Your dog sits next to his food bowl, patiently waiting for you to dish out some kibble. He knows when you wake up and before dinner time he will enjoy his delicious dog food. But when you oversleep, you wake up to a loveable dog snout sniffing your face, being pawed at, or even barking while he sits next to his bowl. If you forget to feed him at night, he’ll pester everyone at the dinner table until you realize you forgot to pour his dinner. Understandably, your dog wants to be fed, but why do we feed our dogs twice a day? Why not once or three times or let them free feed?
The Root of the Behavior
When dogs roamed the wild, they ate when they needed to. They also were active and knew that not every hunt would produce great results. Dogs could go for a long time without eating and would eat when they had the opportunity. But a wild dog in a pack of hunters is a completely different scenario than what is the case with most canines today. Now, our domesticated four-legged friends get the luxury of delivery. Their human owners struggle to carry huge bags, often 25+ pounds, of dog food into the house. They choose the cutest bowl, sometimes personalized, a placemat, and a generous water bowl. The humans carefully measure out the exact amount. How times have changed! Seeing as the fight for food isn’t so much a fight anymore as it is a waiting game, keeping a schedule for your dog is necessary. By feeding your dog twice a day, you help manage his metabolism and aid in digestion. Making sure feeding time is the same each day also creates a schedule and your dog won’t stress about his next meal. This schedule can be kept during times of change, such as moving, introducing new animals or people into the household, or when you leave him with a dog sitter while on vacation. The consistency will provide him with security, even if his world is turning upside down. If you’re the one holding the plastic bag on walks, you know your dog’s digestion is important. Feeding your dog twice a day aids in his smooth digestion. Like humans, his brain sends the signal after eight to ten hours that his stomach has been empty and he needs some food. Feeding him twice a day will make his digestion run smoothly and on schedule. When your dog is fed regularly and on schedule, it will be easy to see if he is not feeling well or is stressed. If he always eats breakfast at 7am and dinner at 6pm, but suddenly he’s skipping dinner, you have an early sign that something is wrong. The consistency can help you identify potential problems.
Encouraging the Behavior
For most dogs, eating twice a day is the healthiest option. You give them security in a schedule, keep their stomach running smoothly, and the consistency helps them through changes. It is also fairly easy for a dog owner to remember to feed your furry friend at breakfast and dinner. And chances are, he’ll bother you when you forget. The only time you might want to consider feeding less than twice or more than twice a day is if the vet recommends it. If your dog is larger or smaller, he might have different dietary needs. Your dog might also be more active than others or he could be a diabetic, and those are factors to consider, too. Some dogs are also grazers or free-feeders, and they have a bowl of kibble at all times. Some dogs can handle grazing, while others will overeat, causing obesity and health problems. Feeding your dog twice a day can control their weight and health. Make sure you feed your dog enough food for his body. A smaller dog, like a chihuahua who is up to 10lbs, needs only .25 to .75 cups of food. A larger dog, like a Golden Retriever who can be 50lbs or more, needs 2 to 2.5 cups of food. If you’re not sure, read the dog food label and talk to your vet.
Other Solutions and Considerations
When feeding your dog twice a day, make sure you feed him high-quality food. It might cost a couple dollars more, but his stomach will thank you. Dog food should not include corn, meat by-product, bone meal, or wheat, as these are ingredients that are not good for your dog. Dogs never were meant to eat corn or wheat like humans. Once you find a high-quality brand that your dog finds tasty, keep it. But don’t switch your dog’s food brand abruptly. Changing brands can seriously upset your dog’s stomach and give him diarrhea or other stomach problems. Your dog can have wet food, too, but make sure it’s on the schedule and it included as part of his current diet and not in addition. You never want to overfeed your dog because that can cause long-term health problems and will add up in vet bills. If your dog has allergies, gets sick, or stops eating, take him to the vet. He might need particular dog food or feeding schedule.
Be a good owner and feed your pup his two meals a day! The sound of kibble hitting the bowl will make his tail wag and he’ll love you for pouring it consistently. If you forget, though, expect a little bit of noise from your four-legged friend as he subtly tries to remind you by pawing at you, barking, or even flipping his bowl.