At first thought, feeding your dog may seem like one of the easier tasks. All you have to do is pick a suitable brand off the shelf and pour it in their bowl, right? Actually, that's the mistake that far too many down owners make. Monitoring your dog's feeding habits is an important part of rasing a healthy dog, and it takes a bit more involvement than many owners realize. Obviously, every dog owner cares deeply about their pet's health, but feeding is something very often overlooked by pet parents new and old alike.
Are You Overfeeding?
Knowing how much to feed is not a simple task, because multiple factors will actually come into play. First and foremost, when figuring out how much to feed your dog, you have to recognize how much they are already eating. Some owners put down a certain serving of food once or twice a day and that's all their dog gets. That's a fantastic way to feed your pet, as long as you're offering them a nutritionally balanced food.
However, most dog owners don't just feet dry or wet dog food to their dog. They may feed a combination of dry and wet dog food along with treats and even table scraps. Ideally, you'll look to cut out any table scraps or leftovers from your dog's diet because they can greatly impact your dog's nutrition and can also prove dangerous for your dog. Most of what humans eat is not healthy for our furry friends due to seasonings, various ingredients, and the servings they need versus us.
But, even after cutting out table scraps, a dog's diet can still be unhealthy if their owner is feeding a number of treats throughout the day and/or not properly calculating how much wet or dry dog food they need to be consuming. So, begin by considering just how many times throughout the day your dog gets to eat. Stop feeding table scraps and leftovers, and begin to end the "treat fairy" if you're in a habit of treating regularly.
Just as the name implies, a dog treat is just that: a treat. Treats should be used ocassionally, not every day. When training, use small pieces of soft treats so that your dog can just get a taste as reinforcement. Anything more can be negatively impacting your dog's health and nutrition.
Once you have balanced out how many treats you're giving your dog and stopped feeding them from the fridge or table, the next step is to think about whether you feed wet or dry food. Some dog owners will actually feed both, using the wet food as dinner and leaving dry food down all day long. That's a common mistake that can lead to overfeeding. Read the package of your dog's foods and you'll soon learn that most dog food is nutritionally balance. That means it's meant to be a single source of nutrition for them.
Find a Nutritionally Balanced Food
Most dry dog foods have been nutritionally balanced and they will say so on the package. That means the manufacturer has gone through various periods of formulation and testing in order to ensure that the food offers the right amount of everything based on the age and size of dog displayed on the packaging. With this type of dog food, you should not be supplementing your dog's diet with additional foods. Instead, follow the feeding recommendations on the package.
The same thing goes for many wet dog foods, but you'll want to be sure to read the packaging and make sure that it's nutritionally balanced. If the food is not nutritonally balanced, you should not feed it to your dog as their single source of nutrition. Instead, do your research and opt for a wet or dry food that is nutritionally balanced so that you can begin feeding it to your dog as a standalone meal.
Plan Meal Times Accordingly
Your dog food's package should have a chart detailing the weight and activity level of different dogs and then show a recommendation of how much to feed based on that information. Some dog owners make the mistake of looking for their dog's current weight when determining how much to feed. Instead, you should ask your vet about your dog's ideal weight and use the recommendation for that number. This will allow an overweight dog to lose weight overtime and an underweight dog to gain weight overtime.
If your dog is overweight or underweight, be sure to consult your veterinarian. You should also ask them any questions you have about your dog's food and its nutritional makeup. They'll be abel to tell you whether or not the dog food is truly healthy and balanced for your dog's needs, and perhaps suggest a better alternative if it is not.
Once you know how much your dog should be eating each day, decide if you want to feed them the full amount once a day or half the amount twice a day. This will really depend on your lifestyle and how many times a day your dog is used to eating. If you previously used the "free feeding" method where dog food was out all day, you may want to feed them twice a day so it's not such a drastic change.
Don't allow your dog to give you those puppy dog eyes and trick you into feeding them too much or too often. Treats should be an occassional thing, not a daily staple, and food scraps should go straight to the bin rather than to your dog--no matter how much they beg. If you feel like your dog's appetite has changed or they seem to be acting differently, ask your vet for advice and guidance.
All in all, you'll find that going the extra step to ensure you are feeding your dog correctly is something that will pay off in the long run as you enjoy a healthy, long life with your pet.