how to choose best natural treats and training treats for puppies and dogs / puppy tips and advice / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

Collagen dog chews. Are they really a safer alternative to rawhide?

Have you heard of the new dog chews that were introduced recently? Marketed as “natural collagen chews” and a “safe alternative to rawhide”, they sounded too good to be true, so the sceptic in me got really curious.

According to the manufacturers, the “chewllagen” treats are made from “corium”, a part of the skin that consists of collagen and this is what makes the new chews different and safe compared to the typical rawhide.

It does sound really wonderful, promising, convincing and science’y for anyone not particularly concerned with the anatomy of the skin. However, being a nutritionist and a kind of dog mum who likes to get to the bottom of everything that goes into my dog’s mouth, I did think of the physiology part, and that’s when my inner sceptic got partially confused and partially frustrated.

Naturally all mammals have a very similar skin structure. The top layer may be different depending on the species and environment (for example, an alligator skin will certainly be different from the rabbit’s or pheasant, and the latter will, indeed, will look different compared to the human skin), but the layers of the skin and their primarily functions will be very much alike.

All skins can be divided into two main layers – the epidermis (also known as epithelium) or the outer layer, and the dermis (or corium) the thicker layer that lies underneath the epidermis.

The epidermis portion of the skin is very thin yet strong. It forms a barrier between the body and the environmental dangers including pathogens, chemicals and UV rays. It also supports natural detoxification and protects internal organs, muscles, nerves and blood vessels from injuries.

The corium, or epidermis, is a much thicker structure made primarily from collagen that gives the skin strength and flexibility.

The epidermis and dermis are separated from each other by a coloured and textured membrane known as a “glassy layer”.

During the leather manufacturing process the layer of epidermis is removed completely to expose the texture of the glassy layer attached to the dermis following by another phase that deals with hair follicles, glands and colour variations as well as a treatment that kills fungi, bacteria, yeast and other forms of life through the process called putrefaction. To achieve this, all hides must go through several stages that may include soaking in water, acetic acid and glycerine, alcohol processing, freezing, and using chemicals such as lime, sulphides, ammonia, aspartic, hydrochloric and butyric acids, mercuric chloride, lead acetate, and various salts (The Principles of Leather Manufacture by H.R. Procter & The Manufacture of Leather by Hugh Garner Bennett).

If the “glassy layer” is also stripped, the hides look like a white porous sheet that cannot be used for leather-making, but can be further processed and reconstituted to make, you guessed it, rawhide chews!

As a result, any raw hide chew may contain traces of chemicals, possible toxins, bacteria and pathogens. Some can also be treated with flavours and enhances. However, all raw hides are still natural, can be digested (the study that tested various dog treats concluded that all raw hides have a digestibility between 14.2 and 99.5), are a source of protein or, if I am to be precise, collagen, and free from gluten, artificial flavours and ingredients. The raw hides are said to be made from “the deeper layer of the skin”.

They can be dangerous because some dogs would struggle to fully digest the tissue, while others may be sensitive to the chemical compounds used in leather manufacturing. A typical raw hide also adds too much protein to the dogs diet, somost puppies will likely have diarrhoea as a result. Another problem with excessive protein intake in puppies is the potential rapid growth, which can cause skeletal problems in the future. Additionally, any dog may end up with an obstruction after swallowing a large chunk of the treat.

Now we have the new option. The collagen chew. The “all natural”, “high in protein”, “collagen-rich”, “digestible”, “free from grains, gluten and artificial ingredients” perfection made from “the bottom layer of the skin called corium”. In the small print, we are asked to supervise the dog whilst he is playing with the chew and, when the treat  “becomes softened and stretched” (which is also very typical characteristic of a natural raw hide chew) – cut this part off  before the dog can have the rest back. The new chew is manufactured by the same companies that produce the raw hide treats.

Correct me if I am wrong, but if we compare the notes from the basic skin anatomy I’ve talked about in the beginning of this post and the brief description of leather and hide manufacturing in the middle of my story, corium is the only layer of the skin that can be used for both the raw hides and the collagen chews. Same layer marketed under different name because it happens to have three interchangeable versions (the commonly used “deeper layer” or “hide” is just a synonym for “the derma”, “the corium”, or “the cutis”). There are simply no other layers in the skin that are high in collagen and can be rolled into a cigar or doughnut shape unless, of course, some company will take the bones and congestive tissues and reconstitute them into powder, sheets and the final product.

Which makes the new collagen chew identical to the old raw hide and leaves me feeling like the boy from the Emperor’s New Clothes tale.

I would be very happy to be incorrect, but for now I would prefer to remain very sceptical about the new option and stick with carrots and home made biscuits for my pups instead.

What do you think? Would you consider these chews as a treat for your dog?

 

Style outfit ideas for dog walking in fashion / Spring edition / Camel outfit ideas / Cashmere jumper, leather trousers, puff jacket, suede leather bag / Perfect cocker spaniel / pet blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Fashion guide to walking your dog in style | Spring edition

I saw this on Facebook the other day…. “You used to look nice. Perhaps, enjoyed selecting a nice outfit to wear for your Saturday shop and coffees out. You don’t give a shit now. Once never seen out unless fully made up you will now be found wandering round your neighbourhood at 7 am on a Sunday morning in your pyjamas with your puff coat, carrying a bag of hot poo, swinging it gaily even, by way of a statement, so all your neighbours know you are a responsible dog owner. You will have clothing envy as you meet other dog owners, clearly in the game longer than you have been as they have managed to get dressed and comb their hair…”

And as funny as it sounds, it made me think about my journey as a dog mum… I’ve always tried to look nice. In fact, I promised myself that all my boys will have a mum they’d be proud of. Sometimes, usually past the puppy period when I’d be covered in mud and paw prints most of the time, I succeeded… But then there were times I didn’t feel particularly pretty.

However… as I work from home and my life revolves around my (very good looking) pups, I end up dressing up for dog walks mainly. Or for outings with dogs. And for meeting other dogs. Which basically means that I still like my clothes, but have to forgo the heels and extra special pieces, and instead choose practical clothes that would still pass the “beautiful” mark. Because if the clothes aren’t beautiful or feel cheap and tacky, sooner or later the feeling will transfer onto, or even under, the skin like a permanent tattoo… And if you’ve even experienced it, you know it’s not a good feeling. At all…

So… Blame it on the spring, sunshine, fashion week or new collections, but I’ve decided to play a little style game here and share some outfit ideas for dog mums. Because we may still have a bunch of poop bags in every pocket, but those pockets will be attached to the prettiest jackets, trousers and bags!

Also… on a “before we begin” kind of note… Do you like the featured photo? Because I will be using it for the entire series of my style posts.

The look below is for an early spring, so you can layer the pieces depending on the weather. If you aren’t sure about the colour of the trousers, they come in black, too.

Style outfit ideas for dog walking in fashion / Spring edition / Camel outfit ideas / Cashmere jumper, leather trousers, puff jacket, suede leather bag / Perfect cocker spaniel / pet blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Shop: T-shirt | Trousers | Jumper | Boots | Hat | Jacket | Bag

 

Image credit: Karen Arnold from Pixabay

Can my dog eat almonds / safe and toxic foods for dogs / dogs nutrition / best diet for english cocker spaniel / diet tips for dogs / Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

Can my dog eat… almonds?

Since nutrition has always been one of my passions (and a job) I’ve decided to make it a permanent feature on Perfect cocker spaniel. Would be a shame not to since I hold qualifications in both human and canine nutrition, right?

I know I’ve already talked about the subject in the past discussing specific ingredients, avocados, cheese, and chocolate, talking about healthy dog treats, vegan diet, pancreatitis, and how to keep your dog’s weight under control, but it was always random. I’d like to change it and focus on the topic thoroughly.

“Can my dog eat…” posts will be a part of it. I’ll add them to the blog at least once a week and keep on going until we cover every edible and not-so-edible titbit.

Done with the prelude, lets talk about food!

Today we are focusing on ALMONDS in our dogs’ diet. Personally I love almonds very much: they are perfect on a go, full of vitamins, minerals, good oils and fibre, perfect for my skin and hormones, and make a fab substitute for flour.

But CAN OUR DOGS EAT ALMONDS?

The answer is NO.

Almonds contain cyanide compounds called cyanogenic glycosides, which is toxic to both dogs and humans. However, the sweet almonds sold in supermarkets and used in cooking contain very little quantities (16-32mg/kg), which makes them perfectly safe.

However, even though sweet almonds are not toxic to dogs, they may cause a few issues. First of all, almonds are not something that dogs can easily digest and can suffer from diarrhoea, vomiting, discomfort, bloating, gas, lack of appetite and lethargy. Almonds are high in fat, which can increase the risk of pancreatitis. If a dog swallows a whole almond, the nut may cause obstruction and be life-threatening.

Almonds may also be contaminated with aflatoxins (the toxic by-product produced by fungi that is often found in soil) that can cause damage to the nervous system, liver failure, or haemylytic anaemia, increase the risk of cancer and  be fatal to dogs.

In the other hand, bitter almonds (which can be found in some shops and online) provide 6.2mg of cyanide per almond, or about 1100mg/kg, are highly toxic to dogs and can be fatal if eaten.

Since, unlike humans, dogs don’t really rip any health benefits from almonds, it’s best to avoid them completely. Also remember to check ingredients labels on your dog’s food and treats to ensure they are almond-free.

 

Image credit:  Free-Photos from Pixabay

Latest studies to show that dogs may be able to count, use same area of the brain as humans, and have numerological skills / Perfect cocker spaniel dog blog about English cocker spaniels, puppy advice, tips, nutrition, grooming, research / (C) Natalia Ashton

Two treats are better than one and your dog is the one who is counting

“Make sure you give them two treats each,” I instructed my husband who was taking on the role of “the treat guy”… “Because they know, they always know…” I whispered.

I wasn’t making it up. There have been several studies peeking into our dog’s numerological abilities including the 2002 study suggesting that “dogs may have the rudimentary skill to count” and the 2009 research that compared dog’s intelligence to the one of a 2-year old human. And the latest findings published in December 2019 confirmed that dogs use the same number-responsive area of the brain as humans to “spontaneously process basic numerical quantities”.

The dogs used in the 2019 study were not trained, restrained or sedated to react to numbers or quantities yet they responded to the changing quantities of dots shown to them every time the numbers changed from constant.

According to the scientists “the results provide some of the strongest evidence yet that numerosity is a neural mechanism shared between dogs and humans that goes back as far as 80 million years”

And for us, dog parents, it means that our pups may, in fact, count their treats – and, as a result, achieve even better outcomes of reward-based training because they know there are still more yummy titbits to come.

 

Image credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

How to train your dog positively, study research, tips / perfect cocker spaniel / english cocker spaniel training, grooming, advice, puppy / world kindness day blog post / (C) Natalia Ashton / dog paw in human hand photo

Having a dog without regrets

What do you write about after sharing a post dedicated to the dog you miss so very much? Honestly, I tried to sit down and string a few words together, but it simply did not work…

Then, a few days ago I came across a survey done by Sainsbury’s Pet Insurance. According to the findings over 50 per cent of Southern dog (and cat) parents did not research the breed of their puppy before getting one, and only 21 per cent spent more than a week (a week, seriously?!) to find “the right breed for their lifestyle”. Worse, every sixth pet parent had regrets of getting a dog of that specific breed.

Think how many dogs you would normally meet during a walk with your pooch? Now imagine that every sixth dog is actually a burden to the person who walks him at that very moment – and try not bleed inside your heart.

For me, my dogs are my life. And I admit, I am, by my own admission, really is all about my dogs. I live and breathe for the happiness of my boys and feel terrible if I believe they didn’t have a good enough day (by my standards). I am not perfect at all, but I do everything I can – and a little bit more. No matter what.

As somebody who spent years researching dog breeds, reading books and attending courses to learn about taking care of a puppy, I simply cannot fathom how it is even possible to decide that one is ready for a dog and knows enough about a dog after a week of “research”… And then proceed by getting a puppy – not a fluffy toy, but an actual living being who needs his human mum to help him live, learn and thrive!

I’ve seen those people. I did. And I helped a few, too. Not because I cared much for them, but because I cared too much for the little pup who ended up in a household that was totally unprepared for him or her.

Do you ever wonder why we still have the heartbreaking reality of puppy farms? This is a good example how and why these disgusting businesses flourish. Every day they offer pups to these “owners” (because I cannot even refer to these people as “parents”) who visit them to get a dog without knowing much simply because they felt like having a puppy here and now, or choose to buy a puppy in a pet shop while stoping for coffee!

These are the people who end up with a dog suffering from illnesses or psychological problems. These are the people who had every chance of giving that puppy a wonderful  life, but instead give him up as an unwanted regret.

I tried to stay “cool and content” and find reasons to justify these people’s actions. I went online looking for opinions on forums and social media looking for solid reasons of regret… The truth was painful to learn:

“I didn’t realise dogs are such a hard work…”

“I am so annoyed because I cannot travel now like I used to…”

“He is such an inconvenience…”

“He chewed my furniture and went to pee all over the house…”

“He pulls the lead so hard, I can’t walk him, so I decided to rheum…”

“Having a dog is so expensive!”

“I only realised this breed wasn’t for me after I got a puppy…”

“I live in a cream house but this dog makes it dirty and leaves hair everywhere…”

“I can’t sleep at night because he keeps crying in the other room…”

“I feel stuck with him for years now…”

There were very, very few exceptions who had regrets because they were seriously ill, injured or suffered from severe allergy. Ironically, this group of people actually did their very best to try and keep the dog no matter what.

How can I possibly stay indifferent to this situation if it shows that the nation of dog lovers is clearly lacking the three fundamental pillars of dog parenthood: knowledge, commitment and responsibility? And worse, do very little to improve on any of these?

You may notice I did not mention love… I believe it’s important but love is nothing if it does not inspire you to become a better person, a better pup parent – and learn, learn everything you can before and during your life with one of the most wonderful beings we ever managed to tame… yet forgot the obvious “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed…” from the Little Prince. But then how many of those people would even read Exupéry?

And since this wonderful author also said that “a goal without a plan is just a wish”, here are a few things everyone who dreams of having a cocker spaniel puppy should read as the essential minimum before they even launch their search for the dream dog… As the very first step to make sure that every dog is wanted… now – and forever, for the rest of his life and beyond.

Misleading facts about English cocker spaniels you need to know

How to find a perfect cocker spaniel puppy

How to find a cocker spaniel puppy online and avoid puppy farms

Why is it so important to ask a breeder about health tests before choosing a puppy?

5 good reasons to have a cocker spaniel puppy

Perfect cocker spaniel: the ultimate guide to the breed including puppy guide, tips on grooming, diet, health, training and more

How to garden when you have a cocker spaniel puppy

Do you love gardening as much as you love cocker spaniels? So do many cockers… One of the most agricultural breeds out there. The only problem is that the dogs see the process in their own rather unique way. They love to prepare the soil, remove excess growth and replant things that look to enticing to them.

Oscar was the one who educated us on the subject of this special love. We puppy-proofed the garden before his arrival but obviously our efforts were based on a regular dog – not a cocker. As soon as Ozzy acclimatised and blossomed, he decided to apply his own gardening rules to the handkerchief space we created.

The pretty carnations and primroses were murdered on a cream sofa, the grass was pulled out seconds after my husband lovingly planted it and a few little trees had to be bandaged in a pathetic attempt to salvage them.

But I think the moment I’ll never forget was “the night of digging”.

One evening we started on a new flower bed, but had to stop as the rain approached. We run into the house only to see Oscar running in the opposite direction, sort of a slow motion moment from a horror movie that you can’t do much about. We froze as our little cocker jumped into the soil and started digging a massive hole in a manner of escapist finding his way to Australia… Moments later our golden spaniel was completely black.

The bath and blow dry took ages. I was relived to finally have my fluffy pup back before me and felt like having a cup of tea and relaxing. Unfortunately, Oscar had a plan of his own. As soon as he was near the garden door, the determined pup pushed it wide open and…jumped into the hole he made that was now filled with rain water and mud.

To keep the story short, he had another wash and blow dry – and we completely remodelled the garden the next morning feeling somewhat grateful that the space was rather small. The lesson was learnt.

As the spring is returning and we all end up spending more and more time outside, I wanted to put together a little guide about gardening with your cocker spaniel.

I have two reasons for it. Your sanity. And your dog’s safety. You need to be able to enjoy the outdoorsy life and the pup needs to be able to join you without potentially hurting himself by either eating a poisonous plant or swallowing a stick.

How do you ensure that your garden stays as beautiful as possible when you have a cocker spaniel?

How to stop dog digging garden / English cocker spaniel puppy training tips / breed and puppy guide dog book /

Start before your puppy is even here by dog-proofing the garden. Lift pots, raise flower beds, remove potentially dangerous plants whenever possible, create temporary barriers to stop the puppy from getting too close and personal with the rest of the flora.

Introduce temporary “fence” to protect the plants and flower beds. We used panels for a modular puppy play pen: assemble them into a shape you need using provided pins and secure the “wall” to a few wooden stakes.

Do not leave your puppy unattended.

Teach your cocker to “leave” and “spit”

Use the garden as a play spot. Make the little spaniel focus on your and the toys until he becomes completely indifferent to the plants.

Fred, chocolate and tan English cocker spaniel puppy, perfect cocker spaniel breed and puppy guide book, Natalia o dog blog

Give your dog plenty of toys and chews to focus on.

Make sure that he gets enough exercise and mental stimulation to keep him happy and prevent zoomies as he is most likely to dig the garden when he’s overaroused, under-exercised or anxious.

Provide shelter during hot weather because some dogs would dig a hole to create a cool down spot.

Keep rodents out because a cocker can sniff them and start digging as a results. Use ultrasound deterrents and patch the holes – avoid poisons as it is both inhumane and can be life-threatening for your dog.

Do not plant or prepare the ground in front of your puppy. He will do his best to investigate everything you’ve done as soon as possible!

how to stop dog cocker spaniel digging garden and destroying plants / perfect cocker spaniel breed and puppy guide, dog book

Personally I have no problems with my pups eating the grass, but I taught mine to go and search for the types they liked the most. For example, Fred and I go to “find a dandelion”. It creates a bit of fun for both of us and he somehow focuses on this game and the plant, and leaves the rest alone.

And whatever happens, please do not ever punish your dog by shouting at him (or worse). Do not use chemical solutions, water sprinkles or any “scarecrow”-like objects to frighten him either.

how to puppy proof garden / Cooper red sable cocker spaniel puppy / perfect cocker spaniel best book breed puppy guide about English cockers / Nata

Remember that in most cases this is just a stage of puppyhood and your little cocker is simply exploring his surroundings to learn the ropes of life. As he gets older, the spaniel will no longer perceive the garden as a place to explore but will appreciate it as a spot to relax and watch the world go by.

You may also be interested in a post about things that can be potentially dangerous for a dog in spring and summer. And for more tips about puppy-proofing, garden hazards, and raising and training a puppy, get a copy of Perfect cocker spaniel guide.

Photo credit: Fred and Cooper photographed by me, other images via Pixabay

Diet, exercise, lifestyle advice to help obese dog lose weight safely. Perfect cocker spaniel dog blog and book guide for English cocker spaniels

Is your dog overweight? How to help your cocker spaniel lose & maintain weight.

Oscar was a true cocker spaniel. He loved his food. Not as much as he loved us, but I suspect the food came second… Especially when it came to French bread.

How on Earth did Oscar figure out the delights of French culture? I am not sure… He grew up with a little crunchy crust of a classic English toast… And then, somehow, the English lad got the taste for one of the Parisian statements… The boy loved those crisp light baguettes. He always knew that we’d bring one on a saturday morning. And every time Oscar sat in the kitchen waiting patiently for us to cut off the end, took it carefully from our hands and then run, run fast, to the spot in front of the garden door…. To devour his “baguette magique” in the room with a view… This dog had more flair for joie de vivre than both of us combined.

I think it was probably the bread that made him put on a little weight. We didn’t notice at first. Ozzy was born deliciously chunky and his shape and glorious coat never really made him look anything but scrumptious.

But since “hips don’t lie” we had to do something about those extra kilos. He didn’t enjoy carrying them – and we hated seeing him uncomfortable. A few months later Oscar got back to his perfect shape. He never stopped loving or eating baguettes – we simply made sure to be careful with the quantities and frequency of the treat.

The whole “overweight” experience was something I’ve never really dealt with before. None of my dogs ever had issues. And after we helped Oscar to shed the pounds, I promised myself to never ever get into this situation again.

I kept my word. Both Coop and Fred have what would be classified as ideal body score.

Why does it matter to me so much? The most important thing to remember that any excess weight is not just a cosmetic imperfection. Trust me, I am a nutritionist after all.

The fat tissue is not simply sitting there like a cute cushion. It is actively producing hormones altering the ones circulating through the body and talking to different organs. As a result the excess fat can contribute to the development of inflammation and hormone-related cancers. In addition, the excess fat can lead to heart failure, high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, skin problems, breathing difficulties, inability to maintain healthy body temperature or deal with heat, and reduce your dog’s susceptibility to illness because the immune system will be suffering from all those hormonal changes. Even a small increase in weight can shorten the dog’s life expectancy, make it more difficult for him to recover post-surgery or even get through one, if I am honest

Allowing your dog to remain overweight or obese means that you are willingly shortening his life day by day – and make the quality of his life unbearable as the time passes.

According to the BVA’s statistics 46% of dogs in the UK were classified as either overweight or obese in 2017. By 2019 the figure went to 51% according to the PFMA report yet 68% of dog owners thoughts that their pet was completely normal with 67% not expressing any concerns even after being told that their dog needed to lose weight

As a cocker spaniel parent you need to be particularly aware of the issue because cockers are one of the breeds that can put weight quickly if their food intake and exercise aren’t carefully monitored. This is especially important during the puppy hood or if your dog has been neutered or getting older.

What factors can lead to excess weight or obesity in a dog?

Overfeeding. Too many treats, free-feeding, constant swapping of different dog foods, unbalanced diet containing too much protein, fat or carbohydrates, mixing up brands and formulas, adding a few titbits to your dogs dinner “to make it nicer”, creating your own meals from scratch without consulting a canine nutritionist, letting your dog lick a bowl or plate after you finished cooking or eating dinner… All these factors are the reasons why the dogs can put on weight.

Any extra bite, any insignificant treat, anything that is given to your dog in addition to his daily food, comes with calories. And in case of dogs, these calories can add on incredibly fast.

A thin 25g slice of ham may seem like nothing to you, yet add 3-5% of your dog’s daily calorie intake in one go. Cheddar is widely recommended as a training treat, yet 25g contain 100kcal, which is about 15% (!) of a daily calorie requirement for an average cocker. A 40g slice of bread also contains 100kcal. An innocent looking digestive will add 70kcal or about 10% of your dogs daily energy needs… The grocery list goes on… To this add a couple of dog biscuits to the treat menu and voila – we have a problem.

The worst problem is that people do not really think about it until the dog already has a problem. And even then many will continue the treats because they associate them with love.

Please be honest with yourself. If you feed your dog with table scraps or tend to be generous with treats, you need to change your mind set right now.

Lack of exercise. A cocker needs an hour of exercise every day – and any dog should be walked for minimum 30 minutes a day to remain healthy. Yet the study published in 2019 showed that less than 50% of dog owners walked their dogs daily and even when they did, many dogs only got 20 minutes of walking per day!

A dog, especially a life-loving cocker, will walk with you whatever (or almost whatever) the weather! Please don’t deny them this joy – and learn to enjoy the activity together, rain or shine. It will be beneficial for both you and your wonderful companion, I promise.

Genetics. Cockers are one of the breeds prone to weight gain. This can differ from line to line and even location, but should always be taken into consideration.

Neutering. There isn’t enough evidence to say that all neutered dogs will automatically gain weight, however, the hormonal changes, especially the absence of oestrogen, that follow the op, will alter your dog’s metabolism and appetite, and increase the risk of weight gain as a result.

Health status. Thyroid disorders and diabetes are two of the hormone-related disorders that can cause excess body weight. Some prescription medication such as steroids can also lead to weight gain. Your vet should be able to talk you through the side-effects and how to avoid them.

Age. As the dog gets older his digestive system becomes less active and able to process the nutrients effectively and his endocrine system will be producing lower levels of hormones. Often the dogs will be getting less exercise, too.

How do you know if your spaniel needs to slim down? 

Ask the vet. They are brilliant.

Identify if your dog is overweight or obese. The overweight dog has more body fat that is required for optimum health. The obesity means that the weight is seriously affecting the dog’s health and wellbeing.

Weight your dog. Not so much to use the number as the life sentence but more – to have a starting point. Just like with people, weight is a very individual thing for every individual dog. Yes, there is a specific “ideal weight” for a cocker spaniel , which is 12 – 14.5kg (26.5-32lbs) for a female cocker and 12.2 – 15.4kg (27.5-34lb) for a male, according to the veterinary manual and the breed standard. But some cockers can be a little bit smaller or bigger or into their exercise, which can shift the number slightly. The weight will also depends on your dogs age, genes and health status.

In his glory days Oscar handsomely weighed 14.5kg whereas Coop is about 13kg and Fred, my tiny pup, is barely 11 (but Fred really was the tiniest puppy of all times!)

Which takes me to the next point.

Use the body scoring chart. If you compare the shape of your dog to the chart it will show you straight away if your cocker is ideal, under or overweight. In fact, even British Veterinary Association advocates the use of body scoring over the scales. It is visual and can be done any time and anywhere.

Dog body score chart to see if the dog is normal weight, overweight or obese | how to help dog lose weight | (c) Perfect cocker spaniel dog blog about English cocker spaniels

You need to be able to feel the ribs and see the waist outline both from the top and the side. The dog must not look like a barrel.

If your dog’s weight is 30% or more above the “ideal weight” and/or has a body score of 8 or 9, he is likely to be considered obese and require immediate attention and weight loss strategy. 

Even if your dog does not fall into obese category, but his body score clearly puts him into the overweight category, act now.

What can you do to help your dog lose weight?

Be honest with yourself. Admit that your dog has a problem and it is your responsibility to improve the situation.

Keep a food diary for 3-7 days to help you record everything you dog eats on a daily basis. This can be an eye-opener.

Weigh your dog and establish his body score. Keep the record of it. Weight your dog every 2-3 weeks to see any changes. Aim for 0.5-2% loss of initial body weight per week.

You can even take a photo of your spaniel once a week and store it in your phone’s favourites. Having visuals is one of the most powerful tools.

Be mindful when feeding your dog. Stop giving your dogs any left overs, bits of your food or dog treats. If you absolutely have to give your dog a treat, choose a thin slice of carrot and limit them to 2-4 a day max. You can create a treat container measuring precise quantities of carrot pieces a day. This step alone, especially when combined with moderate physical activities, can be enough to see weight loss.

Weigh your dog’s current food. Every food manufacture has a guide on a packet that shows you how much your dog should eat when he needs to lose weight, remain at his current weight or gain a little. If you unsure, ask your vet and contact the nutrition team of the pet food brand. They will be more than happy to help you.

Reducing the amount of your dog’s favourite kibble or wet food by 25% can be less stressful for both of you than replacing his entire menu with some low-fat formula that may dogs find utterly unappetising. Always discuss the reduction amount with your vet. You may need to do it gradually or not at all – if the treats are to blame for your dog’s weight.

Feed at set times.

Be active. Take your cocker for a walk at least once a day. Bear in mind that many obese dogs will find it challenging to go from very little activity to a mile-long walk. Build up carefully and keep setting new challenges as your dog gets fitter. Always carry some water with you to help your dog stay hydrated. Remember the weight can make it difficult for them to regulate the body temperature effectively.

Work with the vet that give your support – not judgement. It is crucial to find a vet who is there to give you advice and encouragement – not to blame you for being a “bad dog owner”. The latter can be really disheartening for even the most determined parent. Life has its own rules and it is not always something we can fully control, so it is best to focus on the present and the future and see this weight loss journey with your cocker as a positive fun adventure – not a punishment. It will take time, but you will see the difference!

If you would like to learn more about nutrition for your English cocker spaniel, how to choose his foods and keep him healthy and fit, read the relevant chapters in my book, Perfect cocker spaniel, the complete breed and puppy guide. 

Photo source: “Tell me this isn’t celery” (C) by Cartoon Comics for Shutterstock / Perfect cocker spaniel, the Dogs Body Condition Score Chart via WSAVA