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Caring for Your Beardie
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• Watching Beardies Grow
• Lean and Active Beardies
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• The Toby Years

Lean and Active Beardies:
Key to a Long and Healthy Life

by Florence Davis

We all strive to find effective ways to eat better, get in shape and improve our lifestyle, so we can live longer and healthier lives. Staying active keeps you young at heart and healthy. Good nutrition and regular exercise are not only good for your joints, muscles and bones but it is also the very best we can give to our mind and soul. This new column will tackle suggestions on how to apply the same principles to the health and well-being of our beardies. In this article I decided to look at weight management and activity levels. I will also feature the point of view of a fellow beardie lover. This month Sharon Dunsmore will share with us her thoughts on keeping the aging dogs active.

Our breed standards are very clear. The bearded collie is lean, lively and active with a hardy constitution, intelligence, initiative, strength, stamina and speed. I will add to this a great sense of humour and the knack for making us do whatever they want! That, in my opinion, is what a bearded collie is all about. Here are some answers to questions that I've been asked on how to keep our best friends in top condition both physically and mentally throughout their lives.

Lean: what does this mean?

The ideal body condition of a dog should be evaluated following a simple touch and feel exercise. The bathroom scale is useful too. However, actual weight may vary, for individual dogs. What is most important is to evaluate your dog by looking at him closely, objectively and literally getting a feel for his condition.

I usually, go over my dogs at least once a week, just before I get their night meal ready. This gives me a chance to regularly adjust quantities up or down according to their individual needs. I gently rub my hands over their back and loin. Ideally, you should be able to lightly feel the ribs of your dog without any excess fat covering them. Remember lean is the key word. Not thin, not heavy. just lean. You should also be able to discern a waist when looking at your beardie from above. Finally, the abdomen should be tucked up and firm. Any variation to this definition, in one direction or the other many require some nutrition or exercise adjustments.

How can I tell if my beardie is overweight?

That's easy. If you can't feel your dog's ribs without applying significant pressure or if you can't see your dog's waist... your beardie may need to eat less, exercise more and lose weight.

How much should I feed my beardie?

Food quantity varies from one dog to the next. Remember that each dog has individual needs. Some may be more active than others. Some may have a higher or slower metabolism to start of with. I don't believe that two dogs that both weight the same should automatically be fed the same quantities. The type of food you're using and the amount of daily activity your dogs have should be taken into account. As a general rule of thumb, you should be wary of the feeding instructions indicated at the back of your kibble bag. Dog food manufacturers have the tendency to recommend far more than our dogs require.

A puppy will definitely need more food than a I0 year young beardie. By keeping a close eye on their waist line and taking into account the daily amount of activity your dogs have, you should be able to adjust their food intake regularly and keep your dogs in good body weight year round.

So how do you decide how much your dog actually need. For an adult dog, I suggest that you look at how much food your package of kibble recommends and reduce the indicated quantity by a third. Feed the adjusted amount for about two weeks and evaluate your dog's condition. Remember to take into account the amount of exercise and treats your beardie enjoys daily. Please also be aware that natural based dog food such as Innova or Wysong are rich and higher in calories than regular commercial dog foods. If within that period your dog has either lost a gained unnecessary weight, simply adjust the amount of food accordingly.

How much activity do my beardies need?

Beardies are intelligent and need to be kept busy. They are naturally active and need the stimulation that interaction with their humans provides. It makes sense to include regular activities as part of your daily routine. They love spending time playing outside and going for long leisurely walks. People seem to have less trouble with weight management in the summer than they have in the winter. Our three beardies are young and full of energy. Charlotte is three and a half, Rebecca Lynn is three and Simon is two. We live on 3/ 4 acres so for us, keeping them lean and fit is relatively easy. They spend at least an hour playing outside everyday, year round. We also go for long walks and bicycle rides. Even in the winter, we still make sure that they go outside and play. Ron, my husband, and I play a lot with our beards in the backyard. We make daily activity fun and a family affair.

We have many friends who take their dogs to the park every day. It is important not to stand in one spot and wait for your beardies to play for I0 minutes and then hop in the car and go home. That's not enough! Walk around the park with the dogs. Make it fun! If you can, try walking to the park as well.

In the winter, people don't spend as much time outside, they have the tendency to keep their dogs indoors. That's when the extra pounds are packed on. To keep busy, why not sign up for an obedience or agility, class? I also suggest that you still make a point of taking your dogs for a nice long walk at least three times a week. Check the weather and pick the nicer days. I admit that in the winter time, it requires more discipline but sharing some fun with our dogs is so rewarding.

Cookies can be a real treat!

If your dogs are overweight, look at how many cook- you give them each day. Is the cookie box readily available on the kitchen counter. How many treats do they, get each day? Keep track of the number of cookies and treats you're giving in a week. You may be surprised at how many you're giving.

Our dogs love cookies, but they also love to eat fresh chunks of apples and carrots. It's a good idea to alternate the treats and be aware of what you feed your beardies. Some people also replace cookies with the regular kibble they use to feed they dogs. What you do just remember: moderation is key to every o weight control.

In conversation with a fellow beardie lover

As our dogs age, we notice some changes in their activity. pattern. They, tend to sleep more, they become less active and many, put on some extra weight. Sharon Dunsmore, who has been involved with bearded collies for many, years keeps her Kincurran Beardie Clan busy in obedience, agility, tracking and conformation. At II years young, Kody Can Am Ch. & OTCH Amberlea's Midnight Special AM CDX, HC, CGC is still very active and happy. I asked Sharon a few questions about why she keeps her dogs active. Here is what she had to say:

Why is it important to keep our veteran dogs in good physical shape?

For the same reasons we need to stay in good shape as we age. I notice some significant differences in my dogs as they get older and feel exercise and activities can keep both bodies and minds in good shape.

Why did you decide to involve Kody in tracking?

Tracking has got to be the most perfect sport for an older beardie. Now Kody gets to PULL (all those years of controlled heeling or gaiting for obedience or conformation are over!) and he finds food in "Dem Der Hills" and fields. When we first started he would pull on his harness and then sneak a peak at me to see if it was ok? Too funny!

How often do you exercise Kody and how often do you go tracking?

Kody exercises daily for at least a half hour either indoors or outdoors depending on the weather. We can only do tracking in better weather. We will start again in April. Classes are once a week and then we practice by laying tracks in various fields, about 3-4 times a week. We are usually out for an hour and often meet with other friends. Kody loves doing anything as long as he is out there doing something. He hates to be left behind as I'm sure many older dogs do.

What other activities do you suggest for older beardies?

I like some indoor games for bad weather that involve stair climbing and finding things. We play go find your toy and retrieve games. This often ends in finding a stuffed Kong and a great chew time. I have taught all my dogs to chew. It is a great group game and keeps them all busy. Trick training can also keep an older dog busy and thinking.

Last but not least, do you think you can do obedience training with an older dog?

Of course you can! With the newer ways of training, it is really easy and fun to teach and an old dog new tricks. I think that older dogs, if left to their own device just sleep away the day. I have three older dogs at home and every one is happy to be still doing something every day, even if it is for a shorter time than the younger ones. They love to go out even if it is just to go for a short drive to the store.

Copyright © 1999  Florence Davis
All rights reserved.


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Last revised: November 11, 2010