We're a few weeks into our workout regimen, and it's been going great. I didn't think Sydney would be down for exercise because she's my couch potato. Even now, as I'm typing, she's laying on one of the many dog beds, and in about 15 minutes, she'll switch to another one, or maybe she'll jump on the sofa and cuddle up next to me. If I start bouncing a ball, she'll barely look my way.
She prefers mellow activities like being brushed, cuddling on the sofa, and enjoying a bully stick. So how am I supposed to get her excited about exercise?
5 Ways to Help a Lazy Dog Lose Weight
It was a lot easier to get Sydney to workout with me than I expected. 5 things are working successfully with Sydney.
1 – Respect My Dog's Comfort Zone
One of the obvious steps to take when a dog needs to lose weight is to go on more walks. However, Sydney only likes to go on walks when all the dogs join us – otherwise, she tries to walk back to the car, and not even a training treat will convince her to walk 50 steps with me.
So we walk at home. We live on 5 acres, and we have a short walking trail between our house and our neighbor's place, so Sydney and I walk every day. She's more comfortable at home, and it's easy to convince her to walk with me for 30 minutes.
2 – Don't Push My Dog Past Her Limits
Ronny LeJeune of Sit Happens Dog Training and Perfectly Rawsome guided me on Sydney's exercise regimen and recommended 30 minute walks at Sydney's pace. Sydney and I are working up to 1 mile per day. I've been afraid to walk with Sydney in the past because she always overdoes it or reinjures herself. By walking slowly, Sydney stays at my pace and isn't pushing herself to keep up. By walking around our property, Sydney doesn't feel pressured to walk faster to keep up with the other dogs.
It's been several weeks, and she's only needed pain medication a couple of times because she began running a little on our walks, which I'm not watching. It's great that she's feeling better.
3 – Staying Engaged on Our Walk
I love listening to podcasts and Audible books. Right now, I'm revisiting one of my favorite books – Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice. Next, I'm thinking of starting the Sookie Stackhouse series again. Walking with my dogs is a great time to listen to a book – or so you'd think. Being distracted by a book keeps me from being engaged in the walk and Sydney can sense that distance. I've noticed that she stops more, gets distracted by scents more, and isn't interested in our walk.
So I leave the earbuds in the house and talk to Sydney on our walks. She's happy, engaged, and having a great time. It makes the 30 minutes speed by and without the distraction, I notice how well she's doing, and it's something that I don't want to miss.
4 – Make the Walks Fun
Sydney is a silly girl and loves to roll around, run down the hills, and occasionally headbutt me in the legs. I go with it all because if she's having fun, then she'll walk the next day and the day after that, and so on. So this means that if she wants to change the course of our walk, then we change the course (within reason). If she wants to walk through the woods instead of around the property, I'm up for a change in scenery. And if she wants to walk with the other dogs, then I grab a couple of balls and the Puller rings (they're going to exercise too), and we head outside.
It's been working out well.
5 – Allow Her to Have a “Rest” Day
Sydney and I only walk 5 days a week. Two days are “rest” days when she can do what she wants – lay down and watch the cyclists on the trail, wander around the property, or stay inside and chill. She may not need a rest day, but with her joint issues, I don't want her to overdo it. I still remember the days when she had trouble standing, wouldn't put weight on her rear, left leg, and she'd cry at night because of the pain. She's doing so great, and I'd had to see her have a set back because I pushed her too hard and too fast. I want to see the weight come off and this has to happen gradually and safely.
Training Treats are Off the Menu
You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned training treats. While Sydney is a food motivated dog, I don't want her walking for treats. At the moment, Sydney is on a strict diet for the next 90 days that includes:
- 18-19 ounces of raw dog food, with an additional 3-4 ounces of pureed greens to help her feel full, and 1-2 ounces of coconut oil to promote weight loss.
- If she has a chew (recreational bone or bully stick) during the day, I decrease her evening meal.
- The only “treats” she gets are her In Clover Connectin chews and In Clover Glow (Omega-3) chews. She loves them both, and they allow me to give her “treats” while addressing nutritional needs.
I know that I can give Sydney protein treats which are lower in calories, but I don't want to have to document her meals. I worry that I won't correctly account for what she's eaten and I'll end up overfeeding her again.
So no training treats.
Ronny recommended incorporating a fasting day, and I'm working towards that by feeding her a meal of bone broth Saturday evenings.