Our Dog Owners Offer Their Top Feeding Tips:
Chat to Your Dog While They Are Eating
Anialisa Shah makes mealtime special for her four Labradors by petting each of their sides while they eat. “I know it makes them happy because their tails start wagging so fast,” says Shah. Thought and care should go into the meals you serve your dog, as they do when you serve your family. Every mealtime gives you the chance to provide nutrition and to nurture that special bond you have with your dog.
Shah makes sure she offers encouragement as the dogs eat: “I usually say things like ‘You are such a good girl or boy,’ since those words seem to make them happier.”
Mealtime comes soon after Shah’s alarm rings in the morning. “Anyone who knows Labs knows they love to eat,” says Shah. “They get fed in a specific order, and they wait until their food is poured. It’s very routine.”
Be Patient and Predictable When Feeding Dogs
With seven large dogs, Paul Caster’s feeding times can get a bit hectic. “One trick we learned a long time ago was to train each dog to sit and wait until it’s released before getting dinner. This has to be continually reinforced, but it saves a lot of trouble,” says Caster.
Caster knows senior dogs can be finicky eaters, so he was willing to adjust when his Irish Wolfhound stopped approaching meals with relish. “Frodo is a very sensitive, 106-pound puppy. He just wanted me to hold his dish while he ate,” says Caster. “Moral of the story: Before you rush your pup to the veterinarian when it stops eating, give it a little extra attention and you’ll see what happens.”
Spread out Your Dog’s Feeding
Monica Anthony separates food for her 10-year-old Labrador Retriever and 7-month-old Doberman Pinscher into portions throughout the day. “Both my dogs are fed meals three times a day, along with stuffed Kongs twice per day,” says Anthony. “Spreading out mealtimes helps keep the Lab’s weight in check, since she is not as hungry. It also allows the puppy to digest the high volume of food required as she grows.”
Anthony works to keep consistent feeding times. After her dogs exercise, she makes sure they get an hour of quiet time before she feeds them again. Access to clean water is a must. She keeps things neat by placing a shoe tray from a dollar store under the food. She also buys water bowls that are large enough to contain splashes and splatters.
“If your dog is older and tall, consider raised feeding dishes,” advises Anthony. “They allow our Lab to eat and drink in comfort.”
Accommodate Your Dog’s Tastes
Truffles, a 6-year-old Havanese, likes cold water. So her owner, Dr. Debra Jaliman, adds a few ice chips to Truffles’ water bowl at mealtimes. She also coats Truffles’ dry kibble with wet dog food. “I try to feed Truffles before I feed the family. Otherwise, Truffles gets antsy,” says Jaliman.
Make Meals a Challenge For Your Dog
Joan Hunter Mayer, a certified professional dog trainer in Ventura, Calif., makes sure her 8-year-old Chihuahua mix finds mealtimes stimulating. She suggests stuffing interactive food toys, such as Kongs, with your dog’s food. “This is an ideal way for your dog to have meals,” says Mayer. “These are toys that are meant for dry foods as well as wet foods. Instead of always feeding it out of a bowl, allowing your dog to engage in these productive, challenging and enjoyable activities taps into your dog’s natural predatory drive making mealtime fun.”
Engaging your dog at mealtimes will allow you to feel closer, and it will make the experience more enjoyable overall.
10 Rules for Feeding Your Dog, from Lisa Peterson, a spokesperson for the American Kennel Club.
Don’t Let Your Dog Guard its Food
Some dogs are like vacuum cleaners. Walk them and you’ll notice: any scraps of food (or discarded chewing gum, cigarette butts, etc.) go straight from the sidewalk into their mouths. “You need to be able to step in and remove food from a dog when it’s necessary for safety’s sake,” says Peterson. In order to help your dog tolerate your behavior, it’s necessary from puppy-hood to train your dog to let its food go. Feed your puppy, and then remove the food after a few bites. Replace the dish and remove it again. You can train your older dog in the same manner, giving it a reward for sitting calmly until you replace the food.
Don’t Feed Your Puppy at the Same Time as Your Adult Dog
If you’ve got multiple dogs, the older dog will most likely want to be treated like the king of the castle. “I tell people with an older dog to feed the dogs separately until the puppy is a year or so,” says Peterson. “The puppy should be trained to eat food in his crate.” The puppy needs to learn its place and this feeding style will facilitate the process.
Don’t Tease a Dog When it’s Eating
While you may not be tempted to pull your furry friend’s tail during dinner, your toddler or young child might. “Parents need to be aware that children shouldn’t be near the dog when it’s eating,” says Peterson. The child may jar the dog or get in its face. This can lead to a dog choking, gagging or simply becoming frustrated enough to lash out at the child — not a safe situation for your dog or your toddler.
Don’t Walk Your Dog After Dinner
Your dog should not have a walk right after a meal. Peterson advises waiting at least 15 to 30 minutes after feeding to exercise your dog. “Just a little time to digest,” she says. This is important for all dogs, but especially crucial for deep-chested dogs such as German Shepherds, Great Danes, Boxers and Dachshunds, all of who are prone to bloating, a dangerous condition that can have severe health consequences.
Don’t Give Your Dog Human Food
A begging pooch can be hard to resist (that sweet face, those sad eyes), but your dog doesn’t know how dangerous the meal you’re eating can be. Grapes, raisins, chocolate and onions: each of these can be toxic to your dog in large enough quantities. Sometimes excessive fat in meats or dairy products can cause digestive distress. Given that it’s hard to know how your dog will react to human food, the best rule to follow, says Peterson, is no table scraps whatsoever.
Don’t Prepare Your Dog’s Food Yourself
Commercial dog foods are prepared with the right amount of calories and the necessary combinations of vitamins, minerals and proteins. Achieving that combination yourself is unlikely. Dogs are carnivores. Their bodies are made to assimilate protein. Says Peterson, “Prepared kibble or canned food is balanced nutrition.”
Don’t Mix Prepared Foods
Trying to save money on your pet’s food? Don’t do it by mixing a high quality dog food with a lower quality one. Often, premium foods are packed with nutrients and require less food to be fed, making them a good buy.
Don’t Feed From Plastic
Casual observation has demonstrated that dogs prefer ceramic bowls, followed by stainless steel. Plastic bowls are too easy to chew, especially for puppies, likely to gnaw on anything in sight. The bowl should not be a part of your dog’s meal. Plastic dishes can also harbor bacteria and retain odors, leading to allergic reactions, or even your dog’s rejection of its food.
Don’t Over-Treat or Over-Supplement
Too many treats will lead to unhealthy excess pounds. Too many vitamins can also have unintended consequences. Ask your veterinarian about whether your dog needs any extras before starting it on a regimen of supplements.
Make Mealtime Fun for Your Dog
Treats to a dog can be like dessert to us. By their very nature, treats are a tasty reward associated with good behavior and good times. Kathy Miller, director of ForPaws Corgi Rescue Online, advises that you buy nutritious treats, formulated especially for dogs, instead of feeding people food. Better yet, “We use the dog’s regular food as their primary treat!” Peterson also does this with her own pets.
Feeding time can be training and playtime all at once. Miller, for example, begins by asking her dogs if they want a “yummy dinner.” Her dog Bart knows what this phrase means “and goes nuts.” Miller then runs him through a short battery of basic commands, such as sit and lie down, before Bart gets to chow down. The routine reinforces good behavior with good food, which benefits both dogs and owners.
To avoid boredom, Peterson also sometimes hides her dog’s kibble around the house. “I place it under the sofa, behind the TV, just anywhere where my dog can easily retrieve it but will face a little challenge finding the food.” The edible hide-and-go-seek serves as behavioral enrichment, stimulating your dog’s natural food-finding skills.
Should I Leave Food Out For My Dog All Day?
Free-feeding is when food is freely made available to your dog and they then decide when they will eat. According to Peterson this is another no-no. When you have a feeding schedule for your dog, you are providing them with an important routine.
How Often Should I Feed My Dog?
She instead advises the following feeding schedules, based on your dog’s stage of life.
- Puppies Young pups should be fed 3-4 small meals daily, or preferably, they should eat every couple of hours. “Remember that if they were with their mother, they’d have access to her milk all day long,” she explains, adding that pups also have small stomachs, which cannot hold a lot of food at one time, hence the tiny, multiple portions. Additionally, puppies need to eat frequently to keep their blood sugar in balance.
- Dogs, Six Months to a Year Peterson says that when puppies reach the age of six months, they should be fed around two times daily. When you feed is up to you, but she suggests treating them as a member of your own family. “I like to feed my own dogs at breakfast and dinner time so they feel like they’re eating with us,” she says.
- Dogs, a Year and Older Adult dogs should be fed once or twice daily. You could even feed your dog more often, so long as the daily portion remains the same. For example, if your dog should consume 1 cup of food each day, but you’d like to feed it three times daily, serve three meals consisting of about 1/3 cup. Peterson says it’s also very important to take treat consumption into consideration. “This is especially true if you’re trying to cut back on your dog’s calories,” she says. “Always keep in mind the calorie and nutritional content of treats that you feed your dog, and calculate these into the daily total.”
How Much Should I Feed My Dog a Day?
Refer to your dog food of choice for recommended daily portions, since these depend on multiple factors, such as breed, weight and activity level.
What Times Should You Feed Your Dog?
- Puppies Young pups should be fed small meals every couple of hours. Puppies have small stomachs, which cannot hold a lot of food at one time, hence the tiny, multiple portions.
- Dogs, Six Months to a Year When puppies reach the age of six months, they should be fed around twice a day, breakfast and dinner.
- Dogs, a Year and Older Adult dogs should be fed once or twice daily. You could even feed your dog more often, so long as the daily portion remains the same. Make sure to include any treats into your dogs daily calorie intake.
How Do You Make a Dog Feeding Station?
As you watch your pooch gulp down its dinner, consider the expression “wolfs down its food.” Your dog, its relatives and all of its distant wolf ancestors have at least one thing in common: They love to eat. At mealtime, you are your pet’s waiter, busboy, chef and cleanup crew all rolled into one. Unlike a restaurant, which must go through health inspections, your makeshift doggy diner has only you for quality control. Here, American Kennel Club spokesperson Lisa Peterson offers suggestions for setting up and running the perfect pet-feeding station for your favorite canine customer.
The first step in setting up your dog’s feeding station is choosing its “china,” aka water and food bowls. Since the bowls that you select could affect your dog’s health, this step is critical. Usually bowls come in four basic materials: plastic, rubber, stainless steel and ceramic. Each has advantages but possibly some major disadvantages, too.
- Ceramic Ceramic is Peterson’s material of choice for dog bowls. It has all of the benefits of stainless steel, in addition to being dishwasher safe. “Plus, it’s heavy,” she says, “so it doesn’t move all over the place when your dog is trying to eat.”
- Stainless Steel “It’s durable and doesn’t dent easily,” says Peterson, who believes stainless steel isn’t a bad option. One downfall is that some steel bowls fare better than others after going into the dishwasher. Since she advises to clean bowls once daily, you might have to manually wipe such bowls clean, rinse them and then let them air-dry.
- Rubber Like plastic, rubber is lightweight. It’s also more durable, bouncing back into shape after dings. Dr. Eldredge indicates that, as for plastic, it may also lead to allergic reactions. This is particularly true for synthetic rubber, which is made from a bunch of chemicals. It’s best to give rubber the rub and choose something else.
- Plastic As a lightweight material, plastic is easy to move and transport. Some plastic bowls can also go into the dishwasher, making cleanup a snap. However, Peterson, also an experienced dog breeder, says that “Many dog owners have reported that their dog’s nose changes color after the dog often eats out of a plastic bowl.” Debra Eldredge, DVM, a veterinarian at Burrstone Animal Hospital in Vernon, NY, suggests plastic may very well be the culprit, as it appears to turn some dogs’ noses a pinkish hue. While it’s unclear if the color change hurts dogs in the long run (and no firm cause for the phenomenon has yet been established), it’s possible that some canines are allergic to plastic, which is an oil/petroleum-based material. Peterson advises to pass up the plastic.
Where Should I Put My Dog’s Feeding Station?
Peterson advises all dog owners to begin feeding their pets inside their crates. This serves as training, so that whenever you need to transport your dog, it will “be anxious to go right in,” she says. Once your dog learns to associate happy mealtime with the crate, you can then place the water and food bowls in their permanent position.
Since dogs will eat almost anywhere, Peterson says you have many feeding-station placement options. The kitchen floor works well for most owners, since cleanup is usually easier there, and dogs can possibly share mealtimes with owners. Pantries and even bathrooms, preferably with a tile floor, also work well. She did, however, share the following three bowl placement no-no’s:
- Don’t put your dog’s feeding station in a high traffic area. This could disturb your dog, family and guests.
- Don’t locate your dog’s bowls in places frequented by young children. Peterson says, “Kids may bother the dog and might even try to eat its food!
- Don’t feed your dog near your garbage can or other potentially hazardous materials. Your primed-to-eat dog might be tempted to sniff around your garbage, not realizing that a tasty meat scrap could be covered with old ink or some other harmful, disposed item.