“What kind of dog is he?”
You’d be amazed how many times I’ve had this question asked about my yellow Labrador Retriever. According to the American Kennel Club, the Labrador Retriever has ranked as the most popular breed every year since 1991. If they’re so popular, why on earth do some people find Tucker so hard to identify?
Answer: Because he isn’t overweight.
The most common follow up comment when I identify his breed is, “Oh, I’ve never seen one that wasn’t fat!” Or, sometimes they say, “I’ve never seen one so skinny!”
In my role as a trainer, I actually see far fewer fat dogs than I did when I worked at a veterinary clinic several years ago. And, while I do think there is a greater understanding now of canine health than there was ten years ago, I think the largest reason I don’t see fat dogs is because fat dogs are less active – and therefore not displaying the same kinds of behavior problems that we see in healthy, energetic dogs.
Regardless, I think it’s important to take a brief moment to talk about weight and the way it impacts your dog’s quality of life.
Just as in humans, overweight animals can suffer from many of the same ailments: decreased life expectancy, bone/muscle problems, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes to name a few.
While all of the medical issues I mentioned are of concern, I’ve always been a stickler about my dogs’ weight because I know how great the impact of excessive pounds can be on their joints. Since Tucker, my Labrador, has had his fair share of medical issues, I always joke that since his joints have always proven themselves to be in good shape, I am going to do whatever I can to keep them that way!
So how can you tell if your dog is overweight? There are some very helpful charts on the internet to help you visualize this, but in most cases, when looking at your dog from above, you want to see a slight waist between his rib cage and hips. While you don’t want to be able to easily see his ribs, you want to be able to feel them when you very gently press your dog’s side. (Note: some very athletic dogs/breeds may have more defined ribs without being unhealthy/underweight.)
At their annual check ups on May 20, 2020, Tucker and Ellie were both identified as being at a “perfect weight” by our veterinarian, so we’ll let them serve as your visual for the moment.
If you’re now suspicious your dog may be overweight, ask your vet! For dogs who are severely overweight, your vet will need to guide you on the best and safest way to slowly work your dog down to its ideal weight. Remember, it’s hard to be on your best behavior when you don’t feel well, so don’t discount your dog’s health as a part of your training plans.
Let’s do our best to keep our pups happy AND healthy!