How to manage food and feeding dogs

Carnivores may be cooperative hunters but are certainly not cooperative feeders. There are no friends where food is concerned. Take any two dogs on the planet, place them in a confined area, offer them food and one will be in control and the other will back off. There is an immediate hierarchy switch-on that remains in effect indefinitely. The inherent challenge over food is in the nature of the beast. Possession of food is 9/10 of the law! Dogs are thrilled with the dominance interaction over nutritional and titbit resources.

Some good-natured dogs will solicit interaction, chase games and then relinquish the spoils.

Instinctively dogs exhibit passive or active food aggression that may be exhibited in several ways.

  1. Direct aggression towards any other dog attempting to eat in its presence
  2. Taking over the food bowl and ingesting the food
  3. Exhibiting threatening posture hindering the other dog/s from eating in fear of an onslaught, or in memory of a past attack.
  4. Carnivores are not physiologically designed to eat ad lib, although they would if they could.
  5. Overeating or having access to a permanent buffet predisposes dogs and cats to numerous disorders:
  • Dogs need to know that the immediate family is the source of the most valuable commodity in its life – food! By leaving food bowls lying around all day the owner loses a degree of significant association in the dog’s life. Control the food, controls the dog.
  • Diabetes
  • Urinary tract disease e.g. bladder stones, kidney disease, bladder infections
  • Calorie-enhanced pets contribute to 85% of the pet population in the affluent areas. Many people believe that a fat dog is a reflection of care, affection and happiness. Owners of fat dogs can be reported for cruelty under the Animal Protection Act.
  • Degenerative Joint Disease – damage to body joints trying to carry the body weight on slippery floors and hard surfaces.
  • Pancreatic and liver disease, particularly from eating scraps or leftovers from human meals
  • Cardiopulmonary stress

Feeding principles

Every dog must be fed a diet according to its age, health, activity and medical needs.

The food must be weighed out every day according to the current weight of the dog if it is in good condition or, if overweight, then according to the weight it should be. Balance this with exercise.

Every item including titbits must be included in the “weigh-in” of the food for the day.

In multi-canine households every dog must be fed in a different venue where they cannot see each other and a barrier exists between them e.g. a shut door. This is to alleviate food aggression:

  • Active food aggression is when the one dog charges across, chases the other dog away from the food bowl and either guards it or eats it.
  • Passive food aggression is when the food dominant dog conveys postures, sounds, eye contact etc. that threatens the other dog/s in such a way that they are too fearful to eat in the “possessor’s” presence.
  • In multi-canine households the fact that some dogs are obese, some very thin and others ranging in between clearly indicates the proof of incorrect communal feeding.

Never add anything else to the dry pellets/chunks/kibbles. The packaging offers clear feeding instructions with details of the ingredients. Why deviate from this? Most people feed scraps, extras thinking “Shame, they need a variety” when, in fact, animals are creatures of habit! One will never read on the packaging e.g. “add chicken and rice” or “throw some gravy over it” or “add polony or mincemeat to give it a taste” etc! Before feeding a dog anything above its scientifically formulated food think for a moment whether the extras/titbits will be of any benefit in the short-term or long-term. Often health complications e.g allergies, irritable bowel disease may occur from imbalancing the balanced formula. The obsessive compulsive feeding habits of pet owners using titbits as an expression of love is just a means to rot their teeth, irritate its intestines and line them up as potential candidates for pancreatic disease. People are under the self-absorbed misconception that they are being kind or doing the pets a favour.

  1. Canned food is a good idea only if the pet is recuperating from illness, is too young to chew on pellets or too old to gnaw on the dry food. Preferably use the tins from the same manufacturer of the dry food.
  2. Canned food fed regularly will require the dog’s or cat’s teeth to be brushed, by the owner, to prevent dental tartar, eroded gums and rotten teeth.
  3. Food dishes must be removed after 10 minutes. Only water available in between meals.
  4. As a guideline: 3 meals per day up to 6 months (8 hours apart), 2 meals per day (12 hours apart) up to 9 months then one meal per day.
  5. A dog fed late at night will be quieter. Last meal should be an hour before owners retire to bed.
  6. The following must be considered when feeding bones to dogs:
  • Bones should be fed raw. Cooked bones fragment and cause digestive disturbances e.g. blockages, obstructions
  • Never to feed chop bones, T-bones
  • Bones should be very large so that they cannot be easily swallowed and used to mostly gnaw on
  • Dogs may kill each other over a bone so one should have 3-5 bones for 2 dogs. If there is unacceptable excessive aggression over bones rather eliminate them from the pet’s diet completely
  • It is an attractive and stimulating item to occupy puppies while owners are away from the house i.e. a diversion from separation anxiety. However, the bones must be picked up by the owners on their return.
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