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with Lisa Peterson
Lisa Peterson with Jinx
Lisa Peterson with her Norwegian Elkhound Linx.

Dear Lisa: I own a 5-year old English Springer Spaniel. He lives in our house, not in a dog house. Every winter he gains about 8 pounds due to inclement weather limiting how much exercise he gets, so I play fetch with him daily back and forth in our hallway. He loses the weight as soon as Spring rolls around and I can resume giving him daily exercise running outside in our yard. Is there a rule-of-thumb how much food a dog should be fed when it is not as active? I feed him dry chicken and rice kibble which was recommended by his breeder and vet. – Weighty Matter

Dear Weighty: Putting on the pounds can be a seasonal hazard for dogs (and their owners too!) that don’t get the required exercise they need. An extra 8 pounds can really affect his health considering an adult Springer should weigh approximately 50 pounds. That’s nearly 15% of his total weight gained each winter. It’s imperative that he doesn’t gain this weight this winter because as you know overweight dogs can face a number of health challenges (again, just like their owners).

Calorie Counting
There are two areas of feeding you should focus on to help your dog stay trim this winter. First, you will want to cut back on his regular food. You didn’t mention how much you feed him now, but I would start with just a 1/4 cup less of kibble and see how he does. You may also want to actually weigh him now so you know what his healthy weight is. Then weigh him weekly and if he gains 2 pounds you will want to reduce his food again, maybe by 1/8 cup until he is back to his normal weight. Another area people tend to overlook are treats which can be loaded with calories. You may want to cut back on treats as well during the winter or replace them with crunchy vegetables like baby carrots. Another trick that has worked well for some dogs is replace the missing kibble with canned string beans for about two weeks and then resume the normal feeding. You will learn what works best for your dog. By monitoring his weight, cutting back slightly on normal feeding and reducing treats, your dog should stay at his ideal summer weight when he can’t get the exercise he needs.

Dear Lisa: I have two 4-year-old Scottish Terriers brother / sister litter mates. I tried to socialize my dogs with other dogs but I'm afraid I missed something. We walk our dogs at least one time a day and when they are on their leashes and pass another dog on the other side of the street they bark, lunge and often get irritated with each other. They act like they want to eat the other dog. I have tried to shield them from seeing the other dog, telling them no in a stern voice but it is difficult to handle both dogs and we really don't have time to walk them separately. This is not the same behavior they express when they are loose in our backyard with other dogs so I feel like it has something to do with the leash and walking. – Wild Walking

Dear Wild: It is normal for dogs to exhibit different behaviors when they are in the backyard versus walking down the street. When your dogs are in the backyard, they are off-leash and are left to their own interactions without your “body language” or triggers to make them behave differently. It’s not the leash and walking, it’s your reaction to the other dogs that may be setting them up for their annoying behavior. Let’s run down your walking scenario and see if we can’t make it a more pleasant experience for you.

Walking Schedules
You state in your question, “we” don’t have time to walk them separately? So I’m going to assume there are two of you and two dogs. To start, why don’t you split up the pack and take separate walks on different routes with the dogs. They may be reacting to the other dogs based your level of stress, physical tension felt at the other end of the leash and your defensive behavior towards the oncoming dogs when out walking. Think about it, you try to get between your dog and the oncoming dog, most likely very tense, full of fear, and then you scold the dog in a stern voice, which just adds to their stress. And when you have the dogs together, they too are feeding off each others reaction. So, try this, take separate walks in opposite directions. Keep yourself calm, talk to your dog in a relaxed happy tone while out walking. Carry lots of tasty, meaty treats in your pocket and when another dog approaches start training your dog to focus his attention on you and the tasty treat instead of the approaching dog. Make a fun game out of it, whether you want to sit and wait for the dog to pass, or perhaps pick up the pace and keep your dog focused on you while passing the other dog. Have your human partner do the same with the other dog. Once both of your dogs have mastered better behavior separately, and are solid in their training, you can try to walk them together again. With newly learned behaviors, and calmer owners, you will find walking once again an enjoyable activity with your dogs. If you need the help of a professional trainer perhaps enrolling your dogs in a basic obedience or Canine Good Citizen® course now will help you get off on the right paw!

Bark Back ~

More reader comments on the October column:

Dear Lisa: I breed toy poodles, and most of them are like the whippet in your Oct. column, but I love it. When I sit down to watch TV, I am literally covered in dogs, and I tell the people who buy my puppies "if you don't want affection don't buy a poodle". Too bad she doesn't like the affection. – G.M.

Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions we cannot offer individual responses. Read previous columns here.