Ask the Dogfather

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Tom Shelby, who has trained dogs and their owners on Martha’s Vineyard and in New York City, answers readers’ questions about their problematic pooches. This week, the dogfather counsels the owners of an overweight Scottie.

Dear Dogfather,

Is it best to ease an overweight dog into a new diet?  What kinds of dog food do you recommend for weight loss? What portion size and feeding schedule are best for a medium sized terrier? What about adding vitamin and mineral supplements to his diet?


Concerned owner of a pudgy good boy

Dear Concerned Owner of a Pudgy Good Boy,

One of the sayings in the world of dogs is, “If you own a dog and if you’re overweight, the dog’s not getting enough exercise.” Owner of Pudgy: with one exception, your dog’s weight is all on you, 100 percent your responsibility. His weight is based on three things: what you feed him, how much you feed him, and how much you exercise him. Period. The exception is a health issue. For example, if his thyroid’s out of whack he may gain some weight, until you resolve the problem.

As for a weight loss food, ask your vet what she’d suggest. I like to see dogs fed twice a day, morning and evening, at times that are convenient to the owner. To some owners, that may mean 5:30 am and 3:45 pm, to others it may be 10:30 am and 9:30 pm. Most dogs are very adaptable and as a quality of life issue they should meld with your lifestyle as seamlessly as possible. A word of caution for owners of large dogs: to avoid the possibility of dangerous bloating, don’t exercise Bowser vigorously for an hour after eating.

All dog food packages contain feeding instructions, with recommended portions based on  weight and age. I’d probably feed a little less than is recommended because the dog food company’s top priority is to sell as much food as it can.

Unless your vet is telling you to add a supplement for a specific health issue, I’d advise against adding any mineral or vitamin. Your vet will probably recommend a food that is AAFCO approved, meaning it meets the nutritional requirements of a dog. I’ve read a fair amount  about dogs having issues from imbalances created by unnecessary supplements.

Thanks for the question and good luck

The Dogfather

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