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Dogs love their food! There is no getting away from this fact, and often, this propensity to think with their stomachs can work in our favour, by means of using food rewards and treats as an integral part of dog training. As dogs are generally fairly easygoing about their food in terms of what, when and how they are fed, it is easy to follow the procedure of just plonking a reasonable amount of food into your dog’s bowl, putting it on the floor and letting them get on with it.
However, the conscientious canine owner should ensure that they follow a few basic guidelines when feeding their dogs, to keep feeding time stress free, safe and appropriate for the dog in question. Read on to learn about the ten golden rules of dog feeding.
Dogs will generally eat everything that is put in front of them, and may overeat even when they are full. Follow the guidelines on your dog food packaging carefully in terms of calculating how much food your dog should receive over the course of the day, and weigh your dog regularly to make sure that the amount of food you give is appropriate for your dog’s activity levels and age.
Don’t allow your dog to get away with being defensive, growly or snappy if someone approaches them while they are eating. Your dog should be left in peace to eat his meals unmolested, but it is also important to train your dog to allow you to take their food away from them if you need to do this.
Don’t feed your dog at a time or in a place that is busy or has a lot of activity going on; your dog will find it hard to relax and enjoy their food, and may gulp it down or not digest it properly if their mind is trying to process too many things at once. Make sure that children and visitors respect your dog’s space when they are eating, and do not bother your dog when it is dinnertime!
If you have more than one dog, you will usually feed them at the same time as each other, in order to keep things simple. However, ensure that your dogs are fed far enough away from each other that they can get on with eating their meal without worrying about what the other dog is doing, of that if they don’t eat fast enough, they might end up sharing their meals.
While your dog might need to go out to the toilet shortly after eating, give them at least half an hour to an hour after a meal to digest their food before you take them for a walk or start up any vigorous exercise or games. Just like people, dogs need time to digest their meals properly after eating, and walking or exercising your dog too soon after dinner can interfere with digestion and lead to upset stomachs or even more serious conditions such as bloat.
Dogs have different nutritional requirements than people, both in terms of the content of their food and the amount of calories contained in their meals. Do not use your dog as a dustbin to finish off your scraps, or make any significant part of your dog’s diet your own food, unless you are prepared to commit to researching and preparing homemade canine-appropriate dishes for your dog, which can often take more time and effort than cooking for people!
Most of us have a favourite plate, bowl of mug that we like to use for our food and drinks, and dogs are no different! Invest in good quality dog bowls that are of an appropriate size and depth for your dog, and keep their bowls clean at all times. Ceramic or steel bowls are best, as plastic can soon become chewed, scratched and tatty, and begin to harbour bacteria.
Many dog owners like to add a supplemental product to their dog’s food to give them a little extra boost or help to tackle a health issue, but it is important not to go overboard. Feeding supplements or herbs may come accompanied by a range of additional effects for your dog, and mixing supplements or vitamins can sometimes be problematic. Always talk to your vet first if you wish to start feeding your dog a new supplement.
If you wish to change the food that you feed to your dog, do not simply wait for your bag of the old food to run out and then start feeding something new. Phase in the new food gradually over the course of a week or so, mixing it in with the old food in increasing quantities to allow your dog to get used to the change in taste and nutritional make up without a problem.
Feeding one big meal a day is not considered to be the optimum way of feeding dogs, and will often lead to them wolfing down their food because they are really hungry, having not eaten for 24 hours! Split your dog’s food into at least two and preferably three meals per day, and feed them at staggered intervals to keep your dog topped up and satisfied throughout the day.
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