Feeding your dog

Golden Retriever puppyGolden Retriever puppy

Feeding your dog is a far greater subject than just satisfying its strongest instinct which is to eat and survive. The act of giving your dog its meal reinforces his position in the hierarchy in which he lives which is in your home and/or family. Above all, mealtime for your dog should not only provide suitable nutrition, it should also be a pleasurable experience for your dog.

Historically dogs were wild animals which had to live on whatever they happened to catch. Once the dog-man relationship became established and dogs became domesticated, dogs' digestive systems developed alongside ours. So the domestic dog has learnt to thrive on whatever humans provided. In many cases this was and still is table scraps or whatever humans have left over from their own meals.

There are two schools of thought about the best way to feed your dog. My personal preference is to feed mainly human or natural food. The second option is to feed mainly commercially produced processed food. Whichever you choose I believe that like us, variation in your dogs' diet is as important as the nutrition the meal contains.

Feeding Natural food

Irish Setter Irish Setter

The best natural diet for a dog is to feed more than half the dogs' daily meal as fresh raw meat. This meat may be human consumption lamb, beef or chicken whichever happens to be available at an acceptable price at the time of purchase. Roll the pieces of meat in unprocessed bran - like flouring meat for a stew - this ensures the motions are always firm. The meat may be mixed with a few vegetables like carrot plus greens. Follow this up with a fresh raw beef or lamb bone or a raw chicken carcass and you have the basis of a natural diet. Dogs digest bones fine and really enjoy them. Bones also help keep the breath and teeth in great condition. I also recommend a little fish oil each day - either by spoon directly into their mouths, on their food or in the form of a capsule every day.

Additionally many dogs also adore fruit, especially apples and bananas or a piece of whatever you are eating, except sweets and chocolate. This variation in diet keeps them psychologically interested in food. Titbits of what you are eating, also reinforces their position in my family pack with you as the boss.

Feeding Commercial Dog Food

Feeding litter of Bull TerriersFeeding litter of Bull Terriers

Commercially made dog biscuits were advertised in dog publications more than a century ago. Then in Australia just after World War Two, dog food was made available in a tin. It was called 'Tucker Box' and was introduced and widely advertised, including sponsoring events at dog shows which were increasing in popularity at that time.

Today, there is a wide variety of commercially made dog foods available ranging from tins, biscuits and refrigerated products of various types. They are marketed in this modern world of promotions ranging from attractive labelling to multi million dollar forms of marketing. This marketing often extends to veterinary practices.

Commercially made dog foods are usually instant to feed. They come straight from the packet or tin. For the consumer that makes them quick and easy to use. Certainly dogs survive on this sort of diet. But you must ask yourself, how much do they enjoy the same food day after day?

My concerns for feeding solely commercial dog food are the same as those for people in the western world who live solely on takeaways. Many dogs fed this way pay the price ranging from a life of obesity with all its problems, to the psychological state of mind of a dog which lacks variation in its diet.

My Personal Opinion on Feeding

Airedale TerrierAiredale Terrier

Many owners opt for a balance of some natural food plus some commercial dog food. This has the advantage of maintaining the dogs' interest in food but at the same time giving them the variation I believe they need. But my personal recommendation is you will be well rewarded if you take the time to buy and prepare your dogs meals and just give the odd commercial dog biscuit as a treat. For the breeder, this begins from the time you first wean your puppies and extends to recommending your diet to your puppy buyers when the puppies are ready to be welcomed into their new homes.

When should I feed my dog?

Portuguese Water DogPortuguese Water Dog

This poses two questions:

  • At what time of the day?
  • When in relation to when I eat my own meals?

It does not matter at what time of the day you feed your dog. Part of making dog ownership a pleasurable experience is getting the dog used to your personal routine. As a rule of thumb, young dogs, especially puppies should be fed more than once a day. But mature dogs only need one meal daily. Food should only be left down for around five minutes and then the remainder removed. At your convenience, this should be within a few hours of the same time each day, say at breakfast time or at dinner time. A food plate left down all day either encourages picky eaters, or encourages the dog to be obese. As long as you are consistent, what time of day it is convenient for you to commit to feeding your dog on a regular basis, is of little or no importance.

Pomeranian and SamoyedPomeranian and Samoyed

In relation to when you eat your own meals, feeding should be an enforcement of your position in the household. So your dog understands that you are the 'boss' within your family household, your dog should be fed only after you and all your family members have finished your meals.

In the wild, a dog is basically a pack animal. The 'boss' dog gets to eat the 'kill' first, and then the remainder of the dogs within the pack eat the remains in the order they assume within the pack. If your dog always eats before you do, the dog thinks he is the boss of the household and so is getting the choice portions of the meal. However, if he is the last one to eat, his position at the bottom of the pecking order within your household is reinforced. So, if you wish your dog to respect you and all your family members as the 'bosses' within your household, always eat your meals before, not after you feed your dog.