How to Help a Dog Lose Weight?

We live in an age of abundance where we have access to more than enough food, drink, entertainment and attention. As a population we eat very well, but do not move around enough. Our dogs aren’t much different. In fact, they do a lot of eating and sleeping. Most dogs only get exercise when we provide the opportunity. We will need to help a dog lose weight if he is overweight.

If Abbey continues to climb this tree she won't need to lose weight.
Abbey likes to climb like a squirrel

Dogs don’t think the same way we do. They do not consider weight or bodily appearance. They will eat everything we give them and then some, with no consideration of any consequences. Excessive eating and lack of exercise can lead to weight gain. An overweight dog is at greater risk of heart problems, diseases, high blood pressure, and certain cancers (just like us). Do you need to help your dog lose weight? Here are a few ways you can help:

  • Monitor your dogs food intake
  • Feed your dog smaller portions
  • Cut out sugary foods and table scraps
  • Change your dogs diet
  • Make sure your dog gets daily exercise

Monitor Food Intake

Monitoring food intake simply means you need to pay attention to what your dog is eating. How much are you feeding him? When does he eat? What ingredients are in the dog food? Is she consuming anything that is not dog food? Use a measuring cup and read the figures on any nutrition labels if necessary.

Calories can sneak in throughout the day. Calories aren’t a bad thing, but if we routinely consume too many we can gain weight. Our bodies require a certain amount of calories each day, and so do our dogs. Although most dogs need much less than we do. My girl needs about 1,500 calories based on her size and activity level. She gets three 500 calorie meals per day, as well as some daily exercise.

You might consider food monitoring the first step in a successful nutrition program. As a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, I can confidently say successful people reach their health and fitness goals by monitoring food intake. However, I am not a veterinarian. You many want to discuss a doggy diet with your vet.

If you want to help your dog lose weight, find out how much your dog needs to eat, and monitor his food intake.

Dog parks can help a dog lose weight.
Play with friends!

Use Smaller Portions

Portion control has been another successful factor in many diets. The overall nutrient balance also comes into play, but portion size is important. This may come naturally after monitoring food intake because you may find the meals need to be smaller.

There’s no right or wrong feeding schedule for us, or our dogs. We make them up to serve our needs. Some dogs eat less than a few times per day, while others may eat several meals. However, if you want your dog to lose weight you may find that smaller meals are helpful.

I prefer smaller meals myself because they allow me to eat more frequently. Eating more frequently gives me the energy I need, and keeps me from starving. Many dogs would eat all day if they could. Some dogs may eat until they throw up, and then try to eat the vomit. Portion control is imperative for some dogs, and I doubt they would be offended by the smaller portions. In fact, they may enjoy more frequent meals.

Eliminate Sugars and Snacks

Sad puppy dog eyes are hard to resist. That face that seems to say “can I have some, please?” has resulted in countless treats for many dogs over the years. Perhaps people want to reward them with a tasty snack that’s normally given to children? I won’t pretend to understand the reasoning, but certain foods are not made for dogs. In fact, some of the things we eat can be unhealthy or harmful for dogs.

Abbey enjoys a cold snack.
Easy on the sweets!
  • Avocado
  • Coconut
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Dairy products
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Chocolate
  • Grapes
  • Undercooked meat
  • Salty snacks
  • Yeast
  • Snacks sweetened with xylitol

According to the ASPCA, the previous list of foods should never be eaten by dogs. Although it is not a food, alcohol is also on the list of foods not to consume. Dogs don’t necessarily know which foods to avoid. It is up to us to be educated and responsible for them.

Many people crave sugar, but it doesn’t satisfy. When you eat sugar, you just end up wanting more sugar. Salty foods can have the same effect. If your dog is eating these types of foods, eliminating them from the diet may help your dog lose weight.

Change the Diet

If your dog is overweight and you believe her diet is quite healthy, you may want to change what she is eating completely. All dog foods are not created equally. Different brands have different ingredients, and different nutrient densities. Quality is often determined by price. Cheaper dog foods are usually lower in quality.

If you think about it, our food is not much different. Packaged foods tend to be cheaper when they are easy to make. Many also have a low nutrient density and are full of preservatives. Make sure you know what is in the food you eat, as well as the food you feed your dog. Before you make a change talk to your vet because there may be other factors involved.

Hiking is a fun way to help your dog lose weight.

Exercise Daily

This one is cheap and easy. Humans and animals are designed to move. The phrase “use it, or lose it” definitely applies when it comes to health and fitness. You need exercise, and your dog does too. Many clients I have trained have not been excited about exercising. However, my dog loves to exercise simply for fun. I love that.

Dogs are not the sleep-all-day bums we make them out to be. They sleep all day because there isn’t another option. Many dogs would love the opportunity to exercise, but are waiting on our lead. Have you ever seen a dog entertaining himself by running around in a circle? That’s how much they love exercise. If you need some ideas, I have more than a few.

My girl needs 1 – 2 hours of exercise everyday. Do you know how much exercise your dog needs? If you want to help your dog lose weight, you should. Walking around the backyard is not going to cut it. If you hear barking it may be a cry for attention. If you receive a stare it may be time for a chase. Let’s get out there and workout with dogs because it will keep them happy and healthy.

I’ve been a personal trainer for nearly a decade, certified by ACE, NASM and WITS. Helping people reach their fitness goals and potentially live longer is a true honor. I have over 1,000 hours of coaching experience with seniors, youth athletes and individuals with disabilities.

I can help you feel better, and live longer. Even though I share workouts on this site, you are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed here. Let’s move better, live longer and wander more often.


David Earley


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