Saturday, August 7, 2010

No TV Tonight!

Do you believe that our inner child is alive and well, even though sentenced to silence? Most of us have had this type of conversation both as a child and as an adult:

Adult: “You have to eat your vegetables.”
Child: “Why?”
Adult: “Because they are good for you.”
Child: “Why?”

It doesn't matter how many explanations the adult might offer, they will always be followed by another why. Why?

What strikes me as interesting is this – did you ever hear a child ask why he or she should have another piece of chocolate? I haven't. Why?


I am no psychologist but I think there is more to this than the thirst for education. I think this is more about negotiation. Is there a really good reason why I should eat my vegetables or do you just like making me do things? Is there a reason that would be good enough to ME?

(Yeah, I'll give you a good enough reason—either you eat your vegetables or no TV tonight!)

As we grow up we stop asking these questions. Why? Are we that much more accepting of annoying things? I believe we still want to ask, but because we are all grown up and civilized we don't—that would just be childish. And there usually isn't anybody who could get us grounded or take away our TV privileges.

Does that mean there won't be any consequences? 

Of course there will be! But who is going to worry about a consequence they can't see coming? So what do we often do instead? Nothing!

“Well, I don't see any good reason why I should (fill in the thing you don't want to do).”

But what if there was a really good reason, which we'll never find out about, because we don't ask! If we found such a reason would that be good enough to make us to the right thing?

Let's take the issue of obesity in dogs for example. Left and right we keep hearing that we should keep our dogs thin. And yet dog obesity has become an epidemic. Why? The conversation with your vet would probably go something like this:

Veterinarian: “Your dog needs to lose weight.”
Client: “Uh-huh.”
Veterinarian: “It is bad for his health to be obese.”
Client: “Uh-huh.”

But the vet isn't there looking over your shoulder to make sure you eat your vegetables, is he? 

So what happens? You come home and find a hundred reasons why it either doesn't matter or you cannot get your dog to lose weight. Why?

  • “I think he looks just fine the way he is.”
  • “He always looked like this and he is healthy.”
  • “It's just winter fat.”
  • “Well, he loves his treats.”
  • “How can I train him without treats?”
  • “Well, he looks at me with those eyes I have to share my dinner with him.”
  • "I don't have the time to exercise him."
  • "The weather has been bad."
  • “He is hungry! He wouldn't eat if he wasn't hungry!”


The list goes on. A hundred reasons for your dog to remain obese and only one reason to get him thin. So what do you do? Nothing.

What if I told you that there really are very good reasons to get your dog lose weight? Would that help? 

In the meantime, I'm afraid, no TV tonight for you, my friend.

Jana

Turns out this issue isn't just on my mind. Just as I wrote this article, Pawcurious published a great post on the subject The Biggest Loser - Dog Edition! Check it out!

Related articles:
Know Your Dog's Enemies: Overweight
The Cancer Antidote that Lies Within: You Will Never Look At Fat The Same Way Again

14 comments

  1. Great stuff as always....I feel like this article is a bit of an old friend :-)

    Nothing for nothing but I think the dog blogger challenge is shaping you into a tremendous technician. This blog post has it all.

    The link to an "inside" post, the link to an outside post, great info...the works ...the formating is excellent.

    Sorry..I dont mean to take anything away from the content, Im just impressed with everything else that goes into an article....awesome job :-)

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  2. Dino, yes, it is greatly inspired by you, though the content is how I think. I usually focus on the informative aspect, but sometimes it might be helpful to say things differently.

    You're a great teacher.

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  3. It's odd, but I'm always careful about the amount and quality of food I'm feeding my pooches. As for me... Not so much! :)

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  4. Pibble, I don't find it odd at all! Same in our house :-)

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  5. Hop, hop, hop...walking is mutually beneficial for pooch and owner.....cheers!

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  6. Keeping_Awake here!

    I just left a long comment on @pawcurios's blog on this subject. I won't repeat it here. ;)

    But the gist of it was that IME, vets are reluctant to discuss weight in dogs. I don't understand why that is, but my suspicion is that it's an uncomfortable conversation and many dog owners do not take the advice they are offered.

    Or they go the other route, just announcing the dog is fat and not saying much else!

    I know one of my clients was told by her vet, pretty bluntly, that her dog needed to lose 20 pounds (not as bad as it sounds-this is a very large breed, but still a significant weight issue). Client asked me, in shock, "Could that possibly be right?!"

    Well, I had to do some dancing. Yes, her dog was clearly chubby, but I am the dogwalker, not the vet, and Client clearly wanted me to tell her the vet had suffered temporary insanity. ;)

    So I aimed for diplomacy. I explained that you'd want to see a good tuck-up in this breed behind the rib cage; that you'd want to be able to discern a waist behind the ribcage when viewing the dog from above; that you'd want to be able to easily feel ribs 3" down from the spine without going on a search and rescue mission; and our girl was resembling more of a tube/wedge at the moment. (I omitted that it's common to see the last rib in her breed if the dog were being shown. ;)) But I did mention that it wasn't uncommon to see a chubby adolescent dog, as it can be hard to figure out just when to cut the food back a bit as the dog reaches maturity and has lower calorie requirements. Many owners go through this. Perhaps this is what had happened in her case? The dog just stopped growing and no one considered that the rations might need a tweak?

    This made sense to her; she could see her dog didn't meet the guidlelines and she did get 10 pounds off the dog. I praised her wildly whenever I could tell the dog was getting into better shape.

    When the dog had lost 15 pounds, the vet was also happy, and the Client has kept the dog there.

    But anyway, this conversation about weight in dogs seems to either not happen as often as it should in veterinary offices or it isn't being handled well. ;)

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  7. Moxie, you are right. Exercise is an important part of staying/getting into shape for both your dog and yourself.

    When our late rescue (male Rottweiler) came to us, he looked like a beer barrel! Without putting him on any substantial diet (just reasonable portions), just by introducing him to our walk routine he shrunk to half the size.

    Exercise also helps to increase metabolism which also makes losing weight easier.

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  8. Hi Keeping_awake! Thank you so much for taking the time to post your comment!

    Yes, there is usually plenty of blame to go all around. I had a reason to make my point the way I did but you're also making a good one.

    Now I'm trying to figure whether I should respond to this in comments or whether I should write a post instead :-) I'll let you know when I figure that out.

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  9. Hi, everybody.

    @Keeping-awake, I think you're right about the subject of weight being a difficult subject for a veterinarian to approach with a pet parent. Some people just plain don't believe it (sort of like your client/friend) and some actually take offense to the suggestion. Sometimes people take the information as a personal insult.

    That does not mean it's not a discussion that we should stop having. I've had the most success explaining to my pet parents, as you did, what we look for in a well-proportioned dog (or cat). The body condition charts that are available now are a tremendous help. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

    Jana, I can't wait to see where you're going with this topic. Looking forward to seeing more on it soon :-)

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  10. Stopping by on the blog hop.
    Great article. As a vet assistant we see so many overweight dogs come in every day, IMO educating the pet owners is key, letting them know that the extra weight can shorten their pets life span and giving them the correct information and tools to do something about it.

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  11. I love this article! As a vet, I have to say that YES! Weight is so difficult to discuss with owners, especially if the owner is overweight too. Most find it very offensive, and do not want to hear advice. However, there are lots of owners I have worked with that are truly interested in getting their dog to optimum weight. The dogs are so much healthier and I love to see the results!

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  12. Dear Jen and Jessica

    Glad you enjoyed the article!

    I think the missing link is that owners do not have a full understanding of this issue. I am hoping that educating them in more detail might help.

    That is what I'm trying to do.

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  13. Good article Jana.

    The list of justifications you gave are all good ones. But one that I find that usually trumps them all is the same reason many humans overeat- emotional eating.

    Passing treats and tables scraps and other goodies along to our dogs can satisfy the same emotional needs as when we do it ourselves. It pleases us to please them and so we can be just as much in denial about their weight as we are our own.

    Good stuff please keep it coming.

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  14. Hi Kevin, thank you for your comment! You're right. It's so hard not to indulge oneself, isn't it?

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