Weight & Health

For many similar reasons to humans, dogs are healthiest when they are slim and trim. Extra weight on a young puppy puts stress on growing ligaments and joints. Rolly polly puppies are cute - but may grow into unsound adults from carrying too much weight as they grew. Overweight on an adult dog puts extra stress on joints and internal organs that lead to uncomfortable elder years, a shortened lifespan, or both.

Judging Your Dog's Weight

Don't go by looks alone. We become accustomed to seeing our dogs looking as they do, so overweight looks normal. We need an honest, objective assessment of a dog's condition or weight.

How can you judge if your dog is at his optimum weight? Use your fingers combined with an objective visual assessment. Start by gently pressing your fingertips along your dog's rib cage. If you easily and clearly feel the delineation of his ribs, he's a good weight. If you have to press hard to feel the definition of ribs, he's overweight. If there's no covering over the ribs, making them feel like a washboard, he's underweight.

Next look down on your dog's silhouette from above to judge his waist - the area behind his ribcage and in front of his hips. Your dog's waist should be narrower than his hips and ribs, without a roll of fat (one sign of obesity). When looking at your dog from the side, you want to see a definite tuck up under your dog's belly - his chest being deeper than his stomach.


Dogs gain and lose weight the same as we do - through overeating, under exercising, or because of health issues. Dogs don't sit down with a spoon and a pint of Chunky Monkey ice cream. Or microwave a big bowl of popcorn to eat in front of the TV. In fact, if it were up to your dog, he'd rather be trotting around the block or playing ball than watching TV anyway. He'd rather be burning calories than putting on poundage. While humans may try to blame our own weight issues on MacDonalds or Dunkin' Donuts, the only ones to blame for our dogs being fat is . . . us!

A dog's life is short enough. To deprive ourselves of a year, a month, or even a day of our dogs' lives through overweight - how tragic for both of us.

Reducing your dog's weight

Since dogs don't feed themselves, the culprit to look to for a dog's weight issues is a well-intentioned owner. Recently a client told me that she loves how her Standard Poodle looks when she picks him up from boarding because we focus on keeping dogs at (or getting them to) their healthiest weight. She said that for a few weeks after he's boarded she can see his waist. When I asked why she doesn't keep him that fit, she blamed her husband who shares his snacks with the dog. He feels as if he's depriving the dog of his pleasure in life if he doesn't give him treats.

Recognizing that many of us feel this way, and not wanting to deprive either the human nor the canine of the joy of breaking bread together, here are some ways to salve your conscience for the health of your dog.
  • Feed smaller portions. Your dog won't turn down a small treat to hold out for a giant one. He's just as happy with a half a biscuit as a whole one.
  • When using treats in training, cut them in half. Your dog will feel equally rewarded by a small treat as a large one.
  • Set aside some of your dog's dinner to use as treats. At the end of the day, your dog will have eaten his entire day's ration - but no extras to put on the poundage.
  • And instead of sharing the high fat ice cream you're eating, let your dog lick a bowl of low fat yogurt instead. Honest, he won't complain.
It's the companionship not the calories that make sharing snacks with your dog a special treat for both of you.

Exercise & Weight Reduction

Here are some ideas to help your dog lose weight and be in healthy physical condition:
  • Take a daily walk of at least 20 minutes with your dog on leash
  • Play retrieve or walk in a safe area where your dog can be off-leash
  • Enroll your dog in an interactive doggie daycare where she will play with other dogs
  • Take dog agility or another active dog sport
  • Enroll your dog in a weight-reduction program at a kennel, daycare or grooming spa. that offers this service
If you would like help reducing your dog's weight to get him into healthy condition, email or call us for information on our healthy dog program.