HAVANESE ABC's

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Chocolate Havanese

Weight control

Overeating does not seem to be a big problem with most Havanese, but it can become one. All dogs love cookies and treats. The Havanese is no exception. Just remember to indulge your pet sparingly as Havanese are a toy dog whose daily food requirement is quite small. A Havanese who does not empty the bowl at mealtimes is not necessarily a picky eater. New owners can become quite distraught about their pet not getting enough and may decide to supplement the diet with tasty hand fed morsels. Whether a dog is hungry or not, they are unlikely to turn away from cheese, chicken and other tasty tidbits and in no time at all you may have a self-caused weight problem. A Havanese appetite and daily food requirement may be much smaller than many people imagine. If your Havanese is not eating his whole portion of food, it may be that he has had enough to eat and is not hungry. If they are hungry, they will eat.

Your Havanese should maintain a slim trim figure and you should be able to easily feel the ribs when you run your hands along the body. You have probably heard this many times, but what does it really mean? You may have read in assorted books that a dog at ideal weight has ribs that feel like a washboard. That is well and good but how many of us know what a washboard feels like? I know what a wash board looks like from seeing them in the museum and on old time movies, but as for truly knowing what a washboard feels like; I must confess I really don't. I can only assume the washboard analogy was coined many years ago when they were more common than they are now.

Whether you know what a washboard feels like or not, you still need to know when your Havanese is at a healthy lean weight. Visually, unless a dog is grossly underweight or overweight, this is next to impossible to tell with a profusely coated dog like the Havanese. Here is a new analogy to remember which will never become dated and all you need is your hand; it's an easy way to feel ideal and not so ideal weight. Don't worry about the dog just yet, let's start by getting familiar with the feel. First, take one hand and lay it flat on the table with fingers just touching each other. Then, run your other hand lightly over the fingers. You can feel all the bumps of the fingers. That is very similar to a washboard and what the ribs of a lean slim dog should feel like. Of course, not all dogs may be this ideal weight so let's see what underweight and overweight feels like. Spread the fingers of your table hand so they are about 1/4 inch in between, and feel again. That would be a slightly underweight dog. Try it again with a full finger width between fingers. That is the feel of a very underweight dog with the ribs feeling prominent and skeletal. Next, we need to change things a bit so you can also feel what overweight is like. Close the fingers of your table hand so they are touching again and lay a single layer wash cloth over them and feel. Now the ribs are slightly "padded" and harder to feel. That is the feel of a somewhat overweight dog. Double up the towel and feel again, those bumps are smoothing and becoming less distinct. Double the towel again, now you can barely feel the bumps of the fingers even when you press quite firmly, that is the feel of a very overweight dog. Lastly, lay a sponge on your hand and feel. You cannot feel any "ribs" at all unless you deeply poke and prod; that is the feel of a very obese dog. Now it's time to check the dog. Ribs cover a pretty large area of the body. As you may notice, some areas may be slightly more fleshed than others. The best place to feel ribs is directly behind the elbow. If you can't feel ribs easily when running your hands lightly over the dog, maybe it's time to pay attention.

Why is this so important? It has been proven in veterinary studies that the lifespan of a dog can be increased by 10 to 15 % by feeding a dog to keep it in ideal body condition. This ideal condition also directly correlates to healthier senior years with a later onset of chronic disease, arthritis, and signs of aging. Keeping your pet at an ideal weight and condition means a healthier longer life, lowered potential for developing weight related problems, less strain on bones and joints, less strain on heart and other organs and a healthier happier dog.

Every last bite When a person is told their dog is overweight, the first thing they want to do is restrict the diet and get calorie reduced food. Truth is, unless you are free feeding or overfeeding mealtimes, it is very unlikely that the amount of regular food is the culprit. Treats, snacks and extra tidbits are where you really should be looking. There is nothing wrong with treats. But treats should be no more than 25% of a dog's daily food allowance. A good exercise to see how many treats you are giving is to put a small bowl on the counter and every time anyone gives the dog a treat, you put one in the bowl as well. At the end of the day, see how much is in the treat bowl. Be honest, how many treats are there? If there is 1 cup worth of treats, that is more than a Havanese should be getting total food in a day. If there is about 1/4 cup of treats, that would be about the highest maximum allowed. Any more than that, you are cutting into the food requirements. How many treats do you give at once, one - two - three? Are they tiny treats or are they bigger treats like medium or large biscuits. Are they dry treats or semi moist? Even without changing the number of treats, replacing a medium biscuit with a smaller treat like Charlee Bears or Dr Deans can make a bit impact on the volume of food. Cheerios are another marvelous reward or training treat for Havanese. A dozen Cheerios gives you 12 treats and is still less volume than one single medium biscuit. People often ask how much to feed their Havanese. This is impossible to answer. The food requirement of an individual Havanese will depend on so many factors; the type of diet being fed, the height and bone of the dog, age, condition, activity level, metabolism and climate among other factors. It really does not matter how much one particular dog needs compared to another. The most important is that they be healthy and at an ideal weight. Remember, "slender" is better.

No matter how long they live, it's never long enough. Give your Havanese the gift of good health. Keeping your dog at ideal weight is a simple way to optimize their health and longevity.

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