Simple and Easy Conditioning Methods

posted July 15th, 2012 by
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by Jennie Lloyd

Photos by Sirius Photography

Is your dog slowly turning into one plump pup? Dr. Heather Owen, a friend­ly veterinarian at the Veterinary Well­ness Center, has several simple, easy ideas and methods for conditioning overweight dogs. Banish your pooch’s pouch with Owen’s great tips to get your dog back in fighting shape.



But first things first: How do you know if your pup is packing extra pounds? For us, our Body Mass Index (BMI) is a good indicator of where our weight and height intersect. For our dogs, a Body Condition Score (BCS) “tells us how overweight the pet is,” Owen says. A ranking “from one to nine, with one being way too thin and nine being se­verely overweight” will help you figure out how much your pet may have to lose. A score between six and nine is a healthy goal.


Another way to check if your pet is overweight is by giving him a close look from above. Is there a big bulge? If you can “feel [his or her] ribs without push­ing too hard and without being able to see them,” [he or she] is at a good weight, Owen says. If you want a more specific measuring stick, have your dog weighed twice a year at the vet and keep track of [his or her] weight history, Owen suggests.

So, Baxter is a little chubby. What now? Make sure your dog isn’t suffering from an­other ailment that’s contrib­uting to weight gain. “When a dog is gaining weight,” Owen says, “we say, ‘what’s going on?’ We find that dogs that are heavier have more arthritis. Sometimes a dog is overweight because [he or she isn’t] moving as much,” she says. “We recommend a good physical exam.”

The two big contributors to weight gain are thyroid prob­lems and arthritis. But if your pet gets a clean bill of health from the vet, let’s take a look at some fun and easy things you can do to get your dog’s weight back on track.



Owen warned pet owners not to be embarrassed about their dog’s weight. “Seventy percent or more of [dogs] are overweight,” she says.


Start a new physical train­ing schedule slowly. Increase your pet’s activity by 30 per­cent each week, Owen sug­gests. Over a 12-week period, your pet can go safely from couch paw-tato to 5K jogger. Emphasize building toward a healthier lifestyle. “Build up [his or her] stamina very slowly. It’s about the long haul and not the short term,” Owen says. Make sure your dog isn’t acting sore or getting really tired.


Dogs need to get a workout about three times a week “just like a person,” Owen says. So take your pick of fun physical activities and embark on a new adventure with your pup. “Just going for a walk around the block or going to a dog park,” Owen says, is a good idea.


Other fun ideas for a little exercise and bonding time with your dog in­clude hilly hikes, Frisbee or playing ball and fetch. But again, condition your dog slowly before jumping full-stop into any sport. “The slower you go, the more apt you’ll be to continue it,” Owen says. Before a marathon Frisbee-throwing session, try tossing a disc for just a few minutes three times a week at first.


In the heat of summer, don’t leave out water sports. “Dogs love water,” Owen says. “And swimming, especially in lakes where they can wade in and wade out.”

Before you dive into the pool with your pup, check the filter and make sure it can handle dog hair, Owen suggests.


If you’re planning on having fun on dry land this summer, make sure you keep your dog cool in other ways. It’s best to head outdoors in the early morning or at dusk; also make sure his or her paws aren’t burning on the as­phalt while you’re out on a summery jaunt.

“If asphalt is too hot for your hands, it’s too hot for your dog’s feet,” Owen says. She suggests cooling jackets or booties for your dog if you like to exer­cise in the summer sun.


For those who prefer staying cool in­doors, there are fun conditioning exer­cises using a fit ball or yoga and Pilates workouts just for dogs. You can order a balance ball peanut through the Veteri­nary Wellness Center or at various on­line retailers.


Not sure where to start? Check into the doggy boot camps available at the Center. These programs are for people who don’t have time or knowledge to work out their dogs. Owen says the Center’s programs are catered to each dog’s specific needs. A few months ago, a dog with 40 pounds to lose was brought in for weight loss classes. “She had bone and joint problems,” Owen explains, so regular exercise put too much impact on her joints. In­stead, staffers “put her in the water and walked her in an underwater treadmill twice a day with shorter workouts,” she says. The dog is down 10 pounds in just two months.


Whether you want to start swimming, walking or playing a little Frisbee with your dog, Owen says the bottom line is: “Start off really slow, so you’ll be able to do it for forever.”



Exercise and conditioning are only part of the journey to a healthier pup. You may also need to put your pet on a diet. Owen says decreasing your dog’s food intake by 10 percent is an easy change. Even if you’re strictly follow­ing the recommendations on the dog food labels, it’s important to note the serv­ing sizes are calculated for dogs that aren’t spayed and neutered.


Once a pet is no longer “intact,” she says, they’ll re­quire a 10 percent decrease in food. So, reduce his or her intake for one month and weigh your dog again to see if that helps. Of­ten, that added 10 percent turns into a puppy pooch over time.


For dogs that have more weight to lose, Owen rec­ommends feeding them sig­nificantly less or feed them diet food.


And consider the extracurricular eating your dog is doing. “Check their treats,” she says. “We’ll forget that treats have calories.”


Many dog owners don’t think much about throwing their dog a few crack­ers, a few bites of chicken, a couple of chips. But humans take in many more calories than our canine counterparts, so a little bit for us can mean a ton for our pets. For a 10-pound dog, a normal daily caloric intake is around 200 calo­ries per day. For us, that’s a tiny amount of food. Toss your dog a piece of pizza, and he may be chomping his entire dai­ly calorie requirement in one sitting.


Owen suggests offering your pup a cup of cooked green beans instead of nutritionally empty table scraps. A cup of green beans is only 10 calories and also gives your dog folium and other important vitamins.


If you still want to throw your dog a few tasty morsels, Owen recommends at least paring down the amount. “If you’ve got a Beggin’ Strips dog, take one strip and divide it into teeny-tiny pieces,” she says.


When it comes to conditioning your dog, the trick is to start slowly. Don’t make drastic changes that will leave your pup sore, fatigued or feel­ing deprived. One baby paw at a time, your dog will go from pooped-out pooch to well-con­ditioned canine.

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