How to Feed a Dog

Three Parts:Choosing a Type of FoodSelecting a Method of Feeding Your DogDealing with Special Circumstances

Every dog is different and has different nutritional needs. When feeding your dog, you'll have to consider a variety of factors. Take into account your dog's size and age when finding the right brand of food for him. If you want to make your own dog food, consult your vet first. Decide whether you'll free feed your dog or feed him on a schedule, and establish rules for your dog regarding food and meal times. You may encounter special circumstances, such as sickness and obesity, that will alter how you feed your dog. Talk to your vet if your dog has any special needs so you can meet them accordingly with his diet.

Part 1
Choosing a Type of Food

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    Find food rich in proteins, carbohydrates, and fiber. Dogs need a diet comprised of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber in order to be healthy and happy. As you select your dog food, make sure you choose foods rich in these nutrients.[1]
    • As dogs lived on a diet of protein in the wild, this is the most important ingredient to look for when selecting dog food. Make sure whatever diet you choose is rich in protein. Look for brands of dog food that use real meat products, or incorporate various proteins in your dog's diet. Your dog can eat organ meat, such as heart and liver, which may be cheaper to find if you're making your dog food at home.
    • Carbohydrates are also important to a dog's diet. You can use carbohydrates found in products like wheat, barely, corn and oats. You can also use carbs found in green vegetables like spinach or broccoli. Many commercial dog food brands contain these types of carbs for your dog.
    • Fruits may be used to assure your dog gets enough fiber in his diet. However, check with your vet before feeding your dog fruits. Certain fruits, like grapes, may be poisonous to your dog.
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    Read food labels on commercial dog foods. The cheapest way to feed your dog is to go for a commercial brand of dog food. Most commercial dog food brands are made with a combination of protein, fat, and fiber. They are also fortified with the vitamins and minerals your dog needs for his overall health. When selecting a commercial brand of dog food, however, make sure to read the label to make sure the brand is healthy.[2]
    • Look for types of ingredients you recognize, such as specific types of meat and grains. Products with a lot of byproducts listed may not be as healthy for your dog.
    • Avoid food that uses a heavy amount of preservatives. You should also avoid food that does not specify the type of meat used.
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    Look for products stamped by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The Association of American Feed Control Officials controls guidelines regarding how a product can be labeled. A product with a stamp from the AAFCO is more likely to have a honest label. If you want to make sure you're getting a quality product without any hidden ingredients, check for an AAFCO label.[3]
    • Keep in mind an AAFCO label is not foolproof or a guarantee the food is healthy. You should still read ingredient lists, talk to your vet, and look at reviews online before selecting a commercial dog food.
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    Avoid certain foods. If you're making your dog's food at home, or occasionally give your dog table scraps, certain people foods are poisonous to dogs. Make sure to never give your dog any of the following foods:[4]
    • Raisins
    • Onion
    • Garlic
    • Yeast dough
    • Sugary foods, which can lead to obesity or teeth problems
    • Chocolate
    • Caffeinated beverages
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    Consult your vet if you plan to prepare your dog's food at home. You can make dog food at home, using household ingredients like meats, fruits, and vegetables. Arguably, a homemade diet could be healthier for your dog as the food may contain less preservative and additives. However, dogs have nutritional needs depending on their size, energy level, and age. You should consult a vet before attempting to make your dog's food at home. You want to make sure your dog is getting all the nutrients for optimal health.[5]
    • Dogs need specific vitamins and minerals in their diet for optimal health. It's a good idea to talk over such requirements with your vet to make sure your choice of homemade dog food gets your dog these nutrients. If your dog has a specific health condition, your vet may want you to supplement your dog's diet with dietary supplements.[6]
    • Eggs can be a good source of homemade protein for your dog, but you should never feed your dog raw eggs.
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    Adjust the food type based on your dog's age. If you have a puppy or an older dog, you may need to get puppy chow or a dog food brand designed for senior dogs. Dogs of these ages have specific dietary needs that cannot be met with regular dog food.[7]
    • Puppies should be fed a combination of wet and dry food. The food should be between 25 and 30% protein. Puppies have a tendency to overeat, so it's a good idea to feed at regular times rather than free feeding. This is particularly true if your puppies are a small breed.
    • If you have an older dog, ask your vet when to begin a senior diet. Bigger breeds of dogs need a senior diet earlier. Very large breeds will need a senior diet as early as 5 years. You will need increased amounts of certain vitamins, like Vitamin E and Beta Carotene, which you can find in some commercial dog foods. Your vet may also prescribe a supplement. Watch out for senior dog foods that contain low amounts of protein. A dog's need for protein does not change as he ages.

Part 2
Selecting a Method of Feeding Your Dog

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    Figure out how much food your dog needs. The amount of food a dog needs depends on several factors. Before you begin feeding a dog, you want to check to see how much food a dog needs. Dogs need different amounts of food depending on their size and activity level. Over or underfeeding your dog can have affects on his health.[8]
    • For a general rule, if you have a smaller breed you should your dog 1.5 cups a day per roughly 22 pounds.
    • For larger dogs, go for 1 cup a day per 22 pounds.
    • However, there are other factors to consider. If your dog is overweight, particularly active, sick, older, or younger, he may need more or less food. If you're concerned your dog has special needs, ask a vet for feeding recommendations.
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    Decide whether or not to free feed. Free feeding dogs means leaving a bowl of food out at all times and refilling it when necessary. For the most part, this is not recommended as dogs have poor impulse control. They may overeat if allowed free access to food. However, under some circumstances free feeding may be okay.[9]
    • Nursing mothers may need to free feed, as they'll need more nutrients. If you have a dog that does not seem to overeat, you may be able to get by free feeding him but you should monitor his weight closely.
    • If you choose to free feed, use dry food as it will not spoil.
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    Establish meal times if you want to feed your dog on a schedule. It's best to feed your dog on a schedule. This way, you'll make sure your dog is only getting the recommended amount of food for his size and age. You can feed your dog a couple of meals a day, staying within the recommended feeding amounts for his breed and size.[10]
    • Try to feed your dog at roughly the same time each day so he knows when to expect food and is hungry around meal times.
    • Break up the amount of food your dog needs into a couple of meals a day. If your dog needs a cup of food a day, for example, give him half a cup at breakfast and half a cup at night.
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    Limit feeding time if necessary. If your dog is not trained to eat on a schedule, you may have to time meal times so he gets used to eating at a certain time. He may leave food out between meals, resulting in food spoiling if you're feeding him a diet of canned foods. You can place food on the floor for a period of 30 minutes, and remove the food after this time period is up. Eventually, your dog should learn to eat at meal times.[11]
    • Be careful when removing your dog's food. Some dogs may get aggressive if you separate them from their food.
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    Limit treats to prevent obesity. Treats should represent 5% of a dog's daily calories. Too many treats can result in problems like obesity. Limit treats throughout the day and avoid using treats as a reward for good behavior too often.[12]
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    Choose a good place to feed your dog. Feed your dog in a part of the home reserved just for him. If you feed your dog in a busy area, like the middle of the kitchen, he may become territorial about food. Instead, pick a corner in the living room where you can always feed your dog.[13]
    • If you have multiple dogs, you may want to feed them in separate rooms. This may be particularly important if your dogs tend to be territorial about their food.
    • Pick a spot that's easy to clean, like wood floors over carpeted floors. You can also consider putting a plastic mat down where you feed your dog so you can clean up spilled food more easily.
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    Make sure your dog has access to water. Water is essential to a dog's health, especially if you live in a warm area. Keep water out for your dog at all times. Keep your eye on the water bowl and refill it when necessary.

Part 3
Dealing with Special Circumstances

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    Create a diet plan for an obese dog. If your dog is overweight, you may need to form a diet and exercise plan to help him lose weight. Obesity in dogs can cause diabetes, joint problems, and problems with the liver. If your dog is overweight, talk to your vet about how to correct the problem.[14]
    • Discuss the type of dog food you're using with your vet, as well as the amount you feed your dog. Your vet may recommend you switch to a different type of food, or that you cut back on the amount you're feeding your dog.
    • You can make other changes as well to help your dog hit a healthy weight. You can walk and play with your dog regularly. You can also reduce the amount of table scraps you feed your dog throughout the day.
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    Talk to your vet about altering feeding habits if your dog is recovering from surgery. If your dog is recovering from surgery, he may need an increased amount of food to heal. You may have to feed your dog more, or switch to a more nutrient-rich brand of dog food. Talk to your vet about feeding requirements when your dog's recovering from surgery.[15]
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    Watch for warning signs of illness if your dog starts skipping meals. If your dog starts to skip meals, this may be a sign something is wrong. Usually, a dog skipping meals is not a cause for concern. Your dog may simply not be hungry or have a mild issue, like a stomach cramp, causing a loss of appetite. However, if not eating accompanied by symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy, contact your vet. Your dog may be coming down with an illness.[16]
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    Introduce new foods gradually. If you need to transition your dog to a new type of food, do so gradually. Problems like vomiting and diarrhea may arise if your dog is transitioned between food types too quickly. You should start by mixing small amounts of the new food in with the old, gradually increasing the amount of the new food over time.[17]


  • If you can, get the dog to sit and look at you (not the food) before you give the dog food and try not to look the dog directly in the eyes. This lets the dog know that you are in control and that you are not intimidated by the dog.


  • Some dogs behave aggressively if you attempt to take their food away. Be very caution feeding a new dog, especially if he's from the shelter and comes from a history of abuse or neglect.

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Categories: Feeding Dogs