Some dog owners like to give their pet snacks and treats to help in training, and some just to show their love for their dog. Too many treats of the wrong kind can upset a dog's natural dietary inclination towards high protein foods like neat and direct them increasingly towards an unhealthy diet that's high in carbohydrate.
An unhealthy diet and lack of sufficient exercise conspire to make a dog overweight with the same kind of health risk that overweight humans run. These risks include furring up of arteries leading to heart trouble, diabetes, joint and ligament problems, and premature death. If you over feed your dog with the wrong kind of food you will certainly shorten its life span and make its latter years miserable.
Dogs, like humans need a balanced diet with plenty of protein for growth and maintaining muscle mass, and also vitamins and fibre. They get energy from both fat and carbohydrate in their diet, although can even convert protein into energy if required. A healthy dog, like a healthy human, should have a diet as natural as possible with a minimum of processed food.
For the sake of convenience and practicability, it may not be possible to feed your dog on 100% home cooked food of course, but there are plenty of good quality dried foods that are available that can be mixed with meat to provide the right diet. Relying on canned dog foods is not a good idea because they often bulked out with too much carbohydrate, or are made from the lowest quality meat sources including animal organs.
If your dog is all ready overweight then you need to instigate a plan to gradually alter its diet to make it less reliant on carbohydrate and more protein rich, coupled with a gradual increase in the amount of daily exercise. Special weight reduction dried foods are a little more expensive than the ordinary but are higher in nutrition and lower in calories, so are worth the investment. A good idea is to cover kibble for ten minutes with hot water before serving, as this causes the food to swell and makes the dog feel fuller and be less likely to overeat.
In -between meal snacks should be curtailed as much as possible, and should be protein, not carbohydrate based. Do not allow your dog scraps from the table or any human junk foods like biscuits or cakes, as these are a sure way to put weight on your dog. It is a good idea to feed your dog first before sitting down to dinner yourself, as that will help minimise begging at the table.
Exercising your dog more can be fun and shouldn't be seen as a chore, although as a pet owner from choice, you do have the responsibility to see that your dog gets enough exercise. Provided you have a nearby open space, a medium or large dog can run up and down to fetch a ball or stick, a pastime that most dogs love. Some owners will jog with their dog, reaping the benefits of exercise for themselves as well. Unfortunately many people, when thinking of getting a dog, underestimate the amount of exercise that they need. If you doubt that you can walk or run a couple of miles a day, it is better to go for a smaller breed of dog that you can cope with.
It is all too easy to "kill with kindness" if you are a dog owner, but by sticking to a sensible healthy diet, and giving your dog the daily exercise it needs you will be rewarded with a fit animal that you can be proud to be seen with, and you will be giving it the quality of life that it deserves.
The author is a dog owner who wants to improve the lot of dogs generally. There is much more information about weight loss and nutrition for dogs at http://weightlossfordogs.blogspot.com