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Top feeding tips from dog owners

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"Anyone who knows Labs knows they love to eat," says Anialisa Shah. (©iStockphoto.com/Serdar Yagci) "Anyone who knows Labs knows they love to eat," says Anialisa Shah. (©iStockphoto.com/Serdar Yagci)
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By Kim Boatman
 
Anialisa Shah makes mealtime special for her four Labradors by petting each of their sides while they eat. "I know it makes them happy because their tails start wagging so fast," says Shah. Thought and care should go into the meals you serve your dog, as they do when you serve your family. Every mealtime gives you the chance to provide nutrition and to nurture that special bond you have with your dog.

Shah and other dog owners offer their top feeding tips:

Have a Chat

Shah makes sure she offers encouragement as the dogs eat: "I usually say things like ‘You are such a good girl or boy,' since those words seem to make them happier."

Mealtime comes soon after Shah's alarm rings in the morning. "Anyone who knows Labs knows they love to eat," says Shah. "They get fed in a specific order, and they wait until their food is poured. It's very routine."

Be Patient and Predictable

With seven large dogs, Paul Caster's feeding times can get a bit hectic. "One trick we learned a long time ago was to train each dog to sit and wait until it's released before getting dinner. This has to be continually reinforced, but it saves a lot of trouble," says Caster.

Caster knows senior dogs can be finicky eaters, so he was willing to adjust when his Irish wolfhound stopped approaching meals with relish. "Frodo is a very sensitive, 106-pound puppy. He just wanted me to hold his dish while he ate," says Caster. "Moral of the story: Before you rush your pup to the veterinarian when it stops eating, give it a little extra attention and you'll see what happens."

Spread out Feeding

Monica Anthony separates food for her 10-year-old Labrador retriever and 7-month-old Doberman pinscher into portions throughout the day. "Both my dogs are fed meals three times a day, along with stuffed Kongs twice per day," says Anthony. "Spreading out mealtimes helps keep the Lab's weight in check, since she is not as hungry. It also allows the puppy to digest the high volume of food required as she grows."

Anthony works to keep consistent feeding times. After her dogs exercise, she makes sure they get an hour of quiet time before she feeds them again. Access to clean water is a must. She keeps things neat by placing a shoe tray from a dollar store under the food. She also buys water bowls that are large enough to contain splashes and splatters.

"If your dog is older and tall, consider raised feeding dishes," advises Anthony. "They allow our Lab to eat and drink in comfort."

Accommodate Your Dog's Tastes

Truffles, a 6-year-old Havanese, likes cold water. So her owner, Dr. Debra Jaliman, adds a few ice chips to Truffles' water bowl at mealtimes. She also coats Truffles' dry kibble with wet dog food. "I try to feed Truffles before I feed the family. Otherwise, Truffles gets antsy," says Jaliman.

Make Meals a Challenge

Joan Hunter Mayer, a certified professional dog trainer in Ventura, Calif., makes sure her 8-year-old Chihuahua mix finds mealtimes stimulating. She suggests stuffing interactive food toys, such as Kongs, with your dog's food. "This is an ideal way for your dog to have meals," says Mayer. "These are toys that are meant for dry foods as well as wet foods. Instead of always feeding it out of a bowl, allowing your dog to engage in these productive, challenging and enjoyable activities taps into your dog's natural predatory drive -- making mealtime fun."

Engaging your dog at mealtimes will allow you to feel closer, and it will make the experience more enjoyable overall.

Kim Boatman is a journalist based in Northern California whose work has appeared in such publications as the Miami Herald, Detroit Free Press and San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifetime lover of animals. 

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