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Overweigh Border Collie - suggestions?

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Hi, all:


About six weeks ago I adopted Niki, a 2 1/2 year old female (fixed) Border Collie.

The short version is that she's quite chubby, and I was wondering if anyone had

advice on how to deal with this beyond the obvious: feed less, exercise more?


The long version - since I'm sure I'll be back asking for more advice - is that when

I first met her, a year or two ago, she lived with my neighbors down the road (who

have half a dozen dogs, some cats, a few horses, and a couple of parrots). Then

she moved in with my other neighbors across the road (2nd-generation Viszla people),

as company for their young male Viszla after their two older ones died. After a while

they got a 2nd pup, and Niki was sort of a third wheel with two young, un-neutered

males, so she came to live with me.


These neighbors are really great people, but to be honest their idea of exercise is

yard work interspersed with sessions of the 12-ounce curl. In the year or so Niki was

with them, she ballooned from typical Border Collie build to something quite chunky.

The odd thing is that they feed the dogs separately (so no food stealing), and the

Viszlas are too skinny, if anything.


She was 72 lbs at her last vet visit (before I got her), and (per the neighbors) the vet

said she should be under 60. (If the numbers don't mean much, she's rather broad

in the beam and I can't feel any ribs.) I've been feeding her moderately, and hiking

most evenings, anywhere from a couple of miles to 10-15 on weekends, usually on

mountain trails. She's down to 68 last weekend, while I've had to take in the belt

a notch I didn't think I had to lose :-) Is this a reasonable loss rate?


I'd also appreciate any other suggestions for exercise, or sources of training info.

I don't have any real training experience: all my previous dogs came to me when

they were middle age or older, and none were Border Collies. Though going by what

I've read, she's a rather laid-back example of the breed.




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It does sound like she's on the heavy side. My BC is about 22" at the shoulders and weighs 44.3 lbs. I think that's about the normal. Although each BC differs so much it's hard to say what's right unless you see the dog. If you can feel her ribs but there's a little bit of fat on them she's about right. I would say that 4 lbs isn't all that much loss for a year though.


Are you also playing with her everyday? Like frisbee and ball. Between you hiking and playing she should be losing some more weight. What kind of food do you feed her now?

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4lbs in 6 wks? Sounds fair to me considering you're just hiking with her.


My non-BC lost 15lbs in about 6months just by doing agility class once a week and my monitoring her food - and a few extra trips to the dog park.


I also added canned veggies like peas and green beans and even pumpkin to her kibble to help her feel full - because I was actually reducing her kibble - which was diet kibble anyway.


She went from 89lbs to 76lbs and has been able to maintain the 75lb range for the last year and a half (67-70lbs is probably ideal for her) and she's stopped agility and just eats diet kibble only. She's a couch potato dog in general and is currently 6.5yrs old.


Both the BCs I have are considered laid back and both have high metabolisms - of course they are both under 2yrs old still.

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Put her on a senior/reducing diet (I like Canidae Platinum -- both of my dogs eat it). She should eat maybe 1.25-1.5 cups of this per day. You can pad out the ration with canned green beans or pumpkin or other roughage if she likes that, if it seems like too little food.


In addition to the hiking (great exercise by the way) you may add some short sessions of fetch in the evenings and mornings, and lengthen them as she gains stamina. The temptation will be great to throw the ball high and let her fly through the air to get it. Don't do it, especially at the weight she's at now. I regret doing this for my larger male Border Collie as he now has severe arthritis in his right hip; it is probably due to an injury that predates my adopting him, but letting him fly certainly didn't help. (My rule from now on is four on the floor, and I want him to get the ball rolling rather than from the air. I know everyone likes to throw frisbees for their dogs and all but after my experience with Solo, all my Border Collies from now on will be chasing rollers and not flyers. They can jump at agility class.)


Swimming is excellent exercise too and easy on the joints if you have the option available and she likes it. My two don't.


You don't mention how tall she is but if she is an average size for a Border Collie bitch I bet she could lose anywhere between 20 and 35 pounds and be within normal weight. If she is on the larger end of the spectrum, like around 23 inches at the shoulder, I'd aim for around 50 pounds tops. That's about how much my larger dog, who is 23" tall, weighs and he is a rather large-boned and sturdily built male. Females are usually a bit more delicate in build. My average-sized bitch weighs 35 pounds.


Good luck and good for you taking in this pleasantly plump gal.

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I've been feeding her a diet kibble - Pedigree "Weight Maintenance", since her other

family was feeding her the regular Pedigree. I've been giving her two cups, plus a

bit of canned food (about as much as a smallish hamburger pattie). Sounds like the

amount could be reduced a bit?


She's not a swimmer - she'll wade into creeks and calm water up to about the middle

of her tummy, but doesn't seem to like the waves on the lake. Any suggestions for

teaching her? I've tried the method that worked with my last dog: swim out with a

snorkle and "drown", hoping she'll come to the rescue, but no luck.


She does get to go outside a lot (I have about an acre that's fenced), and will chase

along the fence line with the neighbor dogs. We also play a bit of fetch, though with

her it's more of a two-way street than your typical ball chaser. She'll chase and bring

the ball almost back, then will sit with it between her paws (sometimes hiding it, or

giving it a little shove towards me), while I sneak up to find it. Good fun, but not a

lot of exercise :-) She is not at all good at catching, though: I almost think she's

far-sighted, as she fumbles the ball when trying to catch even easy, close tosses in

the air, but will follow & scoop up rolling balls just fine.


She does well on stamina - better than me, honestly. When hiking she's usually

pressing on ahead (I keep her on a 20-ft retractable lead, since I'm not certain of

her recall), and urges me to fast walk or jog. Though I'm in decent shape, some

old knee problems mean I'm not much of a runner. When it cools down in the fall,

I hope to start some biking with her, but there aren't many good places to do that

at the higher elevations where we go to beat the heat.


I've tried her with various toys (Kongs, frisbee), but other than rawhide chews the

only thing she seems to like much are a pair of my old athletic shoes, which she'll

atack and kill for about 15 minutes at a time. She's quite well-mannered about it,

though: she only goes for the old shoes I've given her, and only outside.


I would like to find some more stimulating activities for her, especially things she

can go do while I'm here working on the computer, instead of snoozing under the




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Based on your last description, the first thing I would probably focus on is to try to teach her some more interactive play games.


It sounds like the shoes get her going, so I would start with those. Instead of just giving them to her, I would take her out and play a little bit of keep away. Then toss the shoe and try to "beat" her to it. If she didn't get it first, I would grab it and have her chase a bit. If she did get it, I would interact wtih her once she had it. I might even attach the shoe to something long so I could tug with her.


What I would be going for is the ability to hurl the shoe a good distance and have her tear after it and bring it back with some enthusiasm. I might not insist on a full retrieve, but I would try to encourage her to get it back to me and give it up.


Once that was an established game, I would move on to the toy that gets her most excited and repeat the process.


Eventually, when the drive is built up, I would take it to the water. This is how we taught Dean to swim this past summer: I threw a ball (he is very ball driven) about 7 feet away from me just on the shore. Not into the water at first, just on the shore. Once I did that a bit, I took a step into the water and tossed the ball so it landed just in the water. He quickly caught on to pulling it out of the water and bringing it back to me right near the shore. Gradually, gradually, I moved further and further into the water. Soon he wasn't bothering to leave the water to bring it back - that's when I knew I was almost ready to move him toward swimming.


After he was comfortable playing in the water, I moved out into the water with the toy so he had to come to the last place he could touch the bottom to be near me. I tossed the ball from there and had him bring it. Eventually he plunged into the water and started swimming and he has never looked back!


Might not work for every dog, but I found that I liked this method much better than others that I've tried with my other dogs. You need the toy drive to make it work, though.

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I would switch off Pedigree and onto a higher quality food which will give better nutrition in a smaller package. We feed Canidae to our dogs that are not raw-fed and love it. Get rid of the wet food; no need for it in her case. You might do a search on raw feeding on these boards if that is something that interests you, but take the earlier advice about a premium dog food along with some canned green beans or plain canned pumpkin if she seems too hungry.


Good luck; I'll bet you both get in better shape soon!

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In addition to what others have suggested (particularly checking the thyroid), you can also add a few tablespoons of raw oatmeal to her food to help her feel full (if she's acting hungry). Also, I think 60 lbs still sounds pretty heavy for a young, female border collie--we have a female who is 21" and weighs about 38 lbs--and I think she could easily stand to lose a lb or so.


Sounds like she got lucky when she moved on to your house!

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and will chase along the fence line with the neighbor dogs


How about putting them on the same side of the fence for play? There's a lot more to doggie "wrestling" than just chasing, and it must be one of the most intensive forms of excercise there is. When ours play with each other or with other dogs, there isn't a muscle they don't use (not to mention its being good for the soul!). Wouldn't do the neighbours' dogs any harm, either :rolleyes: .


Good luck with whatever you decide to do for her!

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Guest SweetJordan

In addition to the other suggestions(but bear in mind I didn't read all of them), try feeding her a diet without grains. There are now even grain free kibbles. I haven't tried them since I feed my dogs a homemade diet, however, I have fed them Innova EVO treats (which are grain free) and they go crazy for them. There are some other companies as well besides the Innova EVO line that are grain free.

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Guest LJS1993
How about putting them on the same side of the fence for play? There's a lot more to doggie "wrestling" than just chasing, and it must be one of the most intensive forms of excercise there is. When ours play with each other or with other dogs, there isn't a muscle they don't use (not to mention its being good for the soul!). Wouldn't do the neighbours' dogs any harm, either :rolleyes: .


Good luck with whatever you decide to do for her!



I agree. I look at dog wrestling kind of like grappling which humans do for sport and for fun. Try wrestling with your husband, wife, girlfriends, friends, etc... and you will see how exhausting it really is. It can be twice that of going to the gym. So for dogs it must be the same way.

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This website might be of some value: Overweight Dogs


I would also agree that you consider some higher-quality food than Pedigree. Canidae has been suggested, and is an excellent food; Innova is another option as well.


With respect to swimming, Annie is ball-fascinated, and at first was not enthused about the water. Like Root Beer, I used the ball fascination to advantage; I simply tossed the ball a little further each time, and she wound up swimming to retireve it when necessary. Of course, you want slow-moving or still water, for obvious reasons.

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I would definitely change food to a high quality one. Pedigree is one of the worst. My dogs are switching to Canidae. Here is their store locator. Natura products (Innova, EVO, California Natural, etc.) are also excellent. There's a store locator here on their site as well. Low sodium green beans are a filler you can put on her food to help her feel full, but have little calories.

If you give her treats make sure to subsitute it for her regular food instead of giving her more treats on top of regular food.

How tall is she at the shoulder? As the weight comes off you might see her being more active, it seems like the extra weight would slow her down some.

If she gets along well with other dogs you should see if you can set up a play date for her. Like said, dog play is great exercise and will probably make her feel really good.

Swimming is great, Root Beer gave good tips for that.

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"As the weight comes off you might see her being more active, it seems like the extra weight would slow her down some."


I really didn't want to know that! I'm having enough trouble keeping up with here as she is.

I guess I'll just have to hope we have an early winter, so I can get a harness and start having

her pull me around on skis :-)


She does get to spend time with other dogs - work takes me out of town about for 4-5 days

every couple of weeks, and she gets to stay with the neighbors and their two very active

Viszlas. Though she seems to expend less energy in playing than they do: they're rather

hyper and burn a lot of energy in excess motion, while it seems as though she's thinking

about how to do things with less effort.

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I'm ashamed to say that it was pointed out to me on this board that Dixie was overweight and it would help her shoulder if she lost some. :D Taking the advice to heart, I stepped back, took a long honest look and realized they were right. :rolleyes: By cutting out all the extra treats, changing her brand of dogfood and everyday exercise; she's lost from 51lbs to 44lbs. I don't believe she needs to loose but another 2 lbs or 3 at the max. :D She likes her new dog food so much that I was able to hold out 1/2 cup in the evenings which is used for treats when we're training :D Now if someone could help me with my weight :D

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