A dog’s dinner

16 Jun

Now, we have all been in pet stores and walked down the aisle past what seems like hundreds of variety of dog food. Some people seem to spend lots of money on dog food, others spend very little. Some dogs get a truly exciting diet of nothing but the same flavour of dry food day in day out, whilst others are fed home cooked food! The question is, what is actually good for your dog? And what do you need to look out for.

 

Age:

First thing is first, your dog’s dietary requirements will differ depending on his age. A growing puppy needs a special diet to aid growth, as does a pregnant bitch. The age at which puppies can be moved onto adult food varies upon breed, with larger dogs (which take longer to grow to their adult size) tending to be on puppy food for approximately a year. Older dogs will also often require a special diet that includes supplements to aid their general health.

Food types:

Dry complete foods: 

These dry foods come in a range of prices and ingredients. Sometimes they may seem expensive, but ultimately you feed less so the cost equals out. in my opinion you also have the added bonus of having no mess (a spaniels ears are long and get in the food bowl).

Tinned foods:

Tinned foods and semi-moist foods also come in a range of price and quality. Many people chose to mix in a small amount of wet food in with the dry food, giving it more flavour.

Home made food:

Some people feed their dogs home made food. This can be good, providing the dietary requirements are met. Some people make the poor decision to feed their dog like they would their children.

 

 

What the food needs:

So, when you pick up a bag of dog food, you need to take a close look at the ingredients. They should list the main ingredient first, and ideally you want this to be protein. The higher the protein, the better the food.

Protein:

In general, animal proteins have a higher value than vegetable proteins. So, if you see dog food which contains “55 % chicken protein” – then you know you have a good quality food.

Fat:

Fats provide energy as well as helping to maintain a healthy skin and coat. Whilst some fat is important in any animal’s diet, you need to be careful of how much fat your dog is consuming.

Carbohydrates

This will come from the vegetable matter in the dogs food. This is a direct source of energy.

Vitamins:

Most dog foods will already contain the vitamins your dog needs, but many people do provide extra supplements. Vitamins are necessary for many of the body’s chemical reactions.

Minerals:

Again, these should already be found in the right portions in good balanced and complete dog foods. If you are providing supplements you need to be careful not to over do it.

 

 

 

The feeding routine:

Now that you have chosen what food to feed your dog, the next thing you need to consider is how much, how often and when to feed your dog.

How much:

If you read the packets of dog food you buy, you will see that they provide guidelines on how much to feed your dog per day, usually based on the size of the dog and sometimes the age as well. You do need to take these guidelines into consideration, but remember, they are  guidelines. For example, if your dog receives treats throughout the day, you probably want to reduce the amount of food they receive slightly so as to remove the risk of overfeeding. You will be able to visibly see if your dog is not receiving enough food or too much food and can adjust accordingly.

How often:

My old dog used to be fed once a day (in the mornings). This worked well enough, but he was also a pro at scavenging. We later gave him one meal in the morning and one in the afternoon, and this actually reduced (slightly) the amount of food he would thieve during the day.

Some dogs are prone to bloat, something that can occur through eating too much too quickly. This can be reduced by feeding your dog a small amount of food at spaced intervals throughout the day. Puppies are usually fed three or four times a day, whilst adult dogs are often fed once or twice.

Leaving food out for your dog all day is not a good idea. Where some small mammals such as rabbits and even cats, can have their food left out all day and will just eat a little at a time, and only when they are hungry, dogs will just eat. They will eat more than they need just because they can.

When:

Fitting in the feeding around walks is something that i have seen many opinions on. Some people say to feed their dogs before the walk (my parents used to do this so that the dog could then do his business whilst on the walk, and not in our garden). Others, (like myself) like to feed the dogs after their walk, the food then acting as a reward for the walk activity. I have also seen it mentioned that you should wait a certain amount of time (an hour or two) between feeding and walking (another thing linked with reducing the risk of bloat).

I have recently gotten into the habit of feeding the dogs when we sit down to eat. This way they are in their kennel eating their food, and not hovering around the table trying to get to ours.

The routine:

This varies from person to person. Some people probably just plop the food bowl down in front of their dog. Others make them work for it first. Some dogs will share from a bowl (not the best of ideas),  others will be fed individually, one at a time, in separate areas.

My routine:

I always leave the house first to go into the garden (something Max has not yet come to understand, but that Maya knows and respects). I then fill their bowls, wait for them to sit and make eye contact. Put the bowls down and then give them the go ahead to eat. They only eat when i say they can.

Why is food important:

Not only is the type of food you give your dog important for his health and well-being  but it can also have a major impact on their behaviour. Just like giving sugary sweets to a child is a bad idea, giving a dog the wrong type of food can make them overactive and hard to control.

Final note:

I was recently told, “don’t be fooled by the pretty packaging or the fun adverts, those are usually the food that you want to avoid”.

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