Talking dogs: Chubby pup? Bad nighttime routine? Trainer has answers

March 26, 2018

Q: My dog Ruben was recently labeled as Ďfatí by a well-meaning friend and dog lover. My vet has never mentioned a weight problem, and I feed Ruben the recommended amount of food as noted on the back of the bag, but now that I look at him, maybe he is a little portly.

ó Tom

A: My first recommendation for you, Tom, is to specifically ask your vet to give you the low down on Rubenís weight and overall health status. Sadly, many professionals are hesitant to bring up the subject of weight loss without being prompted by the pet owner, for fear of offending the client. Be prepared for whatever your veterinarianís response is, keeping in mind that his or her goals and yours are the same: for Ruben to live a long and healthy life. Even if he isnít grossly overweight, a few extra pounds can exacerbate a heart condition, or structural impediments such as hip or elbow dysplasia, arthritis, or disc problems. Forget how much the dog food company recommends you feed Ruben and keep a log for a few weeks to determine the correct amount on your own.

Many factors are involved in determining the right number of daily calories for your dog, such as age, activity level, daily treat consumption, etc. If you or your vet determines that Ruben needs to shed a few pounds, begin by getting a current weight. Then divide his food into morning and evening rations and offer him about 1/3 less than his previous daily amount. After 1-2 weeks, re-weigh him. If he is not losing much weight, reduce his caloric intake further, and if heís lost weight too rapidly, add in a bit more. Continue this process with regular weigh-ins until you attain his ideal weight and correct daily caloric amount. And donít forget the important extras ó treats equal calories too, so take note of all that Ruben receives each day and remember nothing can get the weight off better than increased, regular exercise!

Q: My 5-year-old dog, Luke, once slept through the night, but now needs potty breaks during the night. This all began a few weeks ago when he was ill and had diarrhea. Numerous potty trips were required for 4-5 days and nights, but now his stool is normal, yet he still wishes to go out at night to potty. I would rather go back to the way things were and be able to sleep through the night without interruption. Any ideas on how to get Luke back to his regular schedule?

ó Karen

A: Iíll assume that Luke is now healthy, and that this is simply a new habit heís fallen into. Getting you to take him out at night gets him extra attention from you, and a little fun time in the yard. So, I would take the following steps to get him back into the routine of sleeping and "holding it" all night:

First, offer him his evening meal a number of hours before bedtime, and pick up the water bowl 2 hours before lights out. Next, make sure he eliminates a final time before retiring, and donít assume that he will do so by turning him out loose in the yard. Instead, go with him, preferably on a leash, so you can witness the event and prevent him from getting side-tracked by other things or activities until he does so.

Finally, I would recommend he be crated at night. Keeping him crated limits his options for other nighttime activities. If he whines a bit, donít immediately get up to let him out. Instead, wait for him to give up and settle back down. If he truly needs to go out to eliminate, heíll let you know ó most of us can tell the difference between our dogís boredom whine, and the urgent "I really gotta go!" whine.

Once the habit of sleeping through the night has been reestablished, you can revert to the old feeding and sleeping loose routine without any trouble. On the other hand, if he continues to require nighttime excursions to eliminate a large volume of urine or stool, or conversely, strains but doesnít produce much of anything, Iíd reevaluate, and have your veterinarian examine him to rule out any physical problems that might be contributing to this behavior.

Q: Iím in love with my new puppy Jenga and want to do everything possible to raise her right. Iíve started her in a puppy class for socialization, but wonder if there is anything else I should be doing?

ó Brittany

A: Starting in a puppy class is a great idea, Brittany! Keep in mind that there is more to proper socialization than just lots of time spent around other puppies and people. The key to successful socialization is to make certain that every interaction Jenga has ó with other puppies, new people, objects, surfaces, sounds, etc. ó is a pleasurable one. And donít worry about exposing Jenga to every conceivable thing and environment in the world; who can succeed at that? Instead, you want your puppy to learn that variety in and of itself is normal. So, take Jenga with you to explore new places and things when possible, always armed with tasty edibles like chicken or steak, and help her make a positive association with everything she experiences by adding food into the mix. In addition, use your good judgement and prevent her from visiting with any dogs or people if she shows concern, or if youíre not sure if the encounter will go well. Jenga is counting on you to be her advocate!



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