Helping your Labrador stay slim isn’t just about looks – it’s important for their overall welfare too. Labradors are meant to be fit and healthy. Allowing your Lab to get overweight isn’t just bad for his health, it’s also bad for your bank balance. Unfit dogs have more medical issues, which means more trips to the vet and expensive bills each month.
Life with a Labrador should be fun. He will be the most able to enjoy spending time with your family if he is physically well. We’ve been having a look at some of the ways you can help your Labrador stay slim, happy and healthy.
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1. Watch his waistline
Your Labrador should have a nipped in waist, just before his hips.
There should also be an upward sloping line going from the base of his chest to his thighs.
2. Feel his ribs
If you are concerned about your Lab’s weight, then run your hands down his rib cage. You should be able to feel the definition of his ribs as you do so. If you can’t, he is carrying too much weight. This is a good sign that it is time to review his food and exercise plan.
3. Change food quantities with age
As your Labrador gets older, his metabolism will slow down. If he seems to need less food, it is probably because he does. Don’t become complacent and keep giving him the same amount you always have done.
4. Give healthy snacks
If you love giving your Labrador treats, then why not substitute carb and calorie packed dog biscuits for something more natural.
5. Account for treats and snacks in his daily food ration
If you are giving your dog extra food, then it’s important to account for it in his daily total. If you are using kibble as daily training rewards for example, make sure to deduct the amount you have already given him from his food bowl* that evening.
It’s tempting for a lot of people to feed their dogs from the table. Those doe-eyed looks and small sad whimpers tug at their heart strings as they sit tucking into their Sunday lunch. Aside from the issue of whether what you are eating is actually good for your dog, is the fact that you have no way of accurately monitoring the amount of food your dog is being given. It’s therefore best to avoid this all together.
7. Get your family and friends on board
There is no point in trying to help your Labrador get in shape, if you are being constantly thwarted by well-meaning, kind-hearted friends and family members. Helping your Labrador stay slim is everyone’s responsibility! If you notice them slipping table scraps or treats to him, it’s important to kindly explain to him that whilst it might make them feel nice to do so, it’s not in your dog’s best interests. If you can’t stop them from doing so, you will have to stop them from having access to your dog until they learn that you mean business.
The crux of any weight problem is in diet, and it is possible to solve your fat Lab’s problem by restricting his food intake alone. However, exercise can really help to boost the results, and be a fun way of keeping your Labrador happy and healthy.
9. Have a set routine
Remembering to walk the dog each day is often easier if you have a set time to do so. This doesn’t mean you need to walk the same way, or do the same thing each day. But giving yourself a timed structure can remind you to make sure you have done something.
10. Don’t be put off by the weather
If you find walking your dog in the rain unpleasant, it can be hard to get yourself out the front door sometimes. Try investing in some waterproof trousers and a warmer jacket. Remember, your dog doesn’t mind getting wet, so just do what you need to in order to make the experience more pleasant for you to.
11. Get some company
Another great way to motivate yourself to take your dog out, come rain or shine, is to get a friend involved or join a dog walking group. If you and your neighbour have an agreement to go on a dog walk every day at 10am, you will find it much easier to encourage yourself to do so.
12. Play fetch
If you struggle walking long distances or finding the time to really get out and about, it’s important to find other ways to get your Labrador’s heart rate up. Retrieving is a great way of helping your dog to run those cobwebs away, without you having to exert huge amounts of time or effort. You can even do it in your back garden!
13. Play tug
Another great way to help your dog expend some energy is through tugging games. Although it does require more of an active part for you than playing fetch normally does, a lot of Labradors love the one on one interaction. In fact, many dogs find tugging games so rewarding that some people even use rope tugs in their training!
Swimming is another great way to help your Labrador stay slim. It is especially good for labs with more mobility or joint pain, as it isn’t weight baring. If you find your Labrador struggles with going for walks, taking him to a pet hydrotherapy pool could be a great way to keep him moving.
15. Change his food ration with changes in exercise
On a day to day basis small fluctuations in the amount of exercise your Lab gets won’t matter, but big changes do need to be accounted for. For example if your Lab is a gundog and running around all day in the winter, but spends most of his time lounging with the family in summer, he will need a decreased diet to stay slim.
Keeping your Labrador slim is important, but there are still plenty of ways that you can make it fun. From substituting treats for healthier alternatives, to finding new ways to get out and get some exercise. The possibilities are endless!
Affiliate link disclosure: Links in this article marked with an * are affiliate links, and we may receive a small commission if you purchase these products. However, we selected them for inclusion independently, and all of the views expressed in this article are our own.
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The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website