If there's one thing a lot of us have learned throughout this pandemic it's that fitness is very important to our wellbeing both physical and mental. When going through lockdowns trapped in our apartments/houses we all suffered from lack of socialization but mainly we had a lot of pent up energy and nothing to do with it. Dogs are no different, they need a certain amount of exercise to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing.
Let's look at a quick chart to see where your dog falls on the body index chart. Keep in mind that this is not breed specific and is a quick guide, your veterinarian will always have the best opinion on your dog's body condition.
Numerous people think it's cute to see overweight pets on social medias but this is detrimental to their health both physical and mental! Take this dog below (not a dog I know, just an image pulled off google), to me that's heartbreaking. The excess weight on this dog is causing tremendous stress on his/her joints and putting him/her at higher risk of heart disease amongst other things.
When dogs don't get enough exercise they will usually develop destructive habits such as excessive barking, whining, chewing inappropriate items and running like unchained monsters through the house. Those are just a few possibilities. A study done by J. Alexander et al. (2017) found even more concerning behaviors such as guarding food, stealing food, growling and snapping at strangers and other dogs, fearfulness outdoors and a non-existent recall. Now these adverse behaviors could be due to the environment the dog is being kept in, such as an overly permissive owner that treats the dog like a child. This mentality of humanizing a dog leads to dangerous consequences. They are dogs, not people and therefore have different needs to keep them happy and healthy. Just because scarfing down an entire pizza by yourself makes you happy (yes, I am guilty of that once in a while), it doesn't mean it brings the same joy to your dog. I have my Dalmatian enjoy a stuffed Kong or a frozen turkey neck instead. She loves it as a treat and it keeps her healthy and happy.
If you're anything like me you wish your dog's lifespan was longer than the reality, I think most of us want to keep our dogs around as long as possible, and as healthy and happy as possible. Did you know that keeping your dog overweigh cuts his/her lifespan? A study done by Z. Todd (2019) discovered that the lifespan of dogs can be reduced by up to two years simply because they're overweigh. 50'000 dogs of various breeds were followed for multiple years to find the various lifespan differences due to dogs being overweigh amongst different breeds. Here are the results:
This chart is just an indicator of the ramifications on your pet's lifespan. In truth some pass away a lot sooner than they should due to heart disease. This study conducted by A. P. Rocchini et al. (1987) found that weight gain in dogs was associated with a higher heart rate, increase in blood pressure, hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance. None of these are good for your dog and we've known about this since 1987, so why are there still so many overweight dogs when we've known for this long that it's really really bad for them? We as the owners need to do better. Dogs access the world through us, they cannot wake up one day and decide to go to the pet store to choose a healthier food, the people need to do that for them! If you're lost in the sea of marketing done by the food companies, then consult a canine nutritionist. I have for my Dalmatian and now she's on a great diet she loves and has never looked better...yes I am shamelessly dropping a picture of her :)
With all this information and so much more out there (I had to cut it down since I'm not writing a book about it) why would you restrict your dog's freedom? Get to know your dog and know how much exercise he/she needs; a dachshund will need considerably less exercise than a cattle dog or husky. Make sure your dog gets enough exercise to keep him healthy mentally and physically so you can enjoy him/her in your life as long as possible.
If you don't have the time or the space to let your dog run as much as he/she needs than consider renting out freedom fields where your dog will be able to run as much as they want. The other option is hire a dog walker that takes your dog for a run not just a leashed walk but a real run! After just one week you will see an improvement in your dog's behavior and you'll wonder how you went on without one for so long!
German, A., Blackwell, E., Evans, M., & Westgarth, C. (2017). Overweight dogs are more likely to display undesirable behaviours: Results of a large online survey of dog owners in the UK. Journal of Nutritional Science,6, E14. doi:10.1017/jns.2017.5
Herwijnen, I. R., Corbee, R. J., Endenburg, N., Beerda, B., & Borg, J. A. M. (2020). Permissive parenting of the dog associates with dog overweight in a survey among 2,303 Dutch dog owners. PLOS ONE, 15(8), 10. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0237429
Rocchini, A. P., Moorehead, C., Wentz, E., & Deremer, S. (1987). Obesity-induced hypertension in the dog. Hypertension,9, 64. doi:10.1161/01.hyp.9.6_pt_2.iii64
Salt, C., Morris, P. J., Wilson, D., Lund, E. M., & German, A. J. (2019). Association between life span and body condition in neutered client‐owned dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 33(1), 89-99. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvim.15367
Todd, Z. (2020, July 21). Overweight Dogs Don’t Live as Long, and Scientists Have Calculated How Much Less. Companion Animal Psychology. https://www.companionanimalpsychology.com/2019/03/overweight-dogs-dont-live-as-long-and.html?fbclid=IwAR3aupAjgbez2-hk9d7HF7Acfl5CqoIDRwn27MfVXvQs6kKGUbecRpZnwgw