Now that spring is here, we can all start getting outside to enjoy the warmer weather. Being 45 years old, I have noticed that each winter I seem to pack on a few more pounds. Every spring I try losing that “winter weight” and I’m realizing that each year it gets more and more difficult. The older I get, the tougher it is, and the longer it takes, to shed those unwanted pounds. I should realize this and try next winter to do a better job of regulating not only how much I eat, but also eat healthier. The same can be said about our hunting dogs.
If your dog happens to be a few pounds heavier like me, there is not a better time to start the weight loss process. I have noticed with a lot of gundogs coming in for spring break boarding that this trend is very common. Just like humans, a dog’s weight tends to increase over the winter months due to inactivity and a possible increase in diet. Remembering that you the owner are the one responsible for your dog’s weight, please try the best you can to get your dog back in shape.
Like me with my dieting, a good starting point is how much you eat — feed your dog. By decreasing the amount of dog food your dog eats, this should begin the weight loss process. Try not to feel bad by lowering the amount you feed him, since this will help his health and longevity. Remember, he does not know that the dog down the street gets twice as much food as he does and he will never say, “But Fido the dog next door gets more than me.”
Keep in mind, dogs that are overweight, tend to have more joint issues later on in life. Not only can this hurt your gundog’s performance, but we all want to have our hunting partner around as long as possible. Obese dogs also run a possibility of having heart problems as well. It’s no different than for humans, where your dog’s heart has to work much harder the fatter/more they weigh. This can lead to all sorts of health issues, especially if you try hunting with a dog that is too heavy.
Try a Lower Calorie Food
Your dog’s diet should be the next issue to address. One way to help in weight loss is to switch to a lower calorie food. There are a number of “weight management” dog foods on the market today, which have a lower fat and protein content, which will give them less calories. These dog foods will have more fillers in them so you end up feeding the dog the same volume of food, so they will still feel as if they were getting the same amount. Keep in mind, dog food is like anything else, you definitely get what you pay for. Stay away from inexpensive dog food. You end up feeding more cheap dog food and picking up more in your back yard!
Exercise is probably the most important factor in this whole equation especially for gundogs. Hunting dogs are like athletes, staying in shape is hard work and if the dog is now out of shape, to get back in shape takes a lot longer if the dog is older. Speaking from experience, I can tell you is much more difficult to get back in shape at 45 than it was when I was 25!
Since you are the one in charge of the amount of exercise your dog gets, you, the owner, has to make a commitment to getting this done. Walking, running and biking with your dog are great ways to not only get your dog back in shape, it will get you outside and exercising as well.
If your dog is a hunting dog and enjoys retrieving, a dozen or so back yard retrieves is a great way to begin. Remember to start slowly depending on the shape of your dog. You can begin to add repetition and distance as needed. Use common sense when it comes to the health and well being of your dog.
When it comes to your dog’s weight, try as best you can to keep your dog in shape. If, however, you have allowed your dog to gain a few winter pounds, make sure you address this right away. The overall health and well being of your dog is in your hands!
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Jason Dommeyer has a lifetime of hunting experience and 15 years experience as a dog trainer. He has turned many pets into expert hunting dogs at Cannon River Kennels. In addition to training hundreds of hunting companions, he has trained dogs for premier pheasant hunting lodges in South Dakota along with duck hunting lodges in Mississippi and Mexico. His experience also includes both hunting and guiding for upland and waterfowl game from Canada to South America. For more information on training your dog visit Cannon River Kennels or call 507-663-6143.