How Much Do I Feed My Dog?

Current Weight

Knowing how much to feed your dog, starts with knowing his current weight. Weight is usually recorded at every vet appointment, so check the paperwork you received at the last visit.
Guessing your dog’s weight is not recommended—I saw some remarkably inaccurate guesses when I worked at the spay/neuter clinic.

If it’s been more than three months since his last appointment, the weight may not be accurate now. Ring up the office and see if you can come in just to weigh the dog. Visits to the vet that don’t involve any medical work are great for training anyway!

Current Body Condition

Almost more important than his weight, is his body condition. Body condition scoring is a way to determine whether a dog is underweight, healthy weight, or overweight. A number on the scale is just a number on the scale without context. Check out my how-to video on assessing your dog’s body condition.

Pro Tip: some breeds are harder to score than others. If you have questions about what your dog’s ideal body condition looks like, ask your vet!

Bag Guidelines

All dog food comes with feeding guidelines printed right on the bag or can. The guide lists ranges of weight and the corresponding amount of food.

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For example, your bag might indicate a 25 to 50 pound dog should eat between 2 and 2 2/3 cups of food daily. If your dog is 25 pounds, his caloric needs will likely fall on the lower end, closer to 2 cups, and if your dog is 50 pounds, his caloric needs will likely fall on the upper end, closer to 2 2/3 cups.

Pro Tip: when measuring the food, use a standard kitchen measuring cup. Not a Route 44 cup.

Monitoring

Once you’ve decided on a daily amount, continue to check your dog’s body condition a couple times a month. Some dogs need less than the bag indicates, and some need more.

If your dog seems to have trouble keeping weight on or off, please talk with your vet. There may be underlying medical issues that need to be addressed for your dog’s well being.

Growling in Puppies

“Oh no! My adorable, 8 week old ball of fluff just growled at me! What does it mean?”

It’s scary to hear a growl coming from a puppy! No one dreams about living with a dangerous dog, so the first sign of aggression can make us really anxious.

Good news! Growling in puppies isn’t always bad. Sometimes it’s just part of their play.

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Play or Scary?

How can you tell if it’s a Play growl or a Scary growl? Look at what your puppy’s body is doing during the growl. Lack of movement or freezing with a growl is more serious than growling while bouncing around. Think about the difference between Barney Fife point a gun at you and Jason Bourne pointing a gun at you. Barney is all floppy and goofy. Bourne isn’t.

You can also look at the circumstance in which the growl occurred. Growling when you approach his food bowl, while he’s chewing a toy, or when he’s resting is a Scary Growl. Growling during a gentle game of tug or fetch is generally a Play Growl.

Growling as Communication

It’s important to understand that even Scary growling is a perfectly normal form of doggy communication. We actually LIKE it when the dog growls! Growling is his way of telling us he’s uncomfortable without using his teeth—it’s a warning. This is why it’s never advisable to punish or scold any dog for growling.

Punishing the growl may get rid of the growl, but it won’t get rid of the aggression. Instead of growling to warn first, the dog will go straight for the bite. These dogs are very dangerous.

What to Do with Scary Growling

If you suspect your puppy is Scary growling, call a qualified, reward-based dog trainer ASAP!

I’m not just saying that because I make my living as a trainer. Scary growling in puppies is NOT something to take lightly. It is antithetical to who and what a healthy puppy is, and it needs to be addressed promptly by someone who can construct an effective plan for your puppy’s specific problems.

If you’re local to Round Rock, feel free to contact me. If you’re out of state, you can search the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainer’s website for a qualified trainer near you.

The Deception of, “He Let Them Pet Him!”

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Petting is a big deal for a lot of people. People want to connect with dogs and touch seems to be the default choice. When the nervous dog barks, growls, or snaps at strangers, owners can feel embarrassed and frustrated by the hostility—they just want Fido to be friendly! The, “he let them pet him!” moments are clung to as signs of progress.

Unfortunately, as a professional dog trainer, this report almost always makes me squirm.

Having a stranger pet your dog without incident does not mean your dog is okay with, or enjoying the experience.

From a trainer’s perspective, “he let them pet him” is a red flag. There’s an implication that the dog is tolerating something that could be unpleasant, and he’s been pushed beyond his comfort level. Dogs who only tolerate petting will eventually run out of tolerance and when they do, they’ll switch to aggression or escape. Neither are okay.

If your dog is nervous around strangers, the first step is getting him to enjoy the stranger’s presence without the person interacting with him. Standing at distance from the stranger with your dog on a leash, and feeding him a treat every time he notices the person is a great start. Petting from the stranger when your dog is uncomfortable will only make the situation worse.

I don’t want the dog “letting” people pet him. I want him begging people to pet him. And if he’s not begging for it, it shouldn’t happen.

Pro Tip: it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with dog body language so you can tell how your dog is actually feeling about the situation.

If you need help fixing your dog’s guest manners, I can help!

Hand Feeding Doesn’t Actually Help your Shy Dog

One common technique to help the scared dog make friends is to have the stranger or guest hand feed some treats.

This isn’t the worst thing you could do, but I prefer to gently toss the treats onto the floor right at the dog’s feet or just behind him instead.

What’s Wrong With It?

If you hand feed, the food becomes a form of force that pressures the dog into approaching before he’s actually comfortable. Once he eaten the treat, he’s very close to the scary thing without the food to buffer. The dog can become easily overwhelmed at this point, especially if the person tries to touch him—which most people can’t resist doing!

Why Is Tossing Better?

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Tossing the food gives you more accurate information about the dog’s feelings. Approaching a stranger who isn’t obviously offering food communicates a lot more confidence than slinking up to someone’s outstretched hand. The dog in the photo looks pretty uncomfortable!

Here are some more tips for helping your scared dog feel safe!

  1. Keep it short and sweet. The most efficient way to train your dog is to bring him out for 5 minutes of concentrated training with your guest and then put him in a crate or bedroom for the remainder of the guest’s visit. This structure drastically reduces the chances of an Oops! moment where he accidentally gets scared.

  2. Low-Stress entrance. Put your dog in a crate or bedroom prior to the guest’s arrival and then ask your guest to text when they arrive instead of knocking or ringing the bell. Help your guest get settled with instructions and then go retrieve your dog.

  3. Non-threatening. Ask your guest to sit in a chair, and look at you instead of the dog. It’s even better if they can situate themselves so the first thing the dogs sees is their profile.

  4. $100 bills instead of pennies. Provide high value treats like small pieces of chicken, cheese, tuna fish, or meatballs for your guest to gently throw towards your dog. This will make a bigger impression on your dog than kibble/dry dog food.

  5. Hands off. Guests must not touch the dog until it’s glaringly obvious the dog is 150% comfortable with them and actually wants to interact.
    PRO TIP: People can usually keep it together until the dog sniffs or touches them and then they have a really hard time not sneaking in a scratch. Make sure to be very specific with your instructions!

If you need personalized help for your Stranger Danger dog, let’s talk!