Where to find advice on nutrition and exercise for your dog…What our dogs eat and how much activity they get is a lot like the doctors recommend for us humans. If you have noticed pet food advertising, you will see more emphasis on “natural,” “organic” and “gluten-free” products for dogs. Exercise for your dog will also involve your participation, so we can certainly benefit when we pay attention to our furry friends’ need to be active.
What is the right food for canines?So many choices, so little time, you might think. While advertising claims make us wonder if we are doing the right thing when we feed our four-legged family members’ the best place to start our pet’s nutrition regimen is by asking for veterinary advice.
Dry or wet
Humans may think that since our poor doggies could get bored with eating the same food daily, it is good to add variety and flavor with wet canned dog food. While it is true, the protein content may be greater and the preservatives may be limited, wet food exclusively will not satisfy your dog’s need to chew and your yard pickup duty may take up more time!
Dry dog foods purchased in big, bulky bags is the most common way we tend to feed our canine companions. The key to getting the right dietary balance in dried dog foods is to read the label and buy only reputable brands. Most veterinarians will give you the brand, quantity and body size of dried food for your new puppy. AS your fur buddy matures, make the right adjustments in their dry food to meet their age group and body size.
Natural and organic
In the past year, dog food companies have proudly announced their elimination of grain products in favor of more natural and meat based contents. These claims are monitored by The Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO, that sets the guidelines for pet food production, processing and labeling., Natural dog foods will have one of two AAFCO statements on the label to assure the consumer that the food meets nutritional standards for the life stage recommendation.
When additional vitamins and minerals are added to a natural dog food, the statement "Natural with added vitamins, minerals and other trace nutrients." Must be included on the label as required by the Feed Control Association (AAFCO).
There are many human foods that are great for dogs, but if you go that route, be sure to do the research on which people foods are good and which are toxic for pets.! Peanut butter, apples, yogurt and pumpkin are commonly recommended by veterinarians for stomach issues and treats. Here is a chart of which human foods are suitable for dog snacks and making homemade recipes your dog will enjoy. The link to this chart is on the American Kennel Club website.
How do we know how much our dog’s breed should exercise?You would not want to take your petite Toy, Miniature or Small breed dog on a two mile run or even walk, without having some way to recognize the pup’s point of fatigue so you can pick them up to carry them. Nor would you want to take your medium or large canine athlete for a marathon or even a 5 mile walk because they will go until they drop, just to pleas you! So how much exercise is enough for your breed or mix to stay healthy? Again, doing research on your dog’s activity needs will give you the answer.
Small breed mixes – Little dogs have shorter or skinnier legs along with miniaturized organs, compared to their bigger cousins. The American Kennel Club, your veterinarian and breeders’ groups are the best source for exactly what your small dog should do to stay healthy and fit. Small dogs are cute and cuddly, and may be pretty active indoors with running around the house and jumping on furniture. Be aware that injuries can happen easily to their tiny little bodies with muscle strains and even breaks if they run or jump too enthusiastically. Schedule regular play time with your Mini breed to assure they are properly tired and have productive workouts, like short walks, catch and retrieve with toys or tug and pull games with appropriately sized small dog toys.
Medium weight dogs - Mid-sized dogs are often bred to be athletic and sporting in their instincts. Engaging in agility training and other canine sporting competitions is perfect for these 20 to 60 pound breeds and mixes. In fact, the AKC has sponsored events that you can find in your area to let your furry athlete compete! Middle weight dogs like Spaniels and Terriers need their exercise, so letting them stay indoors without a regular workout routine can make them overweight, lose muscle tone and result in a shorter lifespan. Walk or run with them daily, play games in the yard or park using catch and fetch toys and use tug and pull toys to give them plenty of quality workout time.
Large breeds - Dogs that weigh between 60 and 100 pounds an over require the most exercise time to keep their joints supple and prevent injury. The sporting and working breeds like Retrievers and Shepherds are restless and bored if they do not have a way to work out their energy. Training large dogs is a structured and easy way to assure they get their proper amount of activity as well as mental stimulation. Hunting, catching, retrieving and water sports are great ways to keep a larger dog entertained and exercised.
In the long run, you want your tail wagging member of the family to live as long as they can in the best health possible. So, you are the only one who can be sure they get the right food for their size and breed mix, along with the amount of exercise it will take to keep them active. Gee, does that sound like anything the nutritionists and doctors have said to you about your own health? When you make your dog your partner in a healthy lifestyle, you have a winning combination of many years ahead together
Here are resources that can give you the help and education you need:
Dog Nutrition A to Z, Cesar Milan, Cesar’s Way
Which Foods are Safe to Feed Your Pet? AKC.org Health and Nutrition, Woofepecia Graphic
Here are two of our favorite resources:
The American Kennel Club, www.akc.org
Cesar Milan, www.cesarsway.com