So it’s no surprise that as more people become obese, man’s best friend is becoming overweight too.
‘‘Overweight people are more likely to have overweight dogs,” said Victoria Stilwell, dog trainer and author of Fat Dog Slim: How to Have a Healthy, Happy Pet.
More than 34% of people in the US are considered obese, according to the National Centre for Health Statistics. Up to 40% of pets are said be overweight.
“An overweight dog shows real negligence by the owner. There’s pressure on the bones and the heart and the organs. It’s just not pleasant,” she said.
“If a dog doesn’t get enough exercise, behaviour problems, such as anxiety, chewing, destruction, excessive barking, and house soiling can occur,” said Stilwell, who hosts the Animal Planet television show It’s Me or the Dog.
In the show, the British-born former actress comes to the rescue of pet owners driven to their wits’ end by dogs behaving badly.
“Really understanding your dog’s experience of the world makes training easier,” said Sitwell, who tries to see the world from a canine perspective.
“It’s weird for them to be living in our domestic environment.”
Wayward pets are re-educated with positive reinforcement techniques. Neither hands nor voices are raised.
Stilwell says Sadie, her chocolate Labrador, is proof that a fat dog can get slim.
“When I rescued my dog two years ago, she was extremely fat. It took me a year of giving her a very good quality diet and exercise to get 20 pounds (9kg) off her.”
She suggests that the exercise should fit the breed.
“A Labrador retriever is going to like retrieving.
Dachshunds are tunnelers. And terriers want to negotiate to get to the toy rat. If your dog is a hunter, you can hide toys in the garden,” she said.
Dr Nicholas Dodman, a veterinarian and animal behaviourist at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, in Massachusetts, calls food and exercise the yin and yang of pet care. “It’s a lifestyle problem that leads to a sort of mental funk,” he said. “The dog which is sometimes alone, with very little to do, becomes bored and depressed. Eating becomes the only pleasure in life.”
Dodman, author of The Well-Adjusted Dog, blames the owner. “He (the dog) hasn’t got opposable thumbs, he can’t go to the refrigerator and take out a pork pie in the middle of the night. He eats what you give him.”
His motto is - a tired dog is a good dog.
“It’s the owner’s duty to provide a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio-type exercise,” he said.
Dodman said cats also need 30 minutes of daily play.
But unlike their dog-owning counterparts, cat owners can stay put.
“You don’t have to rush around. Just shine a laser light or throw a ping pong ball. Cats will chase moving things.”