Ten Errors in Feeding Dogs

Pet Tales
by Barry B. Burtis D.V.M.

Ten Errors in Feeding Dogs
Questions about feeding are certainly some of the most common questions pet owners ask their veterinarian. That is as it should be. The importance of proper diet and proper feeding practices to the health and well-being of pets cannot be overstated. Also the social role of food in the relationships between humans and dogs should always be remembered. Here is a list of errors that I believe should be avoided when feeding a dog.

1) Don't feed your dog from the table. It is likely that begging behaviour will be created that will be disruptive to pleasant human mealtime routine. The foods that will be shared have the potential to be unhealthy for your dog. Some behaviourists suggest it will destroy the dog's image of you. Dogs admire and feel an attachment to owners that protect their food. 

2)  Do not offer a lot of different foods to make a puppy feel at ease when it first arrives in your home. It is normal for a pup to be timid and not dare eat on arrival. It is important to establish eating rules from the beginning.

3) Don't use treats to stimulate your dog's appetite for its regular dry food diet. If the dog is hungry it will eat the regular diet. Do not risk making it eat when it isn't hungry. This will make maintaining a healthy weight more difficult. Moreover, with this ritual you increase the risk your dog will be satisfied and not eat the healthy correct diet it should be eating.

4) Don't try to make up for your absences and shortcomings with food treats. In addition to being a source of unnecessary and possibly unhealthy calories, it will likely reduce the person to pet relationship to just an exchange of food.
5) Don't ignore a puppy that eats a lot more than the food manufacturer's recommendations. Over consumption can be a sign of satiation, behavioural or digestion problems. A veterinarian should be consulted if this occurs on a regular basis.

6) Don't offer a homemade meal once a week. An owner should carefully select a good quality commercial dog food, produced by a reputable, reliable manufacturer and then stick with it. Dogs thrive on consistency at mealtime. Diet changes should not happen on a whim. Even that once a week different food may cause a problem.

7) Encouraging your dog to eat with hand feeding is best avoided. It can easily create a habit that is hard to break. Also, animal behaviourists tell us that if you want your dog to respect you, you should not stay in its company when it is eating. If you show a dog you want it to eat, you are assuming a subordinate position and invite the dog to refuse food in its desire to move up in the pecking order.  

8) Don't confuse feeding your dog with being nice to your dog. It is certainly an   
important responsibility you have to your dog. However, food should be given to quell hunger and not as a way of gaining affection.
9) Don't expect you can stop begging behaviour in your dog by feeding it just   
before you sit down to eat yourself. This will likely only create more confusion for the dog. Remember a dog isn't begging because it's hungry, rather, it wants to increase its status by sharing your food.

10) Don't reduce the frequency of feeding or the availability of water for reasons of
cleanliness or ease for the owner. Feeding smaller amounts more frequently rather than a large meal is best for young puppies and many older dogs as well. Dogs should have access to fresh water at all times.