15 October 2011

Feeding your dog

All pets need a constant supply of fresh water. This is especially true during warm weather. Using a smaller bowl and refilling it often is a great way to keep your pet's water supply fresh. Be sure to wash the water bowl every day.

How often do I feed my puppy? 
Your wonderful new companion should eat at least three times a day. Four is better, but we will be assuming that you have to work to support your new friend. By the time your puppy is six months old, you can gradually cut back to feeding two times a day. You should keep your dog on the twice daily feeding from this point forward. The twice-daily feedings let your dog digest their food correctly and it helps keep their metabolism working at a proper rate.

What type of food should I choose?
Dry food (kibble) is your easiest alternative. The kibbles help keep your pup's teeth and gums healthy and clean. Look at the back of the food bag and read the AAFCO statement. It should read something like this: "formulated for all life stages" or "formulated for growth," this means it is designed to support your puppy's development. Some small pups have difficulty chewing the kibble. If yours is one of these, you can always add a little warm (not hot) water to the food. This will help them chew the pieces more easily.

Ideally you will select a food that falls into the "Super Premium" (at least 4 different meat sources) or "Premium" (at least three different meat sources) categories. The meat source should be the first ingredients. These foods are higher priced, but actually end up costing about the same or less than the brands available at the grocery or discount stores. The better the quality, the better the health of your puppy. Another big plus with the super premium foods is fewer stools. That means less pooper scooping which is always a good thing!

How much do I feed my puppy?
Your growing companion is not likely to be overweight, and probably can eat as much as they want when they are small. Puppies that gulp down the food and gorge themselves until their bellies are like little basketballs should be fed smaller amounts more frequently.

Most pet food manufactures have feeding guidelines on their bags. As a general rule, these guidelines will be higher than the amount most pups need in a day, although some pups will need more than the suggested feeding amount. Use these guidelines as just that, a rough guide for how much the pup should eat. If your pup gets loose stools after eating too much, cut back by 10% until you have found a happy medium.
What is challenge feeding?

Challenge feeding means the food is available for a brief period of time and then is taken away. Remove any leftover food after the puppy has had a chance to eat what he wants. (15 minutes is usually sufficient.) This is an excellent method for gaining Alpha status with your new companion without having to work too hard at it. Challenge feeding helps in other areas too. By removing the food, your house training will be successful more quickly and if your dog is ever sick and doesn't eat, you'll know something isn't right, right away.

Eating a meal strongly stimulates your puppy's desire to eliminate. By taking pup out shortly after eating, when you know he wants to "poop," you can get your pup into the habit of doing the socially acceptable thing, and get praise for doing something right. What a smart puppy you are! Some pups will need to go outside immediately and some will take up to 15 minutes. You will know once you start studying pups behavior what time is the right time.

Most puppies are good eaters. If you have gotten one that is reluctant, you can always add a little canned food to the kibbles. Again, stick with a super premium or premium food to keep your pup healthy. Foods that are mostly liver may be too rich and give pup the "trots" so look for something like chicken, lamb or turkey.

Can I give my puppy milk?
Yes, if you want to have diarrhea. Most pups don't tolerate milk very well, so best to just avoid it.

Why isn't my puppy eating as much?
Many puppies will start regulating how much they eat as their bodies start requiring less food. This is normal. The majority of puppies have achieved most of their growth at about six months. You will need to start watching how much your puppy is eating and perhaps begin to cut back on the daily food allotment. Your puppy should have a nice covering of flesh on his body. (Not a parka-like covering.) You should be able to feel the back ribs when you run your hands over the puppy's sides.

When looking at your puppy from above, your pup should have a "girlish figure" that looks like an hourglass. The shoulders are the top of the hourglass, the waist is the middle and the hips are the bottom. We are not looking for a Scarlet O'Hara wasp waist here, just a moderate hourglass. From the side, there should be a slight tuck up after the back of the rib cage, before the hind legs. Your veterinarian can teach you how to look for these attributes and to determine if Fido is fit or fat.

What type of food should I feed?
The same guidelines apply to the adults, super premium or premium kibbled food works best. AAFCO should state "for all life stages" or "for maintenance of adult dogs." For older or overweight dogs, look for a formula that is geared specifically for them. You will want a meat source as the first ingredient. Dry kibble is preferred as it greatly slows down the development of tartar on the dog's teeth. Tartar can cause gum disease, tooth loss and even heart disease.

How often should I feed?
Twice a day is ideal for most adult dogs. Try to feed at the same time each day to enhance digestion and promote perfect potty habits. If your older dog is not as healthy as he should be, your can add a third feeding to help with the digestive process. Big dogs should be fed on a platform to aid in digestion. The good rule of thumb is bowl height should keep the neck horizontally level with the floor.

Why should I challenge feed my adult?
Challenge feeding gives you Alpha or leader status, and it helps you know if your dog is feeling all right, and it keeps your dog from becoming a picky eater. If your dog refuses to eat, take the food up and don't offer anything until the next scheduled feeding. Sounds horrible, but it is the best way to avoid having a problem eater. If you panic when your dog turns their nose up at food and race out to get something new to toss in, you lose. Your dog has won the battle of the bowl. You will have a dog that picks at food until you throw in leftover prime rib, gravy, whatever will make them eat. A dog that picks and wins will ultimately lose by not getting proper nutrition and by having digestive upset from changing diets to tempt him to eat. Your dog won't deprive himself long enough to cause harm -- wait him out and know you are doing the right thing. (If there are other factors in the food strike, consult your veterinarian to rule out any illness.)

Can I feed canned food?
Canned food is fine for your pet too. (Remember the super premium and premium foods are best.) Cans are more costly than dry, and some can cause more tartar build up on your dog's teeth. A good solution with canned food is to add some into the kibble and use it for variety in your dog's diet.

How much should I feed?
Pay attention to your dog and how fit he is. A really active dog will need more food than a sofa surfer. Again, most manufacturers have recommended amounts on the bags and cans of food. These are usually higher than the average dog needs. The same girlish figure applies to the adult dogs, as does the feeling the back ribs as you run your fingers over the dog's body. Your veterinarian can help you determine the ideal weight for your dog.

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