If you feed your dog every time he wants to be fed, you’re doing two things. First, you’re making him happy for just that moment, and he’ll come back again and again. Second, that constant feeding will put extra weight on him, and he’ll be unhealthy for life. Here are a few pointers from Team Eukanuba™ handler Al Arthur, based on over 30 years of training experience.
My dogs always act hungry, and sometimes they even are. I’ll feed them at the same time twice a day. My feeding program is like a post-work reward. My dogs get a small- to medium-sized portion between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. That is after their first work session and after they have had time to cool down. Their second feeding is bigger, and it’s between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. That is after their second work session and after they have had time to cool down. Everyone’s times may be different, but here in the Georgia heat we work early.
Feed them wet
I add water to kibble for two reasons. The first is that it brings out the flavor. A second benefit is that the water adds additional hydration to their systems. As mentioned, it’s hot where I live in Georgia, so I want to make sure that all my dogs get plenty of water.
Add regularity to your feeding program
I feed dogs at the same times every day. When those times roll around, the dogs automatically look for their food. But if a dog doesn’t eat his entire bowl, I’ll pick it up. Leaving a partially full bowl down all day long means the dog can eat whenever he wants to. The problem can be serious, especially since handlers will never really know when or how much the dog has eaten.
If your dog doesn’t eat the whole bowl, pick it up when the regular feeding time is over. Bet on the fact that the next time you put down a food bowl, there won’t be any problem with him eating. If your dog doesn’t eat when you put down the bowl you might need to consult your vet.
During both the season and the off season, dogs in my kennel are worked every day. Some are run to increase their endurance, while others work marks and retrieves. I’ll determine how much to feed them based on their workload. The harder I work them, the more they need to eat. The problem usually comes when my training is done and I send them home to their owners. If their owner feeds them the same amount I do, but doesn’t work the dog as much, the dog can put on weight. If you’re not working your dog a lot, then he’ll need to eat less. If he’s working hard on a regular basis, he’ll need to eat more.
Labs need energy to perform well whenever they are working. If they’re eating too much, then they become overweight. That extra weight forces them to work harder. It taxes their organs and skeleton, too. Keep your dogs at the proper weight, and they’ll give you all they’ve got every day.