It’s almost 2016. The rush of the holidays disrupts our normal routines and schedules. I have no idea what day it is, I have more food in my refrigerator than I do when snow is forecasted in North Carolina and I have no idea what to do with myself. Instead of tackling the growing list of to dos, I sit and color in my “adult” coloring book that I got for Christmas. At least I feel Zen now.
In the meantime, my dogs are as confused as I am. It’s been raining for 40 days and 40 nights and we aren’t able to get out for our walks without rain gear. Yesterday I lost 13 tennis balls in a mud pit in the backyard and ball playing in the house just isn’t the same. We’re working on getting in to our winter mode, but it’s definitely a challenge.
You and your dog can help each other stay focused and active over the next few months. Take each other for a walk, watch what you eat and make sure you remember the basics about food and exercise.
- No free feeding. Most dogs can’t control how much they eat. Measure and have planned meal times
- Go easy on the treats! Extra calories do not equal how much you love your pet. They don’t need them and obesity is a major life-threatening problem. Use healthy snacks, like carrots and other vegetables or try phasing out food with other reward options, like petting, games, or going for a walk.
- Measure your dog’s food. Make sure everyone in the family is using the same cup to measure the amount that goes into the bowl at dinner time. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me they discovered their husband was using the wrong line on the measuring cup, I’d have a nice little nest egg. Don’t estimate and plan meals at least two times daily.
- Do not feed your dog from the table. This is one of the primary causes of obesity in dogs. Not to mention, there are a lot of toxic foods that humans eat that dogs never should, like chocolate, grapes, garlic, xylitol (anything that’s “sugar-free”). And last but not least, this makes your dog a begger and promotes unwanted behavior.
- Feed the right food for his stage and lifestyle. You may have a puppy now, but as he grows, his nutritional needs change. Same goes for our senior friends who may need a different diet as they age and their activity level decreases. Is your dog a couch potato or active? Your vet is a good source of information, but don’t be afraid to talk to your fellow pet owners and store managers who sell dog food for a living. Generally if its not a chain, they can offer advice and recommendations about what’s best for your dog. Collect lots of information! Learn to read labels and then make a decision. You’re the one who knows your dog the best!
- Poultry, beef, pork and fish bones are dangerous for dogs. Bones can splinter and puncture the digestive tract or get lodged in the throat or they can cause mouth injuries. It’s generally not a good idea to provide Rawhide bones either. These contain a lot of chemicals and your dog can ingest pieces that can get stuck and block their digestive system. Kongs are good safe toys along with other indestructibles like high quality antlers and marrow bones that are large enough not to get stuck.
- Don’t let your dog wolf down his food! Our dogs love their food and mealtime! Don’t let them over-eat or eat too fast as this makes them prone to gas and bloating which is a life-threatening condition. Food puzzles, special bowls, cookie sheets, muffin tins, and your own creative designs (ours is four lacrosse balls in the bowl) will slow your dog down during mealtimes. Do not use raised bowls (unless your dog has a medical condition) because that actually makes access to the food easier and they can eat faster.
I know this may sound redundant and may be stuff you already know, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to refresh our memories especially during this time of year. Now is the time to go online and look for fun things to do with your dog during the winter months. Sign up for a class, visit the indoor pool, visit doggy daycare (if your dog is a social butterfly) and warm clothes for those chilly outdoor hikes and walks. Remember, it will be good for you too.
Cheers! Happy New Year!