Too big? Too small? Just right? Dog body condition

At almost every general vet visit for my dogs, their weight has been mentioned. At one point, Izzie was too fat. Yep, she’s a couch potato. Gotta get her to move more. Maddie was usually too skinny. Yep, she never stops moving, gotta feed her a bit more. But here is where I was confused. If according to the vet, my dogs were either too fat or too skinny, what weight was just right?

 Too big? Too small? Just right? Dog body conditionLord knows I’ve been to Weight Watchers enough to have had the concept of “goal weight” drilled into my head, so I’d always ask the vet for an exact number each dog should weigh. Nine times out of ten, the vet would look at them both and instantly say 17 pounds. 17 pounds is how much my dogs should each weigh? For dogs with clearly different sized frames? It all seemed very unscientific and still very confusing, but hey, I’m not a vet.

I decided I would consult the internet for how much my dog breed should weigh. Because certainly the internet knows, right? Uh, nope. More confusion.  My girls are both Schnoodles, which can be made up of any combination or percentage of Schnauzer (which come in Miniature, Standard, and Giant size), and Poodle (which come in Toy, Miniature, or Standard size). How do I know which combo and percentage each has? And then do you do some sort of average of whatever you guess they are? Blah. I’m not a mathematician either, but I think that is possibly 72,679 different combinations. Too much math. Too much guessing.

A simpler answer must exist, right?

With people, sometimes they say focusing on the weight number sometimes isn’t as effective as focusing on the way your body looks and how your clothes fit. So maybe there was a similar standard for dogs? You know, without the tight jeans and self loathing part, though.

As it turns out, there IS a way to eyeball your dog’s shape using the the widely accepted Body Condition System, developed at the Nestle Purina Pet Care Center. It’s a quick and easy way for you to estimate your dog’s condition, and keep them where they should be, without ever needing to know or calculate an exact goal weight number for your dog (although you still need to know your dog’s actual weight to make sure they are getting the correct caloric intake).

And in the end, my dogs aren’t as fat or skinny as I’d made them out to be. Maddie is about a 5, and Izzie hovers between a 5 and 6 depending on season.

Purina Body Conditioning System Too big? Too small? Just right? Dog body condition


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  • BoingyDog

    Great post! Weight is difficult and figure is much more accurate in my book. Over time I learned that with her figure at the right shape, she should be 55 pounds. I’m happy now to have both as a guide and we weigh in every time we go to the pet store. Thank you for the post!

    • Stefanie

      Thanks! I agree that it is easier by shape. Plus, it seems when you weigh them, if they wiggle, you get an inaccurate reading anyway.

  • Jessica Rhae

    I always use the body conditioning system to tell if Chester and Gretel need to gain or lose weight. They look perfect now but I did just weight them and discover that they gained 1 lb each in the last couple of months! I was over feeding them a prepared, raw food because I read the label wrong. I am feeding them the right amount now and, with our participation in the campaign (walking more), I am hoping it will come off quickly.

    • Stefanie

      Labels can be difficult. Labels can say to give them way more food than I’m used to giving them. Sometimes I think it’s like when shampoo bottles say to wash, rinse, then repeat – sells more shampoo! I feel pretty comfortable with my dogs food intake at meals now and am just varying their activity when I need to alter their weight. Oh, and trying to get their dad to avoid giving them snacks they shouldn’t have! I took a look at the site the other day – looks great!