Archive for July 5th, 2009

Feeding Your Labrador RetrieverSome dog owners like to fill a bowl of dog food and leave it out all day, letting the dog munch at will. Although it may be convenient, it is not a good idea for several reasons. First of all, the bowl of food may attract pests – even indoors. In addition, the food could become rancid.
When you are housetraining your puppy, free feeding makes it difficult to set up a routine. Your puppy will need to relieve herself after eating, and if she munches all day long, you won’t be able to tell when she should go outside.
Last, but certainly not least, your dog needs to know that you are the giver of the food, and how better for her to learn it than when you hand her a bowl twice a day? If the food is always available, you are not the one giving it; it’s always there—at least as far as your dog is concerned.

How Much?

Each and every Labrador Retriever needs a different amount of food. The dog’s individual body metabolism, activity rate, and lifestyle all affect her nutritional needs Most dog food manufacturers print a chart on the bag showing how much to feed your dog. It’s important to note that these are suggested guidelines. Labs are very efficient when digesting their food and tend to gain weight very easily. The amount of food listed on a bag of commercial food is often way too much for a Lab; the dog who eats that much will gain weight. Because Labs do tend to gain weight and obesity is a potential problem, watch your dog closely and measure her food. Don’t just fill a bowl and put it down; instead, measure the food by cups or scoops, and if the dog gains weight, cut back the amount you’re feeding.
A healthy, well-nourished dog will have bright eyes, an alert expres¬sion, a shiny coat, supple skin, and energy to work and play. Although the Lab has a stocky body, even they should have a waistline that is visible from the side and from above. She should have meat and muscle on the bones, but you should still be able to feel the dog’s ribs through the muscle. If the Lab has no waistline, you can’t feel her ribs, and the dog is moving slowly and runs out of energy, it’s time to see your veterinarian and find out if your dog is too heavy.

Mealtimes

Most experts recommend that puppies eat two to three times a day and adult dogs eat once or twice a day. Most dogs do very well with two meals, ten or twelve hours apart; so feed your dog after you eat breakfast and then again after you have dinner.
While you are eating, don’t feed your Labrador Retriever from the table or toss her scraps. This will cause her to beg from anyone at the table – a very bad habit. Don’t toss her leftovers as you are cooking, either. That can lead to begging and even stealing in the kitchen. Don’t forget that your Labrador Retriever will be tall enough to reach the kitchen counter when she’s grown up!

Snacks

An occasional dog biscuit or some training treats will not spoil your Lab’s appetite, but don’t get in the habit of offering treats just for the pleasure of it. Many American dogs are overweight, and obesity is a leading killer of dogs. When you do offer treats, offer either treats made specifically for dogs or something that is low in calories and nutritious, like a carrot. Don’t offer candy, cookies, leftover tacos, or anything like that. Your Labrador Retriever doesn’t need sugar, chocolate is deadly for dogs, and spicy foods can cause diarrhea and an upset stomach. Play it safe and give your Lab good-quality, nutritious snacks – very sparingly.

Pet Food vs. People Food
Many of the foods we eat are excellent sources of nutrients— after all, we do just fine on them. But dogs, just like us, need the right combination of meat and other ingredients for a com¬plete and balanced diet, and simply giving the dog a bowl of meat doesn’t provide that. In the wild, dogs eat the fur, skin, bones, and guts of their prey, and sometimes even the contents of the stomach.
This doesn’t mean your dog can’t eat what you eat. If your dog is eating a commercial dog food, you can still give her a lit¬tle meat, dairy, bread, some fruits, or vegetables as a treat. Fresh foods have natural enzymes that processed foods don’t have. Just remember, we’re talking about the same food you eat, not the gristly, greasy leftovers you would normally toss in the trash. Stay away from sugar, too, and remember that choco¬late is toxic to dogs.
If you want to share your food with your dog, be sure the total amount you give her each day doesn’t make up more than 15 percent of her diet, and that the rest of what you feed her is a top-quality complete and balanced dog food. (More people food could upset the balance of nutrients in the commercial food.)
Can your dog eat an entirely homemade diet? Certainly, if you are willing to work at it. Any homemade diet will have to be care¬fully balanced, with all the right nutrients in just the right amounts. It requires a lot of research to make a proper homemade diet, but it can be done. It’s best to work with a veterinary nutritionist.

If your dog is in training and you are using training treats, use good ones – nutritious treats – and cut back on all other treats. Training treats can be tiny pieces of cooked meats such as chicken or beef; just dice the pieces very small and put them in a sandwich bag. You can even freeze them before use. These make much better training treats than high-calorie commercial treats.

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