There's spoiling, then there's spoiling
by Liz Myhre

I bred a litter 12.5 years ago. Three weeks ago I got one of the dogs back for "boarding" while the owner hopefully is getting a job and a home again. I was shocked at the dog's size when I got her. 46 lbs when she should be 26 lbs, after I'd had a serious talk with her over a year ago when the dog was in the 30's range. The owner thought she was just fine.

Her feet have flattened out. Her pasterns bow so painfully under her weight. Her joints have to be killing her. Her fat rolls when she galumps, jolting her poor legs and shoulders even more. Ligaments, joints, and muscles slimply were NOT evolved to bear this amount of weight! This isn't called spoiling, this is called intentially inflicting pain on a dog. She's the equivalent of a 84 year old person that's 400 lbs. How many people that age and weight have you seen? Right. You don't.

She has to lay down to eat her dinner, won't even walk to get kibble scattered across the room (an attempt to get her to exercise more). Her only goal in life is to get back to her bed lay there in dreamy land. She's hurting from all that weight. She's incontinent, possibly from all that excess weight, and is very difficult to get into the bathtub to clean her off due to her weight. She's pretty much been banned to the kitchen by herself as I haven't been able to find a diaper that will stay on, her waist diameter (25") is greater than her hindquarters so everything slips off.

Lady, 46 lbs, at her arrival.

Lady, 38 lbs, 8 weeks later
As her waist is larger than her hindquarters
the suspenders help keep the diapers on.

Where is her quality of life? When I got her I would have rated her quality of life as a D+ on a school grading scale. She's shackled to that bed by her weight, has given up trying to do anything. That's not acceptable for life. I'm hoping that I'll get enough weight off her before something else happens, hoping desperately that she will be able to walk freely, or chase a ball again before she crosses the bridge. I do see a spark of life in her, that she would love to get up and romp again. I feel really bad when I take her for forced walks. She's not happy about it, but if she doesn't get that weight off to have a better quality of life? That's it.

One's own weight is one's own business, I know self control is extremely difficult (I'm not overweight but have very poor eating habits). But your dogs are being fed by you, you have total control over their intake, and don't have to deal with your own brain's issues interfering.

Realize that dog food bags generally way overstate how much your dog should eat (by a factor of 2x often for corgis). Realize that your vet doesn't like to tell you your dog is fat as Drs and Vets lose clients who are told they're overweight and need do something about it. Realize that you should be monitoring their weight yourself by the rib test and changing food amount if the dog needs it. You can do the right thing.

What should your dog weigh? There's no set answer of a certain weight for a breed, it varies by build. Some corgis should be 20lbs, some that have big frames should be 40lbs. But that should NOT be fat! Use the Rib Test: holding your thumbs on the dog's spine, run your other fingers along the ribs. Correct weight is if you can easily feel but not easily count the ribs. That thumb *must* be on the spine or it's cheating. Do this every few weeks, to constantly keep track and adjust food and treat quantity if necessary. If needed, spouses and offspring must also be "adjusted" if they are not cooperating by sneaking treats behind your back.

You can spoil a dog without abusing it. My guys get tidbits of human food all the time, but they're tiny tidbits. They get fruits and veggies that they love more than their kibble, to fill their stomachs up at dinner. And they don't get to stop in the middle of a dog walk when they decide want to go home, they go till I say we're done.

Also realize that spoiling a dog with really tasty meals with all sorts of gravy isn't good. Nor is changing food if the dog decides it wants a new type of food. This spoiled girl won't eat her food. I don't know if it's due to being spoiled, being on antibiotics for her UTI, or if there's some other serious health issue going on. Appetite is one of the primary indications of health issues. If you already have a dog that sometimes refuses to eat, you loose that very important head's up that it's time for a vet visit. And, if the dog does have health issues, a dog that's been on a more "boring" diet will be way more easily tempted with juicy stuff than a dog that's already been used to the good stuff. They'll be more likely to simply not eat anything and will be in trouble.

I don't know if the owner will get a home again. I don't know if I'll give the dog back even if she can afford the dog again. My pup contract specifically states that I can take the dog back if it's not maintained in adequate weight or is not given proper vet care. This dog has not been maintained with either. She's a very sweet girl, I so hope she's got some good moments left in her future.

See also Reba's Story