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How To Tell If Your Dog Is Overweight – And What To Do About It

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Dogs should be kept slim and trim

Even a little bit of extra weight puts major stresses on your dog's heart, lungs, and joints. One solid way to avoid health problems and lengthen your dog's life is to work really hard at keeping him on the slender side!

How to tell whether your dog is in good condition

Look at his profile

Dog in great conditionCrouch down to your dog's level and look at him from the side – his profile. His belly should be taut, held firmly up against his body. Of course this is easier to see on a shorthaired dog. With a longhaired dog, you'll need to feel with your hands.

Dogs in good condition

These dogs are in good condition

overweight dog


Your dog's belly shouldn't sag down toward the same level as his chest and ribs. Older dogs tend to be saggier in the belly, but you want to minimize this. Extra weight is bad for aging organs and joints.

Look down on his back

Stand close beside your dog and look down at his torso. You should see sort of an hourglass shape – wide-ish across his ribs, narrower across his waist (called the loin), and wide-ish again across his hindquarters. With longhaired dogs, you'll need to feel with your hands.

Dogs in good condition

These dogs are in good condition

What you don't want is a sausage-ish shape that doesn't vary much in width.

overweight dog


Feel his ribs

Put your hands on your dog's rib cage on each side of his body. You should be able to feel  his ribs with your fingers without needing to push hard. But you shouldn't be able to see  his ribs sticking out – unless your dog is a sighthound  (such as a Greyhound) who DO have an extremely streamlined build with more prominent ribs.

Fat dog

No two ways about it, this little dog is fat, which is terrible for both his short- and long-term health.

Unfortunately, many owners, when assessing their dog's weight, have the same blind spot they have for their own weight.

But you should try hard to be objective, because extra weight puts major stresses on your dog's heart, lungs, and joints.

How to help your dog lose weight

Stop feeding snacks, tidbits, cookies, and biscuits.

Stop feeding all kibble and canned food, especially those marketed as "weight loss" diets. The ingredients in most of those diets are atrocious, and the puny amount you're told to feed your dog keeps him perpetually hungry and unhappy.

Instead, feed real food, but....

  • Eliminate all grains (rice, pasta, bread, etc.), legumes, fruits, milk and cheese, and high-calorie vegetables like potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, peas, and carrots.
  • Basically you want to feed only meat/fish (plus bone or calcium) and lots of low-calorie veggies such as summer squash, zucchini, celery, asparagus, and cauliflower.
  • Increase exercise.
  • If the above tips don't bring your dog's weight down, cut back the amount of food by about 10%.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

My best-selling books – now available  FREE  on my website

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy is for puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know. Click here to read for free.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say. Click here to read for free.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life. Get my honest advice about all 11 Things before you bring home your new puppy, because some mistakes with early health care cannot be undone. Click here to read for free.