My Theory About Why Pets Are Slimmer in Dog-Friendly Towns

Dr. Patty Khuly on mountain with her dog
Courtesy of Cristina Khuly

I needed some downtime to get some serious writing done, so who better to call on than my sister? If you had a sister who lived in South Lake Tahoe you’d probably do the same. This place is paradise for the dog crowd.

Going to the grocery store? The butcher? The hair salon? Sporting goods store? A restaurant? Take the dogs. Even if they don’t let you in the front door with your dogs, there are options. Walking out of a Raley’s supermarket we counted at least five dogs in the ten cars parked out front. And those were only the ones looking out for their people. How many more were curled up in a ball on the seat?

The weather right now in Lake Tahoe is so perfect that I didn't even worry about the dogs and heatstroke and just admired how happy they looked hanging out.

But it wasn’t just the dogs-in-public thing that impressed me. The fact that I spied not one single overweight dog in Tahoe was the truly shocking discovery. I mean, when you practice in Miami and almost every pet you see needs to lose at least 10 percent of her body weight, you start thinking chunky’s the new slim.

Fast-forward 2,500 miles and the contrast is crisply defined by athletic haunches, muscular shoulders, and perhaps even a hint of ribs on display. Even more awe inspiring is the evidence offered by wasp-waisted Bulldogs –– not to mention Corgis who aren’t shaped like coffee tables.

Patty exercising with dog
Courtesy of Cristina Khuly

So what is it about Tahoe? Is it in the air? Sure, people are athletic there (the hiking and skiing are world class), but they’re by no means as trim and buff as their dogs. And, yes, dogs who simply get out more are more likely to stay lean. But I’ve got a related theory, too. It’s not just that these dogs are expending more energy (though that's a component), it’s that they are with their owners for longer stretches at a time and not as vulnerable to the kitchen-time-as-quality-time behavior that many owners fall into.

It’s my contention that dogs and cats who interact with their owners most significantly at mealtimes are far more at risk of being overfed. I mean, it only stands to reason that owners who partake in a range of activities with their pets would be less subject to the plaintive, guilt-inducing stares of the “hungry.”

OK, so maybe I’m stretching here, but that kind of makes sense to me. Having explored the complex psychology of humans who overfeed their pets in some depth, I think I have earned some credibility on this subject. But I allow that I may be wrong.

In any case, I do believe pets should be granted greater access to human daily life. After all, going anywhere with our highly sociable animals enriches our lives and theirs in so many ways. And if my assessment is to be trusted, you can add slimness to the benefits of the Tahoe-style dogs-in-tow phenomenon.

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