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Oscar’s Tips for a Happier, Healthier, Slimmer Pup

27 May

According to PetMD, over 50% of pets in American households are either overweight or obese and Oscar represents just one of the millions of dogs packing extra pounds.

Eye on the prize, baby.

Oscar never had a greyhound’s body to begin with. Nope. He’s robust. Husky. Big-boned. But I noticed his body changing over the span of our two years together. There were subtle hints like his waist disappearing, his stamina decreasing and his love handles forming.

I confess. I found chubby Oscar to be just as cute as naturally robust Oscar and I got a kick out of comparing him to harbor seal basking on the sand, but the seriousness of his weight finally hit home when I realized he would be riddled with health problems if I didn’t take action. I cringe to imagine what would happen if he developed arthritis or diabetes from something that could have been prevented.

Instead of tackling Oscar’s excess weight with a diet, I confronted the situation with a lifestyle change. I’m so happy to report that after one month of implementing the following objectives, Oscar has more endurance, more energy and less weight. Here’s to a slimmer, sexier Oscar!

  • Less food. Both humans and pets gain weight when they consume more calories than they burn. Restricting food was going to be tough for this four-legged foodie, so I limited his food intake by 10% the first couple of weeks and cut another 5% when he started to plateau. We’re still working our way up to a 20% food reduction. 😉
  • More exercise. I think the heading speaks for itself. Oscar rebuilt his stamina with short treadmill sessions. We started with 5-minute bursts and worked our way up to 10, 15, 20, 25 minutes! Now he can keep up with me and trot around the park’s perimeter without getting too winded.
  • You don’t have to eliminate treats! I knew completely restricting treats wouldn’t fly. Zuke’s Mini Bakes saved Oscar’s life! Seek smaller portions of your pet’s favorite treats or switch to treats intended for training. They’re usually smaller and have fewer calories per bite.
  • Keep a food blog/journal. Writing down everything that makes its way into Oscar’s belly helps me keep track of what he’s eaten. It’s a lot like counting calories! I document even the tiniest crumb.
  • Beware of begging. Describing Oscar as “food-motivated” would be the understatement of the century. He is shameless when it comes to begging (please refer to the photograph below for an example of his antics). Whenever something yummy is in sight, he’ll drop everything for a bite. Curbing his requests is still a work in progress.

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When Your Dog Needs a Bodyguard

2 May

What a rejuvenating weekend!

It was such a nice departure from drama we experienced last week. Nothing beats a morning at the park and an afternoon shopping. Oscar was, admittedly, the chubbiest pup at the park (even after two weeks of dieting)!

I usually let my guard down while we’re in the park, but after our run-in with a neighborhood pit bull, I’ve been keeping an eye out for unfriendly, loose dogs. I felt helpless while Oscar was bobbing and weaving, so I promised myself I would be prepared to take action if it happened again.

I did a quick Google search on how to prevent and break up dog attacks, which lead me to blog entries and forums filled with people with the same concerns. Thank you PawFun, Canidae Pet Food and The Straight Dope (LOL!) for the following tips.

Items for your utility belt:

  • Walking stick. Use a sturdy walking stick as an extension of your arm to put some distance between you and the loose dog. If the dog bites the other end of the stick, DO NOT pull. If you lose your balance during the tug-o-war, you’ll just be an easier (and weaker) target.
  • Dog repellent, pepper spray and/or mace. Spray directly into the dog’s nose and eyes. Don’t be afraid to use the entire bottle if need be (repellent sprays seem to have zero affect on some canines).
  • Flashlight. Shine the light directly into the dog’s eyes to temporarily blind him.
  • Airhorn. The sound could scare the dog off. If not, it can at least alert other people in the area.
  • Tin can filled with rocks. A great suggestion from our friends at Live, Bark, Love. The sharp sound of the rocks clanking around in a can startles the dog and gives you enough time to take action.

If you have a sidekick or backup:

  • The wheelbarrow technique. Grab and lift the dog by his hind legs, guiding him to a spot where he can’t initiate another attack (I’m petite, so I don’t think I’ll be trying this method anytime soon).

Things bodyguards shouldn’t do:

  • Don’t panic. If you see a loose dog roaming around, stay calm. If the dog approaches you, stand your ground (don’t take steps backward)  and exude confidence, keeping eye contact with the dog. If you have a walking stick, use it to put some distance between you and the dog. Your energy alone might just convince him to leave you alone.
  • Don’t attempt to pull the dogs apart by their collars. This puts you in danger of being bitten.
  • Don’t hit or kick a dog in the midst of an attack/fight. This only fuels the dog. Not to mention the dog could redirect his attention and attack you!
  • Don’t scream. This, too, fuels the fire.

But how could any dog dream of attacking this face?