One of the universal truths about dogs is that they eat a lot and will often eat themselves into a stupor. It's up to you to make sure that your dog gets the right formula for his or her nutritional needs. Don't forget that you need to put all this great food in bowls and feeders and dogs are sometimes picky about the bowls the eat or drink out of.
Your vet should tell you what kinds of foods your dogs need. S/he might have specific recommendations, in fact. Follow those rules.
If you're not sure what to get, these are some, but not all, of the requirements that should make their way into your dogs' food. Everything should be certified by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
* Healthy, adult, 35-pound dogs need about 1000 calories a day.
** Sick dogs need twice that.
** Puppies need twice as many calories per pound as adult dogs (but they're smaller, so the overall calories may be fewer).
** Mother dogs need four times the average.
** Lazy and old dogs need 80% of the average.
* 20-30% protein content.
** Read what the Pet Center has to say about which proteins are digestible. While many things have protein, if dogs can't break them down, they're useless.
** Younger dogs should get 10% of calories from protein but older dogs may need up to 50% of their calories from protein.
** The quality of the protein is usually directly reflected in the price of the food.
* 2.5-4.5% dietary fiber.
** 10% fiber is good for dogs trying to lose weight.
** Too much will cause your dog to get diarrhea, and fail to absorb nutrients.
* High quality brands have lots of meat. Lower quality dry foods are soybean, corn, or rice-based. (The order of ingredients listed reflects the quantity in the food.)
** This means that higher quality foods will probably be more expensive and healthier. Your dogs will have to eat less of it to be full and healthy, though. It's a worthwhile investment.
* Calcium and magnesium are essential minerals.
* Omega-3 (Linolenic Acid) and Omega-6 (Linoleic Acid) fatty acids.
* Taurine is an amino acid that is often left out of dry food. Your dogs need it. Make sure it's on the label.
* Vitamins A, D, and E are essential, but don't go nuts. Feed your dogs the amount recommended by the food brand is sufficient.
Types of Dog Food
'''Dry vs. Canned'''
This debate is mostly a question of taste. Health problems aside, offer your dogs both kinds of food and see which they like better. Once you've decided which food to use, follow these guidelines to feed them the appropriate amounts. Remember: never put your dog on a strictly canned food diet because of the high moisture content. While some may debate that dry food is better, try mixing the two up for more nutritional content.
Semi-moist dog foods are also available, but they haven't received the best reviews.
'''Or...Try the Best of Both Worlds'''
Wysong's Uncanny line of foods gives you the yumminess of canned food, without the can!
'''Feeding by Age'''
* '''Brand Preference''': Your dog has tastes. If you dog refuses to eat a particular brand of food, just switch to another brand or flavor with similar nutritional value, instead of forcing your preference on your poor companion.
* '''Cleaning''': Clean the food bowl after every meal.
* '''Feeding Schedule''': Some dogs need to be fed twice a day, some once, and some can be trusted to eat throughout the day. (Often the larger dogs need to eat more often.) Get together with your dog and your vet, work out a schedule, then stick to it for the course of the dog's natural life. Alternating feeding patterns will throw your dog for a loop.
** This will also help establish a walking schedule as well.
** If you keep the feeding schedule somewhat relaxed, feeding them during the same hour each day, they'll be less punctual with their pestering.
* '''Switching Foods''': Mix the new food in with the old food and slowly phase out the old food. Doing this over a week will keep down any digestive problems.
* '''Table Scraps''': Feed your dog once from the dinner table and expect regular suppertime harassment. In general, avoid feeding your dog human food. Why?
** Dog food made by recognized manufacturers is engineered to fill all your dog's nutritional needs. They don't need your food.
** Your food will make your dog fat.
** Bones from human food can chip and cause choking or indigestion, milk can cause diarrhea, and chocolate can cause death.
* '''Vitamin Supplements''': If the dogs get a properly balanced diet, they won't need any vitamin supplements.
* '''Water''': Lots of water. Especially with dry food. But especially for dogs who drool.
'''Alternative Food for Alternative Lifestyles'''
If you have a pet that's out of the ordinary, a non conformist, or even a little deviant, some of these foods might be to your dog's liking:
* '''Freeze-dried or frozen''': Food that lasts a while in this form is raw or cooked, but not processed like traditional wet or dry dog food; thus, it keeps the nutritional aspects of the food intact.
* '''Dehydrated''': Raw or cooked food that has most of the water extracted from air drying to reduce the likelihood of bacteria. Just add water.
* '''Fresh''': Fresh ingredients are lightly cooked and then vacuum packed and refrigerated. The food's ready when you are: just keep it cool while you wait, or keep it on the shelf for 2-4 months.
* '''Vegetarian''': For your hipster dog (just kidding!) If you're not a meat-consuming family, or your dog has some food allergies, you can actually purchase veggie dog food. As long as it passes the AAFCO's requirements for balanced nutrition in dog food, you're good to go.
* Swigging a cold one and afraid your pup feels left out? In the Netherlands, you can find a (non-alcoholic) beer for dogs, made from beef extract and malt!
A partial list from Pet Education
* Bones (They get chewed into tiny little pieces and can cut up the dogs' insides.)
* Cat Food
* Raw Eggs
* Raw Fish
* Sugary Foods
* Table Scraps
* Yeast Dough
'''A Health Note'''
If you overfeed or under exercise your dogs, they will get fat. And they will experience many of the same problems that obese humans do. Big, fat, lazy dogs aren't more adorable than their skinny brethren; they're just less healthy. If you followed all of the portion information for your dog and your finding s/he is getting too fat, feed your pet less. If it's too skinny, feed it more. You can tell a lot about your dog's health by paying attention to your dog's behavior.