An age-old question… And if you asked a Labrador, the answer would be everything and anything! However, it’s probably a good thing Labradors aren’t in control of their own diet as they most certainly would be heavier than they should be.
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Just like humans’, all dogs’ diets should be looked at individually. Ttaking into account their weight, exercise habits, and life stage etc. An 11-year-old Pug’s diet will look vastly different to a 2-year-old Springer Spaniel’s. Most packaging will give you an insight into how to best feed your pet for that specific diet. However, most food products will assume you are feeding their diet and only their diet. Any treats, extra food or mixing of wet and dry will result in your dog being fed more than the recommended amount.
It is recommended to break meals down into two a day (puppies should be fed more depending on their age). This gives them a chance to digest their food properly, maintain blood sugar levels, and allow them to stick to a routine. The amount on the back of the pack is usually the amount they need in total. So if you are feeding two meals a day that amount will need to be halved. All packaging is different but the information you need should be clearly stated.
What if they want to eat everything?
If your dog tends to overindulge (and haven’t we all during lockdown) then it is best to get in touch with your veterinary clinic. A veterinary nurse will be able to assess your pet’s weight and body condition. They can then help you make a plan on how to achieve your pet’s perfect weight.
The best way to assess a dog’s weight is to perform a body condition score as each dog is different even within a certain breed. Assessing your individual dogs’ condition is the best way to work out how much weight your dog needs to lose. Also how much to reduce their portion sizes by. A nurse will be able to help you to work out exactly how much to feed them. They can recommend an appropriate diet food if necessary. Remember treats will be included as calories so these will need to be rationed. Most dogs prefer the gratification of receiving the reward over what the treat is so it is recommended to feed treats out of their allocated portion.
What if they don’t seem full?
Changing or reducing a diet can be pretty tricky especially if your dog is used to a certain amount. Most diet foods are made so dogs will feel fuller for longer and ensure they are consistently full despite the lower calories. However, if that isn’t cutting it then food can also be used as a form of entertainment. Use treat holders such as puzzle games, kong’s, and games. These are all really good ways of mentally stimulating your pooch and making their meal last longer (resulting in them less likely to beg for more food or act hungry).
Making food entertaining is brilliant stimulation for our dog, dogs need to be physically worn out (walks, swimming etc) and mentally worn out (sniffing, training etc). Hiding food in different places or feeding them slightly differently each time results in them having to work for their food stimulating their brain while you do so.
Making feeding times fun
There are many different feeders on the market, ranging in price and difficulty. Trial and error will be needed to work out what works for you and your dog. It is also best to start off with something fairly easy so your furry friend gets the hang of it. Especially if they are only used to getting food out of their bowl. Scatter feeding is a very good way to start out. Simply sprinkle your dogs allocated dry food portion onto the floor and allow him to sniff out and eat them.
Another cheap way of making feeding more entertaining is a cardboard box with scrunch up paper. Simply place the dry food into the box and give it a shake. This allows your dog to use their nose and search for his biscuits in more difficult terrain then just the floor. Always supervise your dog during these activities in case he gets a bit too excited and decides to chow down on the box by accident!
There are many different options so it is best to try a few, some can be easily made at home (hide and seek boxes, kong fillings and snuffle mats etc). There are many more options available online with different levels of difficulty and for different forms of food. Give it a try and make meal times fun!