Have you ever seen a dog who looked like a well-fed tick? That all-body, tiny-head look might be de rigueur in the tick world, but it’s just not a good look on dogs. And it’s obviously not so great for their health.
For a while, Jake had two paws firmly planted in Plumpland. One day my yellow Lab was pretty svelte, the next (it seemed), he was more than portly. The vet confirmed it: Jake needed to lose 10 pounds.
The prescription was simple: A bit less food on a daily basis. He was already getting plenty of exercise, and we didn’t want to mess up his joints by doing more.
“It will be hard. He’ll be hungry all the time,” the vet warned me.
It wasn’t hard at all. At least not for me. I wasn’t the one whose tummy was rumbling, so it was easy to forego giving him those table scraps and take a bit off his daily food rations.
It took about six months, but Jake reached his fighting weight, and we’ve kept it off for two years. It’s far better for this 10-year-old fellow as he trots happily into his second decade.
We avoided having a chubby dog, but many families don’t. Depending on whose stats you believe, 20 percent to 50 percent of dogs are overweight or obese. Unlike Jake’s trim-down plan, many of these dogs could use at least a little more exercise. Many experts recommend a minimum of 30 minutes a day of activity to keep dogs happier and healthier in the long run.
Many owners are supplementing “walkies” in neighborhood parks and sidewalks with some rather untraditional forms of exercise. Classes such as dog yoga, puppy Pilates, canine interval training, and bow-wow boot camp are offered in more dog-friendly locales. And treadmill purchases seem to be on the rise.
“I got my dog’s treadmill for the terrible winter days we can have here in Ontario,” a Toronto resident named Dee wrote. “But I soon came to find it handy when it was raining or too hot or just too late to really go for a good walk with Andy.”
She says her Labrador mix seems to enjoy using the treadmill. It wasn’t always that way, though. “He was scared to death. I had to get on it and show him how it’s done, and then he took right to it. We don’t go fast. But he does get good exercise.”
Andy’s plump friend, whom Dee has asked not to identify by name, has been coming over to “borrow” the treadmill a couple of times a week to help him get more exercise, because his owner –- who lives in the same apartment building –- has mobility issues. “All it took was for him to see Andy on it, and he thinks it’s the coolest thing to do now.” So far he has dropped 5 of the 12 pounds he is supposed to, and he seems like a much happier dog, says Dee.
Popular as the classes and treadmills may be, Jake and I will stick with beach walks and park jaunts. After all, nothing substitutes the good, old-fashioned joys of just being a dog on a walk and taking in the world one sniff at a time. And besides, if Jake traded in some walks for a treadmill, I’d probably gain a few pounds in the tradeoff.
How about you? Would you get your dog a treadmill or go to doggy bootcamp to help him or her shed a few pounds and keep them off?