What would you do? Underfed dog..
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Thread: What would you do? Underfed dog..

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    Unhappy What would you do? Underfed dog..

    Recently I took our boys to the dogpark to have a little fun. They were having a great time and so were we watching them play.

    As usual, there will be several groups of dog owners sitting together at the various benches throughout the park. The group I was sitting with all had bigger dogs. One particular owner had a boxer that was *severely* underweight at least by 10-20 lbs.. you could see his ribs and spine clearly and his legs were painfully thin. This dog also seemed to be very skittish and afraid, with zero confidence. Now, I don't know if the dog was just recently adopted and was in bad shape because of a previous owner, or if the current owners had this dog for it's entire life. All I know is that as the owner was leaving the dog park with their bony boxer she seemed to give me a look like "Don't you dare say anything."

    I really wanted to ask questions, but didn't want to be presumptuous.. and even if I had gotten some info from her who's to say she was telling the truth? Would any of you have gotten involved and tried to do something? If I see them again I will probably try to snoop a bit because I really felt bad for this boxer.. he looked very sad.



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    Re: What would you do? Underfed dog..

    She probably glared at you because you were staring at her dog. It was likely a rescue. People who abuse dogs aren't likely to take the time to bring them to a dog park. You shouldn't blindly judge until you know the whole story. You should approach her next time, I don't think it would be rude at all.

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    Senior Member Shell's Avatar
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    Re: What would you do? Underfed dog..

    I might try to start a conversation in a very non-confrontational way. I wouldn't make the assumption that the owner was the one not treating the dog right, in part because someone who makes the effort to come to a dog park is at least a little less likely to be mistreating their dog (since most dogs you see that end up like that are basically neglected, not taken out to play).

    If I knew other owners that seemed to know that owner, I might ask them something like "Her dog seems a little afraid at the park, was this his first time at the dog park?" hopefully leading to an answer like "We don't know, she just got him at the shelter" or similar.

    If she DID just adopt her, the owner might be giving a look like that since she's probably had a TON of people insulting her or yelling at her about starving her dog.

    If you see the dog again and it looks better, then I'd think the owner was helping it get better. If you see the dog again, and it looks worse, then I would think the owner was not taking care of the dog (unless you talk to the owner and she explains the dog has cancer or something preventing it from getting healthy)

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    Senior Member lisak_87's Avatar
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    Re: What would you do? Underfed dog..

    I would have just been like "what a sweet boxer, did you just adopt her? I haven't seen her here before." or something off-handed like that.

    But, yes, my presumption would have been that the boxer was a new adoption/foster. Especially since she seemed aware of the problem.
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    Senior Member jenz's Avatar
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    Re: What would you do? Underfed dog..

    Maybe make small talk with the owner and see what's up? I've had greyhound fosters, just off the track, that look ATROCIOUS. And I've had greyhounds that, towards the end of their life, can't hold weight, have muscle atrophy and look HIDEOUS. Sickly. The boxer might be a rescue or have some health problems, poor thing.

    Or the owner could just be a *&# and mistreating the dog. You never know.

    I'd definitely chat with the owner, but wouldn't be aggressive or forward about it. Speaking from experience, there's nothing worse than having a dog in hospice, with little time left to live, and having someone come up and be like, "Wow, your dog looks HORRIBLE! What's wrong with him?"

    If it were me, I'd start chatting with:

    "What a beautiful boxer, I love her markings! What's her name? Did you get her locally? Is she a rescue? My neighbor/sister in law/friend's friend of a friend had a boxer too, they're great dogs. Her name is Susy? Susy, you look like you might be a finicky eater! Are you finicky?" etc etc. You can broach the subject in such a round-about-way that it wouldn't be accusatory.

    That's how I'd go about it. I do hope the dog is newly adopted or something 'innocent' and not mistreated or ill, that's so difficult!

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    Senior Member Shiningsummer's Avatar
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    Re: What would you do? Underfed dog..

    When I first started taking Molly to the dog park, there was a dog there that looked pretty skinny to me. Not as skinny as the dog you're describing, but definitely on the thin side. She looked like an APBT but I'm not 100% sure of the breed. Anyway, I remember thinking how skinny that poor dog was and wondering why the owner would starve her like that. I thought about saying something to the owner but luckily I didn't because looking back on it I think I would have been wrong.

    It wasn't until Molly was older and I was having problems getting her to eat that I realized maybe just cuz a dog is skinny doesn't mean the owner is starving them. Molly has always been on the thin side because of her metabolism and her genes. Oh and my little princess is a picky eater, she only eats things that are delicious.

    Anyway my point is that sometimes we jump to conclusions before we know the whole story and there are circumstances that could explain why a dog might be skinny. I just wanted to give you an example of my own experience with this issue. Like others have said, if someone takes the time to bring their dog to the park it's unlikely that they're abusing their dog. Also it could be a new rescue or a dog that's recovering from an illness. I would probably just try to engage the owner in conversation, not even approaching the subject of how skinny the dog is because eventually you'll both start talking about your dogs. I don't know why but for some reason I get the impression that people looove to talk about their dogs .

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    Re: What would you do? Underfed dog..

    Thanks for everyone's advice.. I'll try the non-confrontational off handed route. I didn't want to presume the owner was a bad person or that the dog was in any danger. Like I said, I thought it could have been a newly rescued dog for all I knew. But I also know "some people" don't like to take responsibility for what they may be doing to their dogs. I haven't seen them since, but if I do I'll ask in a general roundabout way.

    There was a different dog at the dog park today who also looked underfed, and I asked his owner about it, and she didn't seem to mind my questions. She said he ate a lot but he was just naturally skinny. Her dog was confident and playful, just young and still growing, so I felt okay that this wasn't a case of a skinny dog being in danger.



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    Senior Member ThoseWordsAtBest's Avatar
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    Re: What would you do? Underfed dog..

    I see this quite commonly with Boxers, mostly bitches. Some are just very thin, almost malnourished looking. I know at least three that are clean slate of health but you'd think their owners starved them.

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    Senior Member Canyx's Avatar
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    Re: What would you do? Underfed dog..

    A long time ago I saw the exact sort of emaciated looking dog you are describing... Turned out the lady just rescued him and he was still malnourished and skittish.
    That same dog was running around with the others, with a nicely muscled body, just months later

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    Senior Member igmomma's Avatar
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    Re: What would you do? Underfed dog..

    I know a few boxers like that as well. That said you just never know the story, and the owner's attitude may just have been because she's tired of being hassled about her skinny dog. I know with Aiyana, I had a very hard time putting any weight on her, she always looked like I was starving her - She had health problems we were struggling to control, and she was always very thin. My Afghan, Lola, is also very thin, her co-owner and I have tried every food and method there is, ideally we'd like to see her about 57 - 60 lbs, she's never gone over 50, she stays between 49 and 50 lbs and eats quite a bit, so I'm just content with a very lean Afghan, she's health as can be, she's just thin. I wouldn't automatically assume the dog is mistreated, if you see her again I'd try the non confrontational method. Most of the time people who are actively abusing or mistreating their dogs aren't going to take the time and effort to take them to a dog park to exercise!
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    Senior Member Gofygure's Avatar
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    Re: What would you do? Underfed dog..

    -Raises hand- I have a skinny Boxer. I consider a day where the majority of her ribs are covered to be a good one, and even then you can feel her spine easily. She's a 42 lb dog and I can wrap my hands around her stomach. It's just her natural weight. Although I would like to see her gain about two pounds, she returns to the ribby look no matter what I try. She eats as much as she wants and I usually have to put her leftovers up so Colt doesn't 'help' her with them. She has crazy energy and is a speed demon- definitely not sluggish or unhealthy, and I think she just burns off as much as she consumes sprinting around like a maniac.

    So, I could understand if someone felt concern about Lucy, but I definitely don't mistreat her. Hopefully the dog in this scenario is a rescue in need of fattening, though, as ten pounds underweight is excessive.

    ETA: This is what Lucy looks like when she's all tensed up (She dropped her beloved pear,) and when she's doing her regular Boxer extreme sports. Just to give you an idea of what 'acceptable' skinny is, IMHO. Taken same day.


    Any thinner than this and I would be concerned over the dog.
    Last edited by Gofygure; 07-28-2011 at 09:25 PM.

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    Re: What would you do? Underfed dog..

    Quote Originally Posted by Gofygure View Post
    -Raises hand- I have a skinny Boxer. I consider a day where the majority of her ribs are covered to be a good one, and even then you can feel her spine easily. She's a 42 lb dog and I can wrap my hands around her stomach. It's just her natural weight. Although I would like to see her gain about two pounds, she returns to the ribby look no matter what I try. She eats as much as she wants and I usually have to put her leftovers up so Colt doesn't 'help' her with them. She has crazy energy and is a speed demon- definitely not sluggish or unhealthy, and I think she just burns off as much as she consumes sprinting around like a maniac.

    So, I could understand if someone felt concern about Lucy, but I definitely don't mistreat her. Hopefully the dog in this scenario is a rescue in need of fattening, though, as ten pounds underweight is excessive.

    ETA: This is what Lucy looks like when she's all tensed up (She dropped her beloved pear,) and when she's doing her regular Boxer extreme sports. Just to give you an idea of what 'acceptable' skinny is, IMHO. Taken same day.


    Any thinner than this and I would be concerned over the dog.
    I second that -- my first Boxer had severe food allergies and the prescription Soy diet had him looking like a starvation victim. Also even after we worked out a diet for him ( I cooked for 7 years) he did not fill out/ look normal til about age 3....

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    Senior Member Trillian's Avatar
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    Re: What would you do? Underfed dog..

    I would try to find out the story in a very friendly way.

    It's extremely sad but she might have been defensive (as others have said) because so many people yell at her, accuse her and are just mean with out knowing the truth.

    Hell I know people tell me (and my friend) that we're starving OUR dogs( and they're ALL muscled/hardy dogs), we have to always tell them "Just because they aren't fat (like yours) doesn't mean their starved". I can understand that it gets annoying.

    I also remember having to explain OVER AND OVER with our rescue Am. Staff. (who had dog fight wounds) was a bait dog RESCUE. It was annoying how many people thought we cut up our dog.

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    Re: What would you do? Underfed dog..

    Gofygure, your dog looks much healthier than the dog I saw. And to everyone else, yes she could be a recent rescue. I also didn't know that boxers can be on the very skinny side and still be healthy. The boxer I saw, her hindquarters looked a bit emaciated, and she was constantly with her tail between her legs. She was a cutie and on the small side anyways, so this could be her natural physique. She didn't look to be more than about 30 lbs or so.

    Again, if I see these folks again, I'll ask gently without judging. I am pretty sure they care about their dog since she's being taken out to the park. I just hope they bring her again so I can feel ok. I know it's not my business to go poking into other peoples' lives, and generally I don't, but I'm not trying to come from a bad place. I think any dog owner might feel concerned if they saw a dog that might be hurting and try to do something to help. Thanks for everyones' insights! I feel better already.



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