Reducing Woody’s Weight

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Two dogs amidst brown grass of winter field.

I have a reputation among my friends and family for telling people that their dogs are overweight – so it may come as a surprise that I have been struggling for a few months to reduce my dog Woody’s weight. He turned 8 years old in November, and it was about that time that I first noticed he was looking a little pudgy. Viewed from above, he still has an indented waist, but he’s just thicker everywhere than he used to be. A recent trip to the vet and a formal weigh-in confirmed what I already knew but had been in denial about: He weighs too much!  I need to get about 8 pounds off of his now-80-pound body.

Recently, I switched his food to a couple of lower-fat, lower-calorie products, and I’ve cut back the amount I am feeding him. I’m also making an effort to get us out for more walks (I have been struggling with weight gain, too!). I’ve also been pointedly using smaller treats for training and reinforcing his recalls and other good-manners behaviors on walks. But his weight has been staying stubbornly the same.

And, like many owners, I’ve noticed that my dieting dog is becoming increasingly food-obsessed. He clearly feels hungrier on the smaller portions.

My latest idea is to switch both dogs (Woody and Boone, whose weight is ideal) to once-a-day feeding, which has enabled me to cut their total daily portion size much more dramatically while increasing the size of the one meal per day they are eating. We’ve been at this trial for a week so far, and I must say, both dogs are taking the switch to the new regimen very well; they aren’t making a nuisance of themselves at their former dinnertime.

There is some evidence for the benefits of once-a-day feeding; I just hadn’t tried it before, as (again, like most owners), I enjoy feeding my dogs a meal when the family eats. And I should note that the study that provided information about those benefits also noted that because some of the dogs in the study may have been fed once a day for varying lengths of time, the researchers “cannot rule out the possibility that dog owners shifted to more frequent feeding in response to health conditions, and observed associations are due in whole or part to reverse causality.”

Nevertheless, given the mountains of evidence for the benefits of intermittent fasting in humans, I’m going to maintain this schedule for at least a few months – and try to increase our exercise, too – and see if it helps me get some of those excess pounds off of my darling Woody.

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