Chapter 3: The Food Factor
It’s possible to exercise your dog a heck of a lot every single day and still have an overweight dog. Sure the dog’s behaviour might be better, but his or her waistline will remain…well, non-existent.
The behaviour improvement, while a good start, is useless if the dog is unhealthy because he or she is overweight or obese. Yes, we’re looking for better behaviour, but we also want a healthy dog.
So it’s not just about exercise, it’s also about food intake: the right amount of exercise must be coupled with the right amount of food.
I knew a woman who would walk her Jack Russell for four (yes, four!) hours each and every day. But her dog looked like a little barrel on legs! In other words, lots of exercise will not keep a dog trim if he or she is eating more calories than expended.
The Perfect Client
In almost two decades in the fitness industry, the biggest problem I continually see people face is with motivation - or lack thereof. What I love about dogs is that they’re up for action twenty-four hours a day and it’s rarely a problem motivating them to move.
However, if your ‘client’ is overweight or obese it can be a whole different story. Your dog’s heart might be in it, but his or her body will lack the stamina. Losing weight will change this so that your dog has both the desire and the ability to be active.
Prove Your Love
Some say that they overfeed their dog because they love their dog so much and "can’t resist that little face". I say that if you love your dog, you shouldn’t be trying to kill your dog through making him or her overweight.
Overfeeding a dog to an early death is not love: love is keeping your dog the correct size through a nourishing diet and ample exercise.
Don’t Just Go By Kilos To Determine If Your Dog’s The Right Weight
Sounds like a contradiction, right? Not really: a person who’s sixty kilos of mostly fat will look very different (and be at a very different place health-wise) than a person who’s sixty kilos of mostly muscle.
So a forty-year-old guy with a giant beer gut saying: “I weigh the same as I did when I was 20” might be telling the truth, but the difference is that when he was 20 he was doing a lot of sport and therefore had a lot of muscle mass (muscle weighs a lot more than fat).
And it’s the same for dogs. A good indicator of your dog being a healthy size is being able to easily feel the dog’s ribs through a thin layer of fat without having to dig deep to find them. If you’re unsure, ask your vet for an honest opinion of your dog’s weight.
A Brief Guide To Food And You
Keeping your dog trim and healthy increases the chances of him or her living a long and healthy life. Same goes for you. But, like I said, exercise is not the only consideration: food features in the equation too. Your vet is the one to consult about your dog’s nutritional and caloric needs, but the following is a quick (and very basic) list to boost your progress on the food front:
SAY NO TO PUPPY MILLS! SAY NO TO ANIMALS IN PETSHOPS! SAY NO TO BREEDERS!
Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance
It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.
Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.
Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.
Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.
Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.
If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.
All information and photos are copyright © Despina Rosales.