Nikko, the original Superdog, is eleven. As he’s gotten older, he’s slowed down, lost muscle and gained weight. At training, he doesn’t move as well over the rubble pile. He also doesn’t engage in play as often with the other dogs, choosing to lay down instead of wrestle. Seeing this I, of course, wanted to fix it.
How could I tell Nikko was overweight?
When I looked at Nikko, I noticed two things. First, his waist had disappeared! He went from an hourglass to tube! Second, I could no longer feel his ribs when I ran my fingers across his sides.
When Nikko came to stay with me he weighed in at 66.9 pounds. Based on his size, I thought his ideal weight would be close to sixty pounds. But, just like with people, muscle weighs more than fat, so the scale would not be the only measure. I’d be happy when I could feel his ribs easily, and when he could move with more strength in his hind end.
If you’re unsure about the right weight for your dog, talk to your vet or check out this article.
Rules for Weight Loss:
- Measured amount of dry dog food left out for five minutes
- Little/no treats
- 30 minutes of exercise daily
- 5 minutes of strength training daily
Food: I cut it in half!
I cut Nikko’s food from 1 cup of dry food twice a day to ½ cup twice a day. I put the bowl down, gave him five minutes to eat, and if anything was left at the end of five minutes, it went back into the bin!
Whenever I felt sorry for Nikko, I reminded myself of the Purina Life Span Study. It showed dogs that are the right weight live about two years longer. Two more years with Nikko boy is worth the effort! 🙂
Treats: Very limited!
When I worked Nikko to build his strength, I used Zuke’s Mini Naturals as a reward because they’re only 3 1/2 calories per treat. Any treats I gave Nikko outside of his strength training exercises were also low calorie, like a chunk of banana or a slice of tomato. The first week Nikko wouldn’t touch either one! By the time he left, he would catch his chunk of banana in the air!
Nikko also didn’t get any chews, like Bully Sticks or Pig Ears, because they’re high calorie and cause all kinds of intestinal problems.
Coming to stay at my house was an adjustment for Nikko! Poor baby!
Exercise: I increased it!
I made it my goal to take Nikko out on the wash for at least thirty minutes per day. For the most part, he trotted along beside me on the flat trail. Once, he ventured down the rocks to the bottom of the wash for a dip in the water. He moved slowly, and got stuck a couple of times, but he did it. It made me happy because uphill and downhill is GREAT for strength building.
As the days passed, Nikko walked down to the water more often during on our walks. His increase in strength after only a couple of weeks astounded me. He was steadier on his feet and moved with more ease.
A word of caution: Whenever you increase your dog’s exercise, keep an eye on him, and carry a lot of water. If he wants to lay down, let him, and offer water, lots of water! Remember, if you force a dog to do too much he can suffer from heat exhaustion and die. Please increase exercise gradually!
In order to help Nikko move with more confidence across the rubble pile, I also spent five minutes per day building core strength with the “beg” pose. Improving core strength supports a dog’s back and spine, and prevents injuries.
It wasn’t easy. Nikko put me into a panic for a few days when about a week in he started skipping meals. I think it was because he was sore and exhausted. (He went to the vet for blood tests, and everything came back just fine.) By the end of week two he was down to 64.9 pounds, and Tim took him home with the promise that he would cut back on food and treats.
I watched Nikko for the weekend about six weeks later, and he was down to 60 pounds! He moved with more ease, and joined in for play with the other dogs. I could tell he felt better, and I loved the way he trotted down the rocks to take a dip in the water.
Putting your dog on a diet is not an easy thing! It’s a lifestyle change. But, remember, you’re doing this so he’ll live longer and feel better. As the weight drops, and his strength increases, it’s like turning the clock back on aging. You’ll get your joyful, energetic boy back. No more sitting to the side while the younger dogs play. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it!
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