Do you know what I think the most powerful tool for helping dogs lose weight is? No … it’s not a fancy canine treadmill or even a particular type of food. You probably already have some in your kitchen and may use them yourself on a daily basis. It’s a Tupperware container (any brand will do). If more owners put them to use for their dogs, canine obesity wouldn’t be reaching today’s epidemic levels. Let me explain.
Most dogs become fat for a very simple reason; they are overfed. Sure, some individuals might have a medical condition like hypothyroidism that is playing a role, but they are the exception rather than the rule. And while exercise is important for health, when it comes to weight loss few owners can provide their dogs with enough to bring about a significant and lasting improvement in weight without also addressing diet.
Overfeeding occurs for many reasons. We may give our dogs food to show that we love them, to relieve their boredom, to stop them from begging, or because we feel guilty when we are eating and they are not. We can feed too much because we fail to measure out proper amounts or take into account all the extra treats and table scraps the dog is also getting. Sometimes multiple people in a household take responsibility for feeding pets and lines of communication get crossed resulting in duplicate meals.
Most of these problems can be resolved with a tupperware container. Here’s how it works. First thing every morning, someone measures out exactly how much food the dog gets for the entire day and puts it into the tupperware container. This works with any type of food — dry, canned, loafs, homemade — you name it. Place any treats or healthy human foods you plan to feed inside as well, always taking into consideration the extra calories they add and adjusting the total amount of food accordingly. Refrigerate the container if necessary, otherwise put it on a convenient counter or shelf (you can also put one in the fridge and one on the counter it that’s easier).
With the foods and treats are measured out, everyone in the house must agree to follow one simple rule. For that entire day, the dog can only eat what has been placed in the tupperware container(s). If someone wants to give him a snack while they’re eating lunch, fine, he’ll just get a little less for dinner. When all the treats are gone, they’re G.O.N.E. If Mrs. Owner comes home late from work and sees that there is no food left, she knows not to feed Fido dinner, someone else already has.
This is a simple and effective way of making sure that dogs (and cats for that matter) eat the appropriate number of calories per day while still allowing for some flexibility in exactly who feeds what when. Try it in your house and let us know if it works for you.
Dr. Jennifer Coates