We had so much fun talking to Travis Brorsen, host of Animal Planet’s My Big, Fat Pet Makeover, that he gave us some tips and tricks to understanding our pets and how to train them without tipping the scale.
I love this picture from @AnimalPlanet of Gracie’s before and after. We could have never done this without the help and support of @TravisBrorsen, @CastleviewATX, and @RummysBeachClub. We will forever be grateful. 😘 #MyBigFatPetMakeover pic.twitter.com/h3pjgTwf6E— DrivingMeGracie (@DrivingMeGracie) October 18, 2017
Metro (M): Do other dogs sense obesity as a weakness?
Travis Brorsen (TB): Weakness in the animal world? That’s more of a question for a behaviorist.
Pets that are uncomfortable that are not well balanced are sometimes fearful pets that are definitely seen by other dogs as not normal —so dogs will react off of each other’s body language.
A dog’s not going to be embarrassed, “Oh my gosh! I’m so fat all these other dogs are going to be looking at me,” but other dogs could think, “That dog isn’t right.”
M: How can a pet owner tell when their dog is too fat?
TB: There are two easy DIY tests. The first is a hand test. The trick is you want to take your hands over the side of your pet along the ribcage. You want to be able to feel ribs exist, but you won’t want to see them. And most pets need to have an hourglass figure.
The second test is a body condition score. You can visually see pictures or drawings of what your pet currently looks like and relate to the scale your pet should have.
Owners should also have regular checkups for their pets with a vet.
M: Do puppies have "baby fat" like humans that's a healthy weight? At what age do you start watching for obesity?
TB: We definitely want to rule out any medical conditions that can cause weight gain or obesity to rule that out —some puppies are able to be fed multiple times a day and because they play so hard they are able to burn it off. As they get older, they play less, but some owners feed them the same way.
[Pet owners] have to be the monitor.
M: Question from a Metro staffer! “Is there a way to get my dog to stop being so obsessed with food?” My cats sing me the song of their people every time I get out of bed or walk through the door, regardless of the time.
TB: Be careful not to put human emotions on your pets. As much as we might love them like children or family members, we have to be careful and remember they are animals.
Animals will take advantage of us and they don’t feel guilty. You can’t love your pet too much but you can love them the wrong way. When a dog or cat is begging for food, they aren’t saying “give me some more.” They are meowing or barking. That’s a pet with extra energy and we taught them a learned response: we give them food. If a dog knows if they stand in a certain part of the kitchen and the big wooden wall will open up and give me a big yummy treat.
Throw the ball. Take them for a walk. A tired dog or a tired cat does not beg for food. If the most exciting thing in the room is food, heck yeah! I’m going to meow my face off!
M: Another Metro staffer question. “People use food to train and reward their dogs, and I heard before that dogs associate getting fed by their owners with love, so what else can owners do to replicate that so they're not overfeeding pets.”
TB: This happened on the show a lot and I’m sure we’re gonna get people going “Oh my God, they used food [to train]!”
Obviously, the pets are on a diet portion measured out, so we actually use the food from the meal for the training —so no extra calories!
We tried to use toys and affection and the dogs and cats were like, “I don’t give a flip. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.” Some haven’t seen a toy in years.
Green beans are fillers. They are low calorie but to dogs they are super, super yummy.
[Brorsen also suggested these foods as yummy, low-calorie treats for your dog: Sweet potatoes, apples, bananas, blueberries, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, carrots and cucumbers.]
M: Besides dogs, what’s your favorite animal?
TB: Pigs. I really like pigs. They are so darn smart it’s almost frustrating. They are just stinking smart and they are so stubborn and that’s what I love about them. They will scream bloody murder even without being in pain—just being little busters.