by Vicki Chaney
What does nutrition have to do with dog training? Plenty! Learning, even though it is fun, is hard work. This burns up a lot of energy. As we demand greater performance of our dogs, they demand more from their bodies. To ensure they can do what we ask of them, we must provide them with adequate nutrition.
Many behavior problems (excitability, lack of attention, high or low energy levels) can be greatly improved simply by feeding a healthy diet. Remember even good stress uses up vital vitamins and minerals that must be replaced to ensure good health.
Nutritious food can be found at most pet shops ( not grocery stores). Good nutrition is not more expensive. Because good food is more nutritious, you can feed less, so the bag will last longer than a cheap brand. It's more digestible, so you'll pick up less, too!
Read the ingredient label to select the best pet food. Just like your foods, ingredients are listed by weight with the ingredient weighing the most listed first. Some dogs (just like people) have food allergies, so avoid dog foods based in corn. Avoid dog foods high in sugar (dextrose, sucrose) preservatives (BHA, BHT) salts and nitrites. The Occupation Safety and Heath Administration (OSHA) lists BHA and BHT as chemical hazards in the laboratory. They have been linked to various forms of cancer, most commonly kidney, liver and bladder control. Look instead for a food that uses natural preservatives such vitamin E and vitamin C.
Many foods that you eat yourself are also excellent to add to your dog's diet. For instance an egg two or three times a week is an excellent source of vitamin E ( a vitamin crucial to your dog's immune system). Many of the raw fruits and vegetables are also a great way to make sure your dog is getting the vitamins and minerals he needs. Introduce these slowly and make sure you chop the fruits and vegetables to make it easier for the dog to eat. Some dogs may not eat them right away, but if you continue to offer them mixed in with their normal diet they will begin to eat and enjoy them.
A vitamin and mineral supplement should be added to the diet of all dogs and puppies. These can be found at most pet shops and come in tablet and powder form. You may also want to check with your vet to see what he or she recommends. Once you have chosen a vitamin, follow the prescribed dosage for your size puppy or dog. Great care should be taken to not over supplement puppies or dogs. Over supplementation of vitamins other than vitamin C (as this vitamin is water-soluble and is not stored in the body therefore will not become toxic) can be very dangerous to your dog or puppy.
Over supplementation of vitamins and calcium in puppies can cause periods of rapid growth that can cause an abnormal growth of the bones and joints and may give your puppy a lifetime of painful, chronic skeletal problems.
Your puppy should be fed three to four times per day depending on age and breed. Puppies over 4 months of age should be fed no more than three times, and by nine to twelve months old should be fed no more than twice per day. Feeding twice per day is recommended for the life of your dog as this puts less stress on the digestive system and will allow your dog to derive the utmost in nutrition from its food.
Watch your puppy's and dog's weight carefully. Just like us an overweight dog or puppy is at risk for health problems. Puppies, especially, should be lean and healthy. Too much weight will put undo stress on growing bones and joints and can cause many skeletal problems.
You should leave your dog or puppy's food bowl down (or in the crate if you feed there) for no more than fifteen minutes. After that time the bowl should be removed until the next feeding. This way, the puppy or dog will learn to eat at meal times therefore providing the body with its nutritional needs at the proper intervals.
Don't feed your dog or puppy junk foods as treats. Make sure the treats you give them are as healthy as the food you feed them. Empty calories are no better for your pet than they are for you.
Many unnecessary vet bills can be saved by providing a proper diet for your puppy or dog. So remember, when pricing pet foods, there is no food on the market that’s price can compete with a vet bill to clear up an illness brought on by poor diet.
For more information on this subject I highly recommend a book by Earl Mindell entitled Nutrition & Health for Dogs.