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How Do I Help My Dog Lose Weight?

It’s easy for them to gain pounds—and just a few makes a big difference—so if you’re asking “how do I help my dog lose weight?” we’ve got answers!

Whether the pounds have crept on because of those table tidbits you share or from taking more casual strolls than brisk walks, it’s pretty easy for dogs to gradually put on the pounds.

Before you know it, you can’t feel their ribs, or they’re struggling to climb stairs, or that adorable winter vest no longer snaps. The trouble is, a few pounds is typically a relatively large percentage of their total weight: if your 20-pound pup gains 5 pounds, that’s a big 20% gain!

It’s a good idea to have your veterinarian rule out any health condition. But if your dog is otherwise healthy, don’t disregard extra pounds. Canine obesity is associated with life-shortening health problems including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, arthritis and joint injuries, and even increased risk of cancers. Here’s a game plan for weight loss success:

1. Find out what your dog should weigh

While you can get a general idea by looking at weight ranges for your breed (or mix), you’ll quickly notice that they vary widely. Spaying or neutering cuts down on their energy requirements; and bone structure, height and muscle density need to be considered in order to come up with a good, healthy range for your furry friend. So, the best bet is to ask your vet for their recommendation—then you’ll know how much excess weight they need to drop.

2. Give them the right type and quantity of food

Once your vet has provided a target weight, your next task is adjusting their caloric intake. But you can’t just cut down on their food—this can deprive them of critical nutrition they need to stay healthy! Instead, choose a food that will provide all the nutrients they need, without the extra fat and calories they don’t. Weight control foods designed for dogs may be a good solution—look for one with high quality ingredients and few fillers.

Determining the amount to feed your dog is a little trickier. The quantity listed on the package is a general guide, but your dog’s needs may vary based on relative size, muscle mass, and activity. In practice, whether you ask your veterinarian, and/or start with what’s recommended on the package, check in on their weight in a few weeks and see how they’re doing. If you want to get very scientific, here’s a caloric needs guide.

TIP: Use a specific measuring cup, rather than guesstimating the amount of food you give. And if confusion about whether the dog’s been fed is leading to accidental extra meals, simplify updates: hang a sign near your dog’s food bin with “Yes” on one side and “No” on the other!

3. Increase the pace of their walks

Strolling along, sniffing every neighborhood scent is relaxing, but will do nothing to help your dog stay fit. You’ll need to take charge, exercise your dog, setting the pace for a heart-healthy cardio session. Just remember, the stride length (for most breeds), is far shorter than yours, so don’t go on a 60-minute hike or start by running a mile if they’ve been inactive!

4. Schedule more active play sessions

Burning calories and increasing stamina doesn’t need to be done in long sessions. Incorporating many short blocks of play—even just 5-10 minutes—will help increase their overall activity time, and make it easier for their bodies to adjust to the extra movement, too. Some favorites:

  • fetching a standard or wacky-bounce ball (or any other toy they like to chase);
  • tug-of-war, to boost their strength and stamina;
  • in very short intervals, have them jump to reach a toy—just be careful to limit repetitive motions, of any kind, so you minimize any risk of injuries or strains;
  • if you’re up for it, have them chase you around the house or backyard;
  • schedule regular play sessions with other dogs—either neighbors they get along with, or join a dog day care, training, or activity program (like the many options we offer on our 15-acre campus… come see us if you’re in New Hampshire!).


“But how do I help my dog lose weight when he/she begs so much?”


5. Change up their rewards

If your dog does a lot of begging, he or she probably has got stuck at a place many humans know all too well: confusing love for food. Start showing your dog love through actions: pet them, play a game or take walk. They’ll love your time and attention just as much as food!

If you do use treats as rewards, reduce the amount to a tiny bite. Also skip sharing meat or leftovers from your plate; switch to crunchy fruits and vegetables instead, like baby carrots or green beans, a piece of apple, or even some celery. If softer treats delight your dog, a little canned pumpkin makes a good, low-cal alternative to high-fat peanut butter.

6. Slow down the pace of their eating

Some dogs positively inhale their grub. Try breaking the routine by putting their food into an interactive toy, like a puzzle feeder or treat ball. This will help slow your dog down, so he or she has a chance to feel full.

With all these options, there’s no need to worry how to help your dog lose weight. Regular exercise, good feeding habits, and pouring on extra love, will give your best pal just what they need for better health.

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