It’s a question that tends to make us a little defensive: is your dog too fat? Chances are, you’ll say, “Hell no, and if you call my dog fat again, buddy, I’ll show you a fat lip.” But the truth is, he might be fatter than you think, as I recently discovered at a seminar at this year’s Pheasants Forever Pheasant Fest. The seminar was put on by trainer Dan Hove, from the North American Hunting Retriever Association and the topic was canine first-aid in the field. But since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, much of Howe’s talk centered on proper nutrition and feeding.

Heat-related death is one of the leading causes of death in the field. And a dog’s weight, according to Hove, is the number one factor in keeping a working dog cool. Fat, out-of-shape dogs tend to collapse and die. As an example, Hove cited the unusually-warm opening weekend of South Dakota’s 2003 pheasant season, when at least 130 gundogs died from heat-related issues. But how can you tell if your dog is uh… a little too…”stout”?

Here are a couple neat and simple tips from Hove: One, look at your dogs profile from above. It should look like an hourglass, with the outline spreading out along the chest, then curving in toward the stomach and back out along the hindquarters. If your dog has a straight profile from front to back, or if it resembles a beach ball, he’s too fat. Second, watch your dog run. Generally, you should be able to see a dog’s ribs when he’s running, but not sitting. And if you can’t feel your dog’s ribs, then your dog’s ribs have too much padding.

So, given the guidelines, is your dog too fat? I’ll admit, one of mine was. I, on the other hand, am just big-boned…