Understanding Food Needs

Correct feeding is very important for your dog. A dog can become overweight if care is not taken regarding their diet. Overweight dogs can have health troubles. Extra weight can cause all the same conditions that obesity in humans can cause; diabetes, heart disease, liver disorders, gastro-intestinal disorder and joints disorders.

Small breeds burn calories faster than larger breeds, but as they all grow older their needs change for dog food. One also has to take in to account exercise; if one is a marathon runner, one will be skinny even though one is eating the same amount as a 125kg couch potato! This logic also must be applied to your dog.

A Dogs digestive tract is relatively short and is designed to process proteins and the main component of its diet. You may need to do a little experimenting to see what type of dog food your dog enjoys best. However, many foods we love are poison to dogs. 

What is Poison to Your Dog

Many people already know that chocolate is poisonous to a dog; however there are a lot of other foods as well.


The seeds of any fruit
Raisins & Grapes
Coffee or any substance containing high levels of caffeine

Aside from some human food, plants and grasses can be very toxic to a dog. To make sure of your dog’s safety, never allow him to chew on any type of grass. Of course, such items and fluids as anti-freeze, hair colouring, detergents, anything that is poisonous to a human should be considered harmful to a dog.

Now back to the good stuff

How Much?

How much dog food does a dog need? A dog must eat enough to be healthy and not too much so they become overweight. The amount of dog food and the feeding times will vary depending on the age of your dog and activity level. Only leave out the dog food for 30 minutes at each designated feeding time. If your dog doesn’t eat it in that time, put it away.


Puppies between 6 and 8 weeks should be free-fed.
From 8 weeks months 6 months 2 - 3 scheduled meals should be given per day.
From 6 months to 1 year 2 scheduled meals should be provided.
From 1 year on 1 meal a day would be just fine. 

Remember to time all meals so that your dog has at least 2 hours post meal before any high energy activity.

If using manufactured dog food, there is always a good general guide on the side of the sack for the amount of food for your dogs size. Like I say, this is a general guide, watch you own dogs indicators as to whether it’s enough, or too much. in addition to dry dog food, a small amount of canned dog food can be added. If you are using quality dry and canned food, a good ratio is 2/3 dry and 1/3 canned. Dog supplements are helpful; they can make the coat shiny and keep the body nutritionally balanced. Older dogs definitely need dog supplements to help with their joints and many other health issues. 

What to Feed Your Dog

Feeding begins with offering the best of food. It is important to know that the main element that separates a high quality or poor quality dog food is the amount of fillers. A dog's digestive tract is designed to mainly process proteins and fats, not carbohydrates...and certainly not fillers.


Even the best high quality dog food has fillers. They are ingredients which have zero nutritional value and simply "bulk up" the dog food to make it appear as if there is more. For example, if you are looking at a cup of dog food, what you are really seeing is about 3/4 to 4/5 of actual food (depending on the brand) and the rest is not food. It is very cheap ingredients, thrown in to not only fill up your dogs bowl but also to fill their stomach.

These fillers quickly pass right through the body (since they have no nutritional value and the body does not absorb them). This can potentially lead to nutritional deficiency.

Another way to feed your dog, and one I highly suggest home cooking food. By doing so, you are in charge of the ingredients, you know that you are not giving your dog any fillers and you can offer your dog the best of nutrition.

Home cooking can also save you money. Many of the ingredients are those which you would normally purchase. For example, if you will be getting hamburger to make a meal for your family, you can set aside a certain amount for your dogs dinner. You can make a large amount and then refrigerate or freeze servings. In this way, you can prepare your dog's dinners once per week and not need to be cooking every day (unless you love the kitchen!).


Feeding your dog in this way is not the same as allowing your dog to eat table scraps! It is important that each meal be prepared correctly and with the proper ingredients.

Some of the best ingredients that you will want to use are:

Organs - such as liver, kidney and brain
Lean meats - such as lean hamburger, white breast chicken meat and fish
Vegetables - Dogs usually love potatoes (either regular potatoes or sweet potatoes), baby carrots, spinach, and zucchini. Corn is not recommended.
Starch is very important. This does not need to only rice (white or brown). Dogs usually love pasta and there are many ways that you can incorporate this into meals.
Meat should be the # 1 ingredient. Dogs must have this protein as their main food source. Vegetables and then starch will round out the meals.

Rations will change slightly depending on which recipes you use, however you will want to keep it roughly: 40% meat, 30% veggies, 30% starch. 

If you choose to not home cook for your dog, we would then recommend: Eukanuba, Royal Canin or Hills Science Plan.

For any dog owner who chooses to serve manufactured dog food, I will give you some good general advice.


Wet or Dry? 

It is suggested to feed your dog mostly dry dog food with a bit of wet dog food mixed into the menu. Eating only wet dog food may affect the bowels. Because a dog can quickly come to love wet dog food, you will not want to feed them only wet even for a day or two; they will put up a big fuss if you try to switch them over.

If you are currently feeding your dog only wet dog food and your dog is having very runny bowel movements, you should plan a slow switch over to dry food. You can begin by providing a mixture of 50% dry and 50% wet. Be sure to mix well, so that the wet food covers the dry nuggets. As time goes on, you can add less and less of the wet, ending up with a balanced diet of 80% dry dog food and 20% wet dog food.


Picky Eaters

Feeding your dog home cooked food at pre-set times during the day is the best way to ensure your dog is properly fed. As tempting as it is, never feed your dog food from your own dinner. The fat content, colourings and more can very detrimental to your dog's health. This will also affect your dogs coat and teeth. I have a section for dogs who won't eat. 

If choosing manufactured food, you will just need to experiment a bit. Do not buy large quantities of dog food until you have discovered the flavour or flavours that your dog likes.


When a Young Dog Won't Eat

Having a puppy is a huge responsibility; they are fragile! If you find that your puppy won't eat or can't seem to eat enough, it is time to quickly jump into action so that your puppy can be healthy and grow up strong. Since this puppy is small and growing rapidly even 1 day of not eating can affect its health. 

One of the reasons why a newborn may have difficulty eating is if the dog was taken from its mother too early. This is what is called Early Weaning Syndrome and can severely affect a puppy that is trying to grow. A puppy should never be taken from its mother before the age of 6 weeks. 8 weeks is optimal. Unfortunately, in the race to sell puppies, a breeder, store or individual may sell a puppy before it is the proper time. When at all possible, do not buy or take a puppy until he or she is old enough. When the dog is forced to stop drinking its mother milk, this can cause major problems. 

A puppy may also not eat, or not eat enough because of a medical issue. Before you take matters into your own hands, a good owner must bring the puppy to a vet to have a complete medical checkup. There are many medical reasons why the dog may not be eating, including stomach and intestinal problems. If present, this must be address or no matter what you do, the puppy will have issues.


How You Can Help

Once you have determined that your puppy does not have any medical reasons for not eating, the answer will most likely be that he or she was weaned too soon. You will need to start from the beginning and essentially play the part of the mother! You must obtain some droppers. Depending on the size of your puppy, a clean and new eye dropper may do for the smallest of dogs, up to a large bore syringe. You will need to feed your puppy from the dropper.

The best liquid to feed a young puppy will be a milk replacer. There are many high quality brand name milk replacers, your veterinarian, who knows your puppy the best, will recommend which formula will best fit your little dogs needs.

Puppies will drink a lot; therefore, whenever your dog wants to drink you must allow them to. A dog in this condition must have a human to care for them around the clock until they are able to eat on their own. You should cuddle your puppy while feeding them, so that they feel safe. Once your puppy is about 6-7 weeks old, it will be time to slowly introduce regular dog food.


When a Dog Won't Eat - Puppy Age

Once you have eliminated all of the medical possibilities with vet consultations then warm tasty home cooked food is always the best way forward. Then only thing to remember, in addition to the other recommendations, is that a dogs food should never be hotter than its own body temperature.

A Dogs Weight

All too often people get obsessed with their dogs weight. As a puppy they will need that 'puppy fat' as caloric back up for growth and repair. As an adult dog they should look as if they can do the job that their breed was intended for:

A Rhodesian Ridgeback should look like it could run 30 miles with horses.
A Rottweiler should look like it could drove cattle to and from market.
A Labrador should look like it could work 8 hours in a field retrieving.


When buying a puppy don't be drawn in by anyone describing the parents as 'massive' or 'chunky.' This is neither healthy nor desirable in any breed, including the giant breeds.

Read up on your breed, discover their heritage, help them to emulate it and they will love you for it.

So when your dog looks like they can do the job that he was designed to do then that's how much they should weigh. Now weigh him.