About four months ago, during a routine visit to the Vet, we got some alarming news. Our Golden Retriever, Buddy, who was fourteen months old at the time, needed to lose ten pounds. If he didn't, he would be at risk for serious illness and injuries.
We'd suspected that he was getting a little big, but we hadn't realized he needed to lose that much weight. It snuck up on us, just like it does with our own bodies. We attributed it to two things: The extremely cold winter made it hard for us to get him outside, and we'd been following the portion sizes on the dog food bag.
Now, we should have found a way to work him out despite the cold. But the dog food? That was a shocker. We didn't realize it was almost twice what he needed. I should have known better, because eating too much with no exercise always makes us humans fat. Of course it would make Buddy fat too.
So Kathy and I embarked on our new journeys as doggie nutritional coach and puppy personal trainer. She started reducing the amount of dog food, and naturally, I jumped all over the exercise part of Buddy's Biggest Loser campaign.
Originally, he was getting two cups, twice a day, as per the recommended amount in the bag. So Kathy slowly cut it back to 1 3/4 cups, then 1 1/2, and finally 1 1/4 cups per meal. He always seemed satisfied, though, because she replaced the high calorie dog food with some nutritious "filler" foods.
At breakfast, he got a sliced banana with his meal. At the same time, she started giving him 1/2 cup of sliced carrots or green beans with his afternoon meal. He gobbles them up. He also gets an apple at lunch, which is also inhaled. These fruits and vegetables give him some vitamins and minerals, and lots of fiber, which I think is helping at the other end too.
To get an idea about his workouts, I asked some friends how they ran with their dogs. They gave me some guidelines, and one told me her husband actually swims across the lake with their Golden Retriever!
Buddy had gained several pounds during the winter storms, but once Spring arrived, we started jogging outside again. At first, just five minutes did him in, but little by little, we added to it until he could go twice as long.
I have a trail about 3/4 a mile long, that runs through the woods and back up around a field. We worked up to where I could run a whole lap with him, another one without him (while he took a break), and then another with him, and so on.
He was much faster out of the gate, but I could always outlast him, especially early on. But after a couple months, I realized that while I was running, he was just really trotting, which wasn't much of a workout for him anymore. If I wanted to keep his speed up, I was going to have to try something different.
So one morning, I hopped on my mountain bike, grabbed his leash and said "Come on, Buddy!" We took off down the lane at twice our usual speed, and he was out in front leading the way. Our country lane is about a quarter mile, there and back, which is like running around the track at the football field.
Since then, we've worked up to about a mile and a half every morning out on our country road. Me on my mountain bike, with Buddy on a leash, loping along beside me. We'll go fast for awhile, and then I'll back off to give him a break, just like I do with the Biggest Loser groups and their High Intensity Interval Training.
I do have to be careful, because sometimes he gets a little excited if he spots some birds. That can lead to unexpected direction changes! He's getting better at staying on track, though. Of course we still have to pull off the road when cars come along.
He's getting stronger too. I'll often do another shorter ride with him later on the day, or I'll run with him, so he can have an easier pace. At night, we'll play chase, and rough and tumble in the house. It's like having a lion coming at you, without the claws and fangs, of course. Just a big wet, slobbery tongue!
We had Buddy clipped so he could take the heat better, and with eight pounds off, he's looking pretty trim. As we move into the fall season, he's becoming quite the doggy athlete and his agility is astonishing. We just had his follow up visit, and the vet was very happy with his turnaround.
Over the years, I've seen lots of people lose weight by getting moving and watching what they ate. But this is the first time I helped an overweight doggie do it. Now Buddy's got his body back, and he's going to keep it that way, too!
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