* Take an objective look at the food you are feeding your dog. Many commercial foods lack sufficient nutritious ingredients in addition to lacking freshness. As a result, the dog continually craves more food and is more prone to health problems. It may be time to upgrade to a super premium food or to a home-made diet, or something in-between, such as supplementing a super premium dry food with whole foods such as fresh vegetables and yogurt.
* You can help an overweight dog lose weight by cutting back on the regular dog food and adding vegetables. The vitamins and extra roughage will help. Suggestions about healthy foods appear later in this article. As for healthful dog foods, read articles on the internet, such as those listed at the end of this tipsheet.
* If you stick with the same food, reduce the amount by 25 percent. You should see results in two weeks. If he hasn’t slimmed down, cut back his food a little bit more, but do not make drastic reductions. Gradual weight loss is preferred; for many breeds, one pound a week is plenty. If you don’t see results in a month, consult your vet — and reconsider the type of food you’re using.
* You should not try to eliminate all fat from a dog’s diet. Just reduce the amount of fat intake. Remember, some fats are better than others. For example, flaxseed oil, fish oil and other foods that contain omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are beneficial and essential for humans and canines alike. The same cannot be said for things such as animal fat and the trans fat prevalent in cookies, chips and certain dog treats.
* Feed your dog at least twice a day. You can try an approach that works for many humans: break up daily food allotment into 5 or 6 small meals.
* Always have your dogs earn their treats and food, and have them sit before you set down the food bowl. Details about this practice appear below in the “Feeding Tips and Tricks” section.
* Is the dog overly excited or impatient about getting fed? As you prepare the meal, ignore whining, pawing, barking and jumping. Then push the bowl to the back of the counter, and sit down and read for 15 minutes. By ignoring the dog, you give her a chance to calm down and to learn that her demanding behaviors will no longer be rewarded. When she finally settles down, give the sit command, then calmly put down the bowl for her. By practicing this tip, you’ll get more respect from your dog and help her eliminate undesirable begging behavior.
* If your dog eats too fast, make him slow down. Even if your dog does not eat too fast, the following techniques can add variety to the dieting dog’s dining. Smear the food all over the inside of the bowl so it takes more time for the dog to lick up the food. Or instead of using a bowl, pack the food into open-ended rubber Kong-type toys. (These versatile toys are available at most pet supply stores and online.)
You can add the kibble dry, or soften the food a bit by adding water or juice from any vegetables mentioned later in this tipsheet before stuffing the food inside the Kong. You can even freeze the Kong overnight. You can augment the stuffing with healthy supplements such as no-fat cottage cheese, no-fat plain yogurt, fruit bits or veggies. Another idea: two or three spoonfuls of canned pumpkin makes a tasty, filling and healthy mix-in.
To make mealtimes more fun for your dog, you can place his meal in several Kongs and hide them throughout the house, prompting him to seek out his food. Naturally, you need to help the dog learn where to find the Kongs. Buster Cubes also work if you are using dry food; they require the dog to do more thinking to get the food to release.
* Prepare and have handy at all times healthy treats and high fiber snacks to substitute for biscuits, which usually have lots of calories. Easy treats for dieting dogs include:
Rice cakes (the plain variety is best)
Baby carrots or carrot chips
Frozen green beans (lower-calorie than carrots, and when frozen, there’s added chewing satisfaction)
* By the way, you can also use kibble as a treat…useful especially if your pet is on a special, restricted diet.
* Garlic aids the digestive system and can help support weight loss. Depending on the pet’s size, crush from one-half to two cloves a day into their food. By cloves, we mean the small chambers, not an entire garlic bulb.
* Do not give into begging and stop feeding the dog table scraps. Even slim dogs should not be fed fatty foods, poultry skin, hot dogs, bacon, pizza and the like.
* If you have more than one pet, be watchful. Your dieting dog may try to steal food from other bowls.
* Keep your food away from counter and table edges. Put garbage cans totally out of the pet’s reach. Remember, your dieting dog will be hungrier than usual.
* Feed your dog less if you are expecting visitors in order to compensate for the treats your guests will feed him. Tell your guests your dog needs to stick to his diet.
* Treats do not have to be edible. Instead, use playing and walks as treats and as rewards for good behavior. Increase the amount of attention you give the dog that does not involve food treats.
* Spaying and neutering do not make pets fat. Weight gain and lack of muscle tone come from overeating and from insufficient exercise.
* Weight gain can signal a medical problem. If this is a possibility, see your veterinarian.
* Give the dog more exercise, indoors and outside. If your chubby pet is not used to exercising, start out slowly with short walks and light ball-fetching sessions, then increase the exertion level over time. Avoid over-exerting elderly dogs or those of delicate health. Healthy dogs can advance to sports such as agility and flyball, which can improve their owners’ fitness at the same time.
* Remember, playtime and walks can be used as rewards, substituting for food treats.
* Some breeds such as beagles, border collies and golden retrievers are prone to weight gain, partly because as housepets, they do not get to engage in the intense outdoor activities for which they were originally bred (hunting, herding sheep). Plus they are skilled at using their doleful eyes to charm food out of their owners.