Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Weight Watchers For Dogs

This is the "Little Sausage" at home

In 2001 I was a national team member representing USA in skijoring for the IFSS World Championships. Before the event I had had a pretty good season up until then winning races in Colorado, California and Oregon. I had ramped up my mileage leading up to the event because the worlds was a 20km race for the two dog event. Most of my races up until then were about 3 mile sprints. When I arrived in Alaska I trained for a week in Anchorage with my brother Kit before I went to Fairbanks. It was then that I noticed that one of my dogs was underweight. By then it was too late to get her weight back on. I think that that factor had a lot to do with her performance in the main event. She bonked in the final kilometers. It took about 3 more weeks to a month before she was back to her competitive weight. I was a little naive and was not watching her weight as close as I should have.
Tempo is the tricolor husky on the left that was underweight during the 20k 2 dog event.

Since then I have been a lot more attentive to the weight of my dogs. I learned from my old friend Al Magaw of British Colombia during the limited class sled dog races at the Worlds how to check for your dogs weight . I like what he told me and I use his advice to this day. He said to feel between the pelvic bones for the spine. If your dog is underweight then the bone is prominent. If you can barely feel the spine there then that is about right. If you can't feel it at all then your dog is overweight. If you check frequently enough then you will know before your dog gets a weight problem. With huskies and their thick coat then it is not always so obvious if they are under or over weight. I am using GSPs now and with their thin coats it is easy to see if they are underweight. I like to be able to barely see their ribs. It may depend on the dog. On my little sausage, ( Mojo) I like to keep a little more weight on because he performs better when I can barely see his ribs. My dogs Otto and Seamus are better when their ribs are a little more prominent but not obvious. Because I mainly run short distances I like to keep my dogs a little lighter than someone doing distance mushing.

This is Otto at home. Proof that a 60 lb dog can fit in a little bed made for a chihuahua

More often I see dogs that are overweight. Being overweight is a much more serious and detrimental condition than being underweight. Too much weight is an invitation for joint and heart problems just like in humans. The weight of your dog is so much easier to control than your own weight because you are in control of the food. If your dog doesn't eat what is served in less than five minutes then remove it. Ideally your dog is an eager eater and it should be inhaling it's food. Start with portions recommended on the bag and watch your dogs weight from there. Never let the dog feed itself with a full bowl left to eat at will. Maintain a schedule of feeding that your dog knows and can trust you to stick to. I recommend feeding twice a day.
My dogs love to eat as much as they like to run. If I let them eat all they wanted they would fart all night and gain weight rapidly because they are all neutered. Because they are working dogs they need a high protein and high fat food. The basic formula is 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat or 30/20. You may not be able to find a 30/20 food at the local store that only has pet food. That is the minimum formula that I will feed. Often I supplement that with meat over the winter depending on their activity level.

Seamus at home. All my dogs wear fence collars at home to keep them inside the fence when they go out the dog door.

1 comment:

Mike Strain said...
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