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If you are overweight and looking at your dog with new eyes, noting he too is pudgy and out-of-condition, understanding this genetic fact can change your life. COMMENTS welcome below.


December 2018 Update |

May 2016 by Shirley Lawler and Barbara "BJ" Andrews


"The Labrador retriever, one of the greediest breeds of dog, is hard-wired to overeat" says Cambridge University scientists. We won't dispute the study but there's more to that concept and as a savvy dog owner, we want your COMMENTS (below) for a 2019 follow-up.


Food-driven retrievers isn't news to trainers but will it actually help researchers understand more about human obesity? If there's a gene that might control "how the brain recognizes hunger and the feeling of being full after eating" why doesn't it affect Terriers or Working breeds?  The University article didn't go there but will.


A big cat hunter called for a correction in November which he said is "prime hunting season in Idaho." He is also a trainer of field dogs and he said the scientists "missed the mark, the whole point." He stated there is no "obesity gene", it is the propensity for "high activity levels that have been bred into hunting  breeds." Even as my brain processed and acknowledged that, he said their "brain or instinct, whatever you people want to call it, is hard-wired to hunt and that takes calories."


I listened with a whole new understanding as he explained that "retrievers and hounds" burn "millions of calories" doing what they do.  I thought of coon dogs down south and a TV show I had just watched where hounds tracked and treed mountain lions to drive them out of cattle rancher territory. I was as amazed by the big cat's stamina and the hound's relentless determination as they went up a shale slope only a cat should have been able to navigate.


Do you have a Retriever or as one of our staff said "what about Ridgebacks, they are the real lion dogs!?" Is your hunter perpetually hungry? Would you admit that he's a little on the pudgy side? Could your dog run in the field all day?  If the answers are "Yes", "Yes" and "No" you need to keep reading...  What if you have a toy or terrier breed that is active and fit but YOU are having a weight problem? Read on.


The lead researcher told the BBC that only about a "quarter of pet Labradors carry this gene that urges them to eat more than they need." They called it POMC Gene as though that explains everything... The article barely touched on the fact that the most common problem with fat dogs and obese people is that they just don't get enough exercise to burn off the high-calorie food they ingest.


There is a lot to be gleaned in the report that states "As many as two in three dogs (34-59%) in rich countries are now overweight" although they failed to explain what wealth has to do with weight. The researchers, who are not "dog people" failed to note that the Labs are genetically programmed to require a lot of fuel if in fact, they do the job they were bred to do. As our caller pointed out, the breed may not have an eating problem so much as a lack of exercise problem.


And therein lies the missing piece of what the researchers presented as a genetic puzzle. Labradors and Flat Coats are "hard-wired" to perform in water and in the field, to exert tremendous staying power and burn a lot of calories in the process. Problem is, most Retrievers today are rather sedentary.  The study mentioned that the variation "was more common in Labradors working as assistance dogs" and noted that they are trained with food rewards but they missed their own point.


The takeaway is that while the scientists may have identified an interesting breed-related genetic component, it is of no interest to the majority of dog owners. And to overweight people, it was just a teaser with no answer. Until that hunter called...


So what about your breed? Do Collies or Dobermans or Goldens actually overeat? Or is it that they don't get to go to work to herd, work, or hunt to burn off calories??? Our readers are the most educated group of dog owners in the world so give us your feedback and let's see what our breed obesity study produces.


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