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What's for dinner? OBOY! Dog food!

How to Feed Your Dog
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE PICKY EATER

For most dogs, feeding is a matter of putting the food in a bowl and getting out of the way! But some dogs are finicky. They eat on their own schedule or only eat certain foods. In almost all cases, eating habits are set by the owner, not the dog, and bad habits are easily adjusted.

What to Feed

You can choose any good quality dog food. Dry food is superior to canned because it helps promote dental health. Your dog may prefer one brand over another and it's fine to try different varieties. But don't be held hostage by a dog who "won't eat" dry food or who demands special treats. Dogs are not picky by nature: if a dog is fussy, it's because someone trained him to be that way. You're in charge and no dog will allow himself to starve —he may refuse something for a while, but eventually he will eat what he is given and be perfectly happy.

Some people try to encourage the dog by adding treats such as peanut butter. This is not a good idea. It trains him to be more picky and not eat. In fact, it really is best to not feed him any people food at all — not even toast. Give your dog nothing other than dog food and he will be a happy, normal eater.

The right food for his age

"Puppy" foods are generally higher in protein than foods formulated for adult dogs. Generally, after a puppy has reached six months of age, he doesn't need as much protein and puppy food taxes the kidneys. Transition him gradually to an adult food.

When a dog is moving into his "senior" years it may be time to switch to an even lower protein, or "senior" food. This differs for each breed. Most Corgis aren't considered Senior Citizens until they are about 10-12 years old. When you see your dog slowing down, not quite as active and perhaps beginning to put on a little weight, even though his diet and exercise hasn't changed, these are clues. Consult your veterinarian if in doubt.

Switching diets

When you change a dog's food, do it gradually. Mix in a small amount of the new food at first, adding a slightly higher proportion the next day, gradually phasing in the new diet over 10 days or so. This eases him into his new diet to help him accept it and to ease any digestive issues.

Pleeeeeeease?At the dinner table

How can you resist those big brown eyes? Well, you can and you should. Best policy is to never, ever, ever feed your dog from the table. By making his food and yours totally separate, you enforce your position as alpha.

Treats for tricks

An occasional treat is fine, especially when you use it to help in training. Use nutritious treats, formulated for dogs. We use the dog's regular dog food as their primary treat! The dogs know it's a treat and are no less thrilled than if we were giving them hamburger.

The best policy is to always ask the dog to do something, even if it's simple, for a treat. It reinforces your position and makes the dog happy to perform for you.

Remember to compensate for the treats when you feed. As with human, snacks add up and are a common contributor to weight problems. Just 1/8 cup of treats is a significant fraction of your pet's daily intake.

How much food?

There is no excuse for having a fat dog. Your dog will be no happier with more food and giving him oversized portions will shorten his life.

The dog food bag will give you guidelines but these tend to be high. If possible, ask the dog's previous owners. Your vet's office can weigh the dog and give you good suggestions.

Most important is to watch your dog and adjust the amount to keep him trim. Weight is a guide but the best way is to look at his waist. A properly fed dog will show a noticeable slimming where the ribs end and the stomach begins.

Feeding amount varies with the dog's activity. If the dog is more active in the summer, you can expect to increase the food slightly.

When you adjust the dog's diet to control weight, do it gradually. Alter the amount just 1/8 cup at a time and wait three weeks to see the effect. Rapid weight change is not good for dogs (or humans).

When?

It's best to feed your dog twice a day, but once a day is satisfactory. Try to feed him the same times every day — dogs love routine.

How?

Make a big deal out of the meal. I usually ask mine if they want "yummy dinner." Bart knows what this phrase means and goes nuts. I act real excited and it translates to the dogs. (Not that either of mine need any encouragement.)

Dinner lasts 30 seconds for Bart! Kenai is the "slow eater" — it takes her about a minute. If your dog is slower than that or picks at the food, let him. Leave the bowl for 10 minutes. After the time is up, take the bowl away — even if he hasn't eaten ANY of it! The next morning repeat the process. Do not worry if some food is left — no dog has ever starved himself and he will very soon learn to eat while the bowl is there.

A lesson with every meal

Meal time is a great mini-training opportunity. We always run our dogs through a short battery of tricks at every meal. This routine takes just five minutes but because it's frequent and consistent, it helps immensely, reinforcing the pack order and refreshing their training. They enjoy showing off their knowledge and it makes eating more interesting for the dog (especially good for dogs who are not "food hounds.") Making it part of the daily routine makes it easy for them — and for us.

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