The Dog Daily: Diet
Changing Your Dog's Diet
By Mary Kirkland for The Dog Daily
Dogs are creatures of habit, and usually prefer to stick with their current food. But sometimes it's necessary to disrupt the routine, and transition to a new food. Here are some smart strategies for giving your pup a brand new menu without much resistance.
- Introducing new food gradually This is the most successful way to ease your dog into the change in diet. Start by mixing 25% new food with 75% old food. Slowly change the proportions over three days or so by gradually increasing the amount of new food and decreasing the amount of old food. At the end of this weaning process, you should be feeding 100% of the new food. You may encounter some difficulties, such as your dog choosing to eat only the old food, or not eating at all. Not to worry, a healthy dog can miss meals for a day or two with no ill effects.
- Making body language positive Bringing a new food into your home, placing it into a bowl, and declaring that your dog had better eat it might cause your dog to go on an eating strike. This is not the time to show who the boss is. It is better to introduce the new food to the dog using a pleasant tone of voice. Gently encourage the dog to try the new food.
- Handling resistance It is important not to give up too soon! During the initial two-day period, do not give your dog treats or table scraps! Dogs train us as much as we train them. Giving in to their demands only reinforces refusal behavior and makes it more difficult to make a nutritious dietary change.
- Going from moist to dry food Switching diets may be more challenging when changing from a moist food to a dry food. If your dog continues to resist eating dry food, mix a little warm water with the food. You may even want to put the moistened food in the microwave for a few seconds. If you mix the food with water it is important to discard the uneaten portion after 20 minutes. This prevents spoilage. The same rule applies for canned food. After the dog has become accustomed to the moistened food, you can wean him or her onto the dry food. To do this, follow the same mixing instructions outlined above.
Feeding for Lifestyle or Life Stage
As you change your pet's diet, it's a good time to think about portion sizes. Recommended feeding amounts are shown on every package. The guidelines are general suggestions for the amount of food you should feed your dog. Every dog is different and does not require the same amount of food. Your dog's activity level and individual metabolic makeup are the determining factors. Start with the amount given in the feeding guidelines, then add or subtract food as you observe your dog's eating habits and weight.
This is also a good time to review your current feeding method to make sure it is still appropriate for your dog's new diet. One feeding option is called Portion-Controlled Feeding. To do this, divide the daily amount and feed at specific time intervals. It is important to remove all remaining food after 15 to 20 minutes. This practice establishes a pattern for your dog to follow. The portion-controlled feeding method is recommended for giant and large breeds and also for overweight dogs. This is also a good method for dogs with special needs.
Another option is called Free-Choice Feeding. This requires feeding the daily amount at one time, and allowing your dog to eat at its own pace. This method is recommended for use only with dry foods. Remember, dogs eat to meet their energy requirements. Most dogs will quickly define their own daily portions when eating free choice.
What Every Dog Needs
Regardless of which food you choose to feed, your dog must have plenty of fresh, clean water available at all times. Place the water three to five feet from the food. This will help prevent your dog from gulping water and air in addition to food. Dogs need a routine. Feeding at the same time and place every day establishes a comfortable eating pattern.
And remember, your dog needs to visit the veterinarian regularly. Regular visits help to keep your dog happy and healthy!
Mary Kirkland is a freelance writer with a specialty in animal issues and needs.