Getting Your Dog in Shape for Spring.

What is it about winter that makes our bodies pack on the pounds? Maybe it’s the fact that we “cocoon” indoors when the weather is cold and wet. Trouble is, we humans aren’t the only ones who tend to pack on the pounds in winter. So do our dogs.

Now, gaining a couple of pounds over the holidays may not seem like a big deal. But to a 20-pound dog, two pounds represents a 10 percent increase in body weight (that’s like a 150-pound adult packing on a whopping 15 pounds over the holidays).

The extra weight puts a strain on a dog’s joints, so he may become uncomfortable and lethargic, which can lead to even more weight gain. Before you know it, your sleek, beautiful dog is a little butterball. Instead of romping and frolicking, he waddles. Or he looks up at you wistfully as he remembers how playtime used to be.

Fortunately, pet nutritionists offer several ideas to help you get your dog back in shape in time for fun this spring.

Good Nutrition
If your dog is indeed overweight, this may be a good time to switch to a food that’s lower in fat. Exclusive® Reduced Fat contains a mere 9 to 11 percent fat. At the same time, it contains a generous 26 percent protein, which can help your dog maintain muscle as he loses fat. It also contains glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for healthy joints—an important benefit for overweight dogs. And it has Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.

Another good option is Red Flannel® Adult formula. It contains only 12 percent fat (compared to 18 percent in the Prime formula or 16 percent in the Active formula). It also contains glucosamine for healthy joints.

Sound Management
Are you killing your dog with kindness? If you’re giving your dog treats throughout the day, you must remember to reduce the daily ration of dog food accordingly. Or simply cut down on the number of treats you give.

Here are three ways to cut back on treats without depriving your dog.

One idea is to buy treats that you can break in half, and only offer half a treat at each occasion. That way, your dog gets the taste he’s been looking forward to, but not all the calories.

Or, instead of his usual treat, try substituting your dog’s dry dog food morsels. Put a few kibbles in the treat jar and use them one at a time as rewards. Your dog treasures any food that comes straight from your hand, so he may be totally satisfied with kibble, as long as it comes from you.

Of course, another option is to cut out treats altogether and simply lavish your dog with affection as a reward (this alternative tends to be harder on humans than it is on dogs). If this seems too extreme, stick with one of the other two options.

Good Health
One of the best things you can do for your dog’s health is to make sure he’s getting exercise. This will not only improve his physical health, but also his disposition.

Daily exercise time is prime bonding time for the two of you. And exercise can often eliminate problem behaviors that can be traced back to boredom or pent-up energy. If you want to teach your dog tricks or obedience skills, start your session with 30 to 60 minutes of exercise followed by a brief training session. Exercise will help calm your dog and allow him to focus on what you’re trying to teach him.

One of the best benefits of exercising your dog is that it also exercises you. Start small, if you must. Your dog will appreciate every moment you spend exercising him, and the joy you see on his face will probably make you want to exercise him even more. And that’s good for both of you.

So as spring approaches, make sure your dog is on the right diet, cut back on treats, eliminate table scraps and make time for exercise. All of these ideas can help your dog (and you) get in shape for the beautiful weather ahead.


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