Fat dogs can be pretty funny, especially when you see videos of them waddling around. But once the cuteness wears off, you’ll find that overweight dogs are at risk for serious health problems. Extra poundage strains all parts of your dog’s body, leaving him susceptible to diabetes, bone and joint damage, heart problems, liver malfunction, increased cancer risk, immune system issues, and a dull coat. So how to motivate an overweight dog and get him into the healthy routine?
Too much fat will cause breathing problems and heat intolerance in your dog. Canine obesity is just as large of an epidemic as human obesity. Dogs are being overfed and also fed unhealthy human food. They are being given poor quality food. On top of an unhealthy diet, they are getting less exercise. Humans are away from home now more than ever, leaving their dogs to entertain themselves indoors for a majority of the day.
Overweight dogs usually aren’t very motivated, not even to have fun. They tend to be lethargic and ambivalent about everything (except maybe treats). Their quality of life is affected. It’s up to you as his owner to get your overweight dog into tip-top shape. Because dogs can’t buy a membership and go to the gym or the grocery store for healthier food, making your dog fit is your responsibility.
READ ALSO: The Best Weight Loss Dog Food for Fat Dogs
How to Motivate an Overweight Dog
Much like humans, dogs slow down as they age. Just because they don't have as much energy as they used to doesn't mean they still don't need daily exercise. Your dog should be walking, whether around the yard or out on a leash with you, every single day. He needs that consistent exercise to stay in shape.
How Do I Know If My Dog Is Fat?
A trip to the vet can clear up that question, but it’s also easy to spot the indications at home. Stand above your dog and look down at him. Dogs should have a clear waistline that tapers off when it hits their leg sockets. If a dog is overweight, his hips and thighs won’t have a taper or a distinction. He'll be shaped like an egg.
RELATED: 10 Vet Recommended Dog Food Brands
There are other ways as well. If you can feel your dog’s ribs, he is probably not fat. (If you can SEE his ribs, he may be too skinny.) If your dog is gaining weight, you should be able to see a change in his behavior.
An overweight dog will be lethargic, demand food and treats more frequently, and have a very low tolerance for heat. He may also be irritable to the point that he’s reluctant to go outside, even to play with you. You may pay the price with increased “accidents” in the house.
You can also weigh your dog. Plop him on the scale. If he won’t stand still, weigh yourself and then pick him up (if possible!) to get your weight while holding him. Subtract your original weight from your combined weight to get his weight.
Weight is very important, so if you still can’t determine his weight, take him to your vet’s office and use their scales. Take that opportunity to talk to your vet about the ideal body mass index (BMI) and suggested weight for your dog's breed. Ask your vet about things you can do to lower your dog’s weight.
Okay, My Dog Is Fat. What Now?
You Will Need to Motivate an Overweight Dog
You have to get him motivated. Dogs aren’t like humans — they don’t have any intrinsic desire to slim down. They can’t watch an episode of Oprah and become motivated to do what it takes to get a new lease on life.
My family adopted a fat, round and chunky, seven-year-old dog, a Pomeranian aptly named Santa. However, our Santa was not jolly and cheerful. He was irritable and lethargic. His previous owner had been an elderly woman who was unable to convince him to go outside, much less play or exercise when he got there.
Learning how to motivate an overweight dog wasn't easy. We pulled out all the stops to encourage him to exercise. We were able to trick him into exercising with toys and behavioral tactics, and although he openly resented us at first, we kept at it. Eventually, Santa went from obese, to overweight, to chubby, to fit. His mood improved, and he lived for another seven years. (R.I.P., Santa.)
Deceive your dog into losing weight
Deceiving your dog into losing weight is actually not very difficult. Dogs are gullible. To get your dog up and on a daily 30-minute walk, which is recommended by veterinarians, you may have to use some trickery. There’s nothing most fat dogs love more than treats.
RELATED: The Best Dog Treats
But treats are probably part of what got him into this mess. Trick your dog by holding a low-fat treat in front of him as you walk him on a leash. As he waddles behind you, drop a treat on the ground in front of him every few minutes. Repeat this every day.
Play with your dog
Play with your dog too! Play is a great way to motivate an overweight dog. He will be more inclined to fetch if he knows you’re the one throwing the ball. If you have a swimming pool, you can take your dog swimming, but be sure to supervise him. Start out slow and gradually increase the difficulty and amount of exercise as he becomes able to tolerate more. Be extra watchful in the summertime when he could easily get overheated.
Overweight dogs also need toys that don’t bore them, and toys with different difficulty levels prevent boredom. Interactive toys will help keep your pet physically and mentally sharp. Some dog toys can be filled with healthy treats and locked in a way that requires your dog to play around with it and chase it to get it to pop open. This gets your dog to be active without him even realizing he's exercising.
Treat-filled toys are also great for keeping your dog interested. You can find many toys that can be filled with treats or human food. Be sure to select healthy treats that specifically formulated for weight control. You could try Fruitables Skinny Mini Dog Treats. They have only two calories per treat and they’re organic with no cholesterol or sodium.
Human food that dogs can have (in small amounts) includes apple slices, carrots, watermelon, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, pasta, brown rice, and cooked chicken, turkey, and lean ground beef. Of course, not all of these are easy to put in a toy, but be creative.
Commit to his fitness
Building your dog's physical fitness requires a commitment. Keep encouraging him, and be patient with him. As an owner, you’re responsible for your dog’s happiness and health. By working with him, you can solve his weight problem and make him a happier, healthier dog. It will take some time to learn how to motivate an overweight dog, but once you figure out what gets your Fido up and moving, it will be well worth the effort.
Remember that obesity, even for a short time, can lead to extensive health problems. If you want to improve your dog's quality of life and add to his longevity, exercise is the only way to help him. Once you get into an exercise routine, you may find yourself enjoying it as much as your dog does.