A dog’s nutritional needs change as he goes from puppy hood into the next life stage. Fortunately, pet food companies cater to these various growth and life changes by making age-related and breed-specific foods. This takes the guesswork out of providing your pal with the correct dietary needs to help him stay fit and healthy.
A dog’s nutritional needs change as he goes from puppyhood into the next life stage. Fortunately, pet food companies cater to these various growth and life changes by making age-related and breed-specific foods. This takes the guesswork out of providing your pal with the correct dietary needs to help him stay fit and healthy.
It doesn’t take away the responsibility, though. There are many steps to ensuring that your dog is getting the right amount of food and the right kind of food to meet all his nutritional needs. Here are some tips and tricks to get you and your pup off to a good start.
Like all small creatures, puppies tend to grow very quickly and have voracious appetites. But that doesn’t mean you should get carried away by those cute rolls of “puppy fat.”
It’s important to feed correct amounts from day one, because an overweight puppy makes for an obese adult dog! Initially it may be a good idea to seek advice from your veterinarian regarding meal sizes that are appropriate for your pal’s breed type.
A puppy that’s less than 10 weeks old should be fed up to four times a day. The next food phase will take him up to the six-month mark during which time you should cut down to three meals a day. From then onward and for the rest of his life, his daily routine should include two meals a day.
Establishing a food routine
When it comes to meal times, all dogs appreciate a routine. Think about your own eating routine and identify time slots that will work well for you and your dog. You may want to consider feeding him at the same time that you sit down to dine. Your dog will be less likely to want to join you at the table if your meals coincide, and anything you can do to discourage begging at the table is a good idea.
If your dog is a gulper, intent on setting a speed record for completing a meal, try putting small amounts in his bowl and giving him a few minutes break in-between. If that’s too much of a hassle for you, one of the newly designed food bowls on the market that cater to this problem may be a worthwhile investment.
It’s also an excellent idea to teach your dog a special food command associated with meal times, such as “go eat” or “food time.” Make your dog sit and wait while you set his bowl down. If he begins to eat, put him back in the sit position. Let him eat only after you utter that special command. Most dogs pick up on the game plan pretty quickly (there is, after all, a meal at stake), and in the process they learn that good things come to dogs who behave.
It’s a rare dog that doesn’t love special doggy treats or the odd biscuit to nibble on. Why not take advantage of this to support your dog’s good health? Many biscuits on the market now serve the dual purpose of freshening breath, controlling tartar or providing valuable glucosamine for the joints. Don’t get too carried away, though, and overtreat to the detriment of maintaining a healthy weight for your dog.
In fact, if you are using positive reinforcement in the form of yummy treats to train your dog, you may want to marginally reduce his meal quantities to ensure that he is not overindulging — or, more accurately, to ensure that you are not overindulging him. On the other hand, if you and your dog maintain an extremely active schedule, he may need special pick-me-ups during the day.
It’s a great idea to check in with your vet regularly about the dietary needs of your dog. Make a note to ask at your dog’s annual checkup if your pal is getting the right amounts of food in relation to his size, activity, metabolism and environment.
When it comes to transitioning your dog from one food to another, whether it be for health reasons or a change in life stage, always do it gradually — preferably over a period of seven to 10 days. Start off by adding small amounts of the new food to your dog’s bowl, gradually increasing the quantity as you decrease the old diet. A dog’s stomach can be very sensitive to change, and this gradual transition decreases the possibility of dietary upsets.
According to Dr. Bonnie Beaver, professor in the Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery at Texas A&M University and former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs are living much longer, healthier lives thanks to improved nutrition.
“In 1975, reports indicated that the average life span for a dog was four years. Now it is not uncommon to see dogs that are 12 years and older,” says Beaver. “This is the direct result of better nutrition in the form of specialized pet foods.”
Remember this when you’re wondering whether it would really hurt to share a little cheese or chocolate with your dog. Don’t give in to those big brown eyes watching you and hoping you’ll drop something! Instead, reward yourself in the knowledge that by not giving in to your dog’s soulful demands, you are in fact ensuring a longer and healthier lifetime together.