We had the dogs to the vet yesterday and Lhotse’ lost four ounces. We were thrilled. That may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re dealing with a seventeen-pound dog, four ounces is great. It’s always been important to me to keep the dogs thin and therefore able to exercise. It’s about both keeping them active and watching their calories.
I like to use the treats that are one calorie each and then I like to break them in half and give them 1/2 calorie treats. When I train I always have a variety of treats with me and I pay attention to what I feed. If it’s a heavy treat day, or especially a heavy cheese day, their dinner reflects their intake during the day. If they didn’t have a very big exercise day, their dinner reflects that. On those days, you can take out a few tablespoons of food for a large dog or a few teaspoons for a small dog. If you keep track of your dog’s weight and how her ideal weight looks, you can make sure she doesn’t get bigger. If you notice she is gaining weight, you can respond right away, before it gets out of control.
“Winter weight” can happen to us all. I played many sports in the summer and then winter came, and for me I was a couch potato. The same can happen with our dogs in the north, midwest and northeast. We ease off the outdoor activities and slowly and steadily our little friends get bigger. If fetch isn’t happening outside, use fetch as a reinforcement instead of using a treat. Ask for a sit and send the ball down the stairs as her reward. Three birds with one stone here:
- dog performs cued act,
- dog gets reinforced with no calories, and
- the dog gets exercise by fetching ball.
It’s important to use ALL that is reinforcing to your dog and not just food. Anything that your dog loves can be used as reinforcement — a ball, a fetch, a toy of any kind, as long as your dog loves it. Life rewards can be as easy as a release to some place wonderful, a chase of a squirrel (as long as you don’t let him catch it) or a walk. And don’t forget praise. Often, dogs will do anything for a little lovin’ from their favorite human. A good belly rub can save three or four calories.
For a seventeen-pound dog, who isn’t overweight, four lost ounces becomes good maintenance. It not only means she’s lost a little, but it also means she hasn’t gained any. I’d say a good belly rub is in order here. If she gets her feet moving, who knows, she may just use up some calories.