Why are we killing our dogs?

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Why Are We Killing Our Dogs?

By ASCT SI Jeff Clark

Want to really cut into the tender side of a dog handler? Insult his dog. Want to really hear the guy blow up? Say his dog is fat. Guaranteed, you will hear every denial, excuse, and blame known to man. But one thing you will never hear - (I) feed him too much and don’t work him enough.

According to Auburn University, nearly one third of all police canines are obese. Of those dogs listed, about half are severely or grotesquely obese, meaning: there weight problem has already had a negative effect on the overall health of the dog.

It’s sad. It really is. How could police officers, the leadership of civil order and professionalism, allow a loved partner to grow obese? This problem has always left me baffled. Indeed, I have had many working dogs. None of them - NONE - were ever fat. I feed my dogs based on their looks. I take daily observations of my dogs and adjust the feeding amount relative to how they look. Of course, I also work my dogs a tremendous lot. Therefore, I would be hard pressed to find even one of my dogs out of shape. Just like with humans, if you work enough, you burn calories.

With obesity issues, I used to hold back, bite my tongue a bit, not wanting to hurt the feelings of handlers, knowing how ultra sensitive they are about their dogs. But then I started seeing more and more police dogs show up at advanced programs, barely capable of walking three miles, let alone running a three mile track. I started seeing dogs plead with their handler to get back into the air-conditioned patrol car. Once a dog is to the point of coming off a drug search and immediately racing for the car, there is a serious problem.

I have always known that obesity is unhealthy for dogs. Along those lines, it’s been obvious that overweight dogs are limited in success because of their endurance. But the danger, the life threatening risks are beyond concern. The situation is dire.

Unfortunately, handlers rarely take personal blame for their dog being overweight. Recently, I even scolded a handler for his dog being about twenty pounds too heavy. “I know!” the handler screamed, “I keep telling them to stop feeding him so much.”

“Who are THEY?” I asked.

“Well…uh…” he stammered, “I mean the people at the vet were feeding him three cups each feeding…”

I paused before speaking. “Does he live at the vet hospital?”


“Does he live with you?”

“Yes.” He began to pout.

“So you feed him…say…ninety nine percent of the time. Correct?” I asked.

“Well, I just don’t have time to work him. My department want give me time.”

“I paused again. “Then why didn’t you cut his food down…since he’s not getting enough exercise?”

The handler stomped like a child. “I only give him about a cupful each feeding.”

RIGHT! I really believed this guy. Are you kidding me? In truth, the handler had become a little lazy with his training, spent too much time in the comfortable car, and didn’t think about the fact that the premium dog food he was feeding is packed with calories for performing dogs, not sloughs. And to think, all he had to do was just cut back the food and keep the weight under control.

The situation repeats itself constantly and with every trainer, department, and certification organization out there. Police dogs are getting too fat.


Overweight dogs are not built for excess weight. They are designed to be lean and muscular, fast and fit. Every pound of extra fat on a dog will shave time off it’s service life and total life. The canine body will find ways of distributing the harsh effects of weight gain across the board.









And these are only the beginning conditions that are directly caused by and accelerated with obesity.


Get your K9 partner to the vet and ask the vet to give you a heavy handed answer to this question:

IS MY DOG OVERWEIGHT? Don’t even try and decide for yourself. Following all the rib, stomach, top, side, feel and sight tests are fruitless if you are in denial. ASK THE VET.

Have your vet teach you the exact way to check your dogs weight - visually - THEN DO IT EVERY DAY.

Weigh your dog a minimum of every three months. Most vets are very happy to have you come by for a quick visit and just hop on the scales. I used to put my dog on mail scales at a local postal facility, during narcotic scans.

The very moment that you see a physical change in weight or read the heavier scale, cut back your dog’s food by a cup per day AND get the dog more work. We all know that working the dog keeps the dog fit.

Carefully watch for the weight loss. Once the dog is back to a good, working weight, increase the food to the normal feeding amount.

Working conditions change. And so should the K9 feedings.

The excuses are running out for handler’s who don’t keep a fit dog. Police agencies spend far too much money on k9 programs to have those select officers allowing their dogs to get overweight and out of shape. Eventually, sooner than later in most cases, the dog will become very ill and die from a cause of the obesity.

The only thing more saddening then watching a tearful handler describe the painful death of his K9 partner

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