Striking a Balance – Feeding Your Dog the Right Amount the Right Way

Labrador retriever eating at home.

It’s no secret – dogs love to eat. But hey, who doesn’t? Just because a dog will gobble up anything put before them, doesn’t mean that we should allow them to eat any and everything in sight whenever they want. A healthy dog is a result of a pet parent that follows some simple rules on how they are fed, how much they are fed and what they are fed. Giving your dog some nutritional structure and good eating habits is an easy way to help them be their best.

How to Feed

Dogs should have their own special place to eat. A bowl for water and a bowl for food on a placemat in the kitchen or laundry room works great. It keeps things clean and defines a feeding space for the pet. If there are multiple dogs in a household, each dog should have his or her own eating place that is separated a fair distance for the others. This ensures that dogs do not feel threatened by others – which can lead to aggressive behaviors. It is also important to separate pets in multi-dog homes so that you are able to ensure that each dog is consuming the right amount of food – not too much and not too little.

Be careful to provide a measured amount of food for your pet each day – don’t just keep the bowl full as the day goes on. Doing so can overfeed your pet. It can also keep you from noticing if your pet is ill and hasn’t been eating.

How Much to Feed

Dogs, like people, require calories for energy. How many calories they need depends upon their size (healthy weight) and activity level. For example, a small dog that rarely gets any exercise may require as little as 250 calories a day while a larger working dog could need over 2,000 calories a day. Talk with your vet about an optimal caloric requirement for your pet to ensure that they are able to maintain a healthy weight based on their breed, individual characteristics and activity level. Remember – calories are the total intake for the day – including treats and other feed sources.

Depending on the age of the dog, feeding schedules vary. A puppy should be fed four or more times a day until they are three months old. From three to six months feedings should be morning, noon and night. At six months of age and throughout adulthood, most veterinarians agree that two feedings per day is an optimal schedule for a canine animal.

What to Feed

The best food for a dog is food that was specifically prepared for a dog. Stay away from feeding table scraps and homemade diets. Low cost dog foods typically aren’t a great deal either – you usually get what you pay for and good nutrition matters for a dog’s quality of life and longevity. It may be beneficial to purchase foods in smaller bags at first and rotate brands and mixes for a couple of weeks at a time. Observe how your dog responds in terms of eating the food (does he gobble it up?) as well as their energy level, consistency of stools and quality of their coat – all of these things are easy indicators of the quality of a food and suitability for your particular pet.

Of course, providing supplementation in the form of vitamins, probiotics and condition specific support (such as hip and joint or skin and coat) can help fill any gaps and meet any special needs of your pet.