall health.
Signs Your Dog Needs to Lose Weight:
- They lack of energy.
- They become winded quickly and pant after low to moderate activity.
- You are unable to see a defined waist.
- You can’t easily feel their ribs.
- They are exhibiting less mobility and showing signs of stiffness or joint pain from carrying the extra pounds.
Helping Your Dog Lose Weight Through Diet
Before beginning a new diet, consult your vet. They can advise you on the ideal weight for your dog, as well as healthy food options and portion sizes. It’s also important to note, certain diseases and illnesses can mimic symptoms of being overweight, something your vet will be able to assess.
Cut back on treats and consider offering healthier alternatives such as fruits and vegetables like apples, bananas, blueberries, watermelon, carrots, cucumbers, celery, and green beans just to name a few! Remember, there are certain fruits and vegetables that are NOT safe, like grapes which are toxic to dogs, so be sure what you are feeding them is safe by googling it and/or asking your vet.
Cut back on table scraps. That said, if you yourself have started eating healthier, then your “table scraps” should be healthy too! Consider adding these leftovers to your dog’s kibble instead of processed canned foods that often contain additives and other unhealthy ingredients.
If you have the time, you may want to do some home cookin’ for your dog! Lean meats and fish, along with vegetables, fruits, and healthy grains will boost nutrition while eliminating the fillers, preservatives, and empty calories found in most commercial pet foods. Plus, your dog will surely love it!
Check out these 20 healthy homemade dog food recipes
Exercising Together for Weight Loss
Just as with starting a new diet, prior to starting an exercise regime it’s recommended that you visit your vet for a basic health check-up.
Make an exercise plan. Set up a walking schedule, and if possible, try to go at the same time every day. The reason for this is, once your dog learns to expect daily walks at a certain time, it becomes a “routine” for them and they will help keep you on track on those days where you may not feel very motivated. Just the way dogs learn what time to expect to eat, (and will let you know if you are late), the same will be true of your walking time, and that little extra nudge can be just what you need to get you off the couch!
Start small with short walks that increase in length over time. You don’t want to overdo it which can result in an injury for either you or your dog, setting you both back.
Age, size, and existing health conditions are a few reasons why walking may not be suitable for some dogs. In these cases, consider a pet stroller! I have a friend who heads out every day with 3 dogs. One prefers the stroller for the entire walk, one walks for a bit, then goes in the stroller, and one loves to walk and has a lot of energy to burn so she is able to pick up the speed and get some serious exercise! A win-win for everyone!
More Activity Ideas for Dog and Owner Weight Loss
Obviously, walking is the easiest activity you can do together. It’s free and all you need is a pair of sneakers and a leash! But if you’re looking to step it up, or mix it up, consider these alternative physical activities that you and your dog can do together.
Jogging, running and hiking. If walking is becoming a little boring, or you want something a bit more challenging, step it up by jogging or running. And if you’re looking for a change of scenery, get out into nature and do some hiking! Just like walking, these are all simple ways to be active that cost nothing.
Swimming. If you have a pool, swimming is great exercise that many dogs enjoy, or hit a dog friendly beach, lake or pond.
Agility training. Look for a local facility that offers classes, or set up some agility equipment in your own back yard! Not only is it great physical exercise, it’s also great mental exercise for your dog.
Yoga. Yup, practicing yoga with your dog has become a thing, and it even has its own name, Doga! Many Yoga studios have begun offering Doga, but if you can’t find anything in your area, it is possible to find videos online that teach you how to do Doga at home.
Winter Activities. If you have a dog that is up for it, cross country skiing and snow shoeing are both excellent ways to get exercise in the winter.
Just as with people, losing weight for dogs boils down to two things; eat less and move more!
By committing to eating healthier and exercising, you and your dog will achieve your goals, and in addition to the health benefits, doing it together is an awesome way to strengthen the bond between you and your best friend!