If you want to help your dog lose body fat, become the Optimal Dog, and live the longest and happiest life her genes will allow, there are two fundamental strategies that you can use: (1) diet and (2) exercise.
Obviously, these strategies aren’t mutually-exclusive. Meaning that you don’t have to just pursue one option or the other. In fact, an optimal body management program should address both.
But if you can only choose one, there’s a very clear answer as to which one it should be. And it might not be the answer you’d expect from a bunch of folks who devote their professional lives to making products designed to help you get the most out of exercising your dog.
That’s right, when it comes to effectuating fat-loss, carefully managing your dog’s diet is much more important than managing her exercise routine.
(1) It’s much more efficient. The caloric impact of exercise on dogs isn’t as great as you might expect. At least one published study states that dogs weighing more than 10 kg only burn about one extra Calorie/kg of body weight/kilometer, regardless of the pace that they’re walking, trotting, or running. Accordingly, you should only expect your 50-pound dog to burn about 100 extra Calories every time you take her out for a 3-mile run. That’s the approximate caloric content of two ounces of ground beef, one medium apple, or about three tablespoons of a quality dry kibble like Orijen Adult Dog. (Don’t believe us? Do the calculations yourself by visiting the USDA’s website or by looking at the label on a bag of Orijen, which reports that it contains 478 Calories/250 ml. cup.)
That’s right, for a 50-pound dog, every mile of running is the caloric equivalent of one extra tablespoon of food. Kinda makes jogging seem a little inefficient, eh?
(2) It’s easier for you. Most forms of canine exercise require human assistance. Fetch games, walking and jogging, canine athletics—you’ve got an integral part to play in all of them. (Workouts with the Varsity Ball are a different story altogether.) For many of us, it’s hard enough to find the time and willpower to squeeze in a couple trips to the gym every week, let alone find time for a whole additional set of doggie workouts. In comparison, once you’ve crafted an appropriate dietary strategy for your dog, there’s no additional work required on your part.
(3) There’s more low-hanging fruit. By simply eliminating food rewards (“treats”) and table scraps, switching to a low/no-carbohydrate food, and resizing the portions that you’re feeding your dog to more appropriately meet (but not exceed) her energy demands, you can make a drastic impact on your dog’s body condition and overall health. This stuff isn’t exactly rocket science, it’s basically just common sense.
(4) It’s less limiting. Some dogs aren’t healthy or fit enough for regular exercise. Others are but their owners aren’t. Exercise, alas, isn’t for everyone. But a quality diet most definitely is.
Now, none of that is to say that exercise isn’t TOTALLY AWESOME. It’s wonderful for dogs for all sorts of reasons, not least of which being that your dog probably loves it. Exercise most definitely has a role to play in helping your dog become the Optimal Dog and live the longest and happiest life that her genes will allow. However, that being said, if we had to choose just one strategy for effectuating canine fat loss, we’d choose diet over exercise every time.