Fat Dogs --
Or What to Do When Your Dog Turns Into a Little Football 

Hugo here has gotten a bit pudgy.

Does your small dog resemble a miniature football? You might think this is cute but fat dogs can be a big problem. It’s much more than aesthetics—overweight dogs have a reduced quality of life and a shortened life span. Our buddies are with us for so little time as it is – shouldn’t we do everything to help them stay with us as long as possible?


It’s so easy to put the pounds onto a small dog, a few snacks here and there can add up and that svelt little one becomes a miniature bowling ball.


Preventative measures are of course best. How to start so that your puppy stays thin all his life?


First of all, never feed your dog at table.


When I say never I mean never. My Shiela lets me know every time I get home from a trip if George has been feeding her at table.


We’re sitting and talking, and he’s got a forkful of roast half way to his mouth.


“BARK!!!!!!!” says Shiela. She’s glaring at him.


“Busted,” I say.


It only takes a couple of times for a dog to consider it their god-given right to eat scraps from the table. Scraps are never as nutritious as a well balanced quality dog food. And furthermore, table scraps spoil your dog’s appetite for the good stuff.


But if you must give your dog a bit of this or that, put it in their own food bowl.


Do you really want to be interrupted and barked at during dinner?


Next, never give your dog commercial treats.


I’m not talking here about the various chews to help keep teeth clean, rawhide chews or raw bones. That is a separate post.


I’m talking about those weird processed kind of “not really” bacon strips. Or those chocopup drops whatever you call them. Or the too rich (and expensive) biscuits. Save your money. They not only waste your cash, they are too rich and spoil your dog’s appetite and you will end up with a fat dog.


Instead, either make your own healthy treats – or feed raw vegetables. My dogs (even the highly spoiled Shiela) love raw broccoli. And raw carrots, cauliflower, lettuce ribs, basically any raw veggie that has a nice crunch to it. They even like raw potato!

Raw veggies allow you to reward your small dog without spoiling her appetite.


Finally make sure your dog gets enough exercise.


Small dogs can definitely be more decorative than their big cousins. But though a Yorkshire Terrier doesn’t need to be run every day like a Doberman, a Yorkie does much better, is healthier and longer lived if he has vigorous exercise every single day. So do all small dogs.


How do you train a small dog to enjoy his walkies? Aha. Check out my Walking on Leash for Dummies.


Min Pin Classie demonstrates how to walk beautifully on a leash. Except she doesn't just walk -- she struts!

Ok, but my small dog is already a  fat dog – what do I do now?


Notice those beautiful brown eyes that bore into your very soul? The ones that demand that yearn, that plead?  The first thing to learn when you put your dog on a diet has to do with those eyes.


You have to learn how to ignore them.


Steel your heart, think of green pastures. Think of the long life your buddy will have when he no longer is a fat dog. Then when he begs at table, in the kitchen or by the TV sofa, pay no attention. It’ll be hard at first, then easier as he learns that his deep and yeaning eyes won’t get him what he wants.


Then – what do I feed him?


As mentioned above, dogs have an advantage over us. They can’t raid the fridge at midnight. So you might think that if you just feed your dog less, he won't stay a fat dog, right? Well, yes….


But I swear I think dogs can count. I’m sure at least that overweight dogs can count kibble. So you can definitely make your life easier by making your dog think he is getting his normal amount of chow. There are a couple of ways you can do this.


  1. Feed him doggy diet food. But just like people diet food, when I give this to my dogs, I swear they look up at me as if to say – This stuff tastes like cardboard! (It’s also usually more expensive than regular dog food.)
  2. Feed him ½ to ¾ of his regular kibble, and then make up the difference with air popped popcorn.
  3. My favorite remedy; feed him ½ to ¾ of his regular kibble, and then make up the difference with canned green beans.

Silkys Bucky and I Do will play tug of war by the hour. If you don't have a "Bucky", you can do the tugging yourself.

Is there anything else I should be doing?


Yes, see above about exercising your buddy. Additionally, if he likes toys, make sure to have him tug or chase for them. Teach your friend a couple of tricks. This will not only raise his cuteness factor to impossibly high levels, it will be yet another bonding event for the two of you. How to? Check out Useful Dog Tricks.

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