Nothing is more essential to good training than good health. And the foundation of good health is a good diet.
Depending on your budget you may or may not be able to feed your dog a larger proportion of fresh meat, but at least be prepared to spend enough for a good dry food. Here are a few things to look for…
All dog foods are labeled with the ingredients in order by proportion. That is, the material that forms the largest percentage is listed first, followed by the second and then others.
One of the attributes that makes cheap dog food less preferable is the high percentage of ‘waste’ animal parts. When you see ‘by products’ on the label, it’s better to avoid these brands. If it does appear on higher quality dog food, which is rare, it will be listed near the bottom indicating a small proportion.
Those ‘by products’ consist of parts that were not considered usable for human consumption. That fact doesn’t by itself make the product dangerous, but the lower quality will have a long term effect on coats, muscles and bones, and overall health.
Just as one indicator, dogs with healthy coats (particularly, long-haired breeds) will look shinier and shed less. Assuming proper bathing and brushing habits, of course.
Some experts put the proper ratio of meat, vegetables and starch at about roughly 40%, 30%, 30% respectively.
Common meats used are chicken, lamb and beef. These provide readily digestible sources of protein – essential to healthy coats, muscles, etc.
Vegetables provide minerals and vitamins that help produce proper hormone and enzyme types and amounts, as well as compounds for good bone health and other functions. Carrots and squash, for example are both excellent for almost all dogs.
The starch content is often provided by brown or white rice. Either is an excellent source of carbohydrates. These compounds are broken down in the body to form the basis for energy and cell repair.
As with any food substance, some dogs have special conditions that make special diets necessary. Many Golden Retrievers, for example, are sensitive to wheat products. Corn meal is hard to digest for some dogs.
Look for these on the label and discuss with your vet whether it’s necessary to avoid them. Some indicators are soft stools, excessive scratching and frequent gas.
Some dogs will find dry dog food more enjoyable if prepared with a little water and microwaved for about 30 seconds. Feed dry at least occasionally, though, to help scrub teeth and gums.
Needless to say, go easy on the treats. Even quality treats tend to be high in fat content – one of the reasons the dogs enjoy them so much. One or two per day isn’t harmful, but go for the quality brands.
The price differential for good food is sometimes considerable – with higher quality dog food often twice the cost. But considering the effects on health you’ll likely make up for it in lower vet bills, or at least a healthier dog.
The shine of the coat, the clarity of the eyes and other less obvious indicators will show in the long run. And, in the final analysis, the health of your dog is priceless.