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The Importance of Proper Weight: How Many Cups Should You Really Be Feeding?

Updated: Jan 10

Keeping our dogs at a proper and healthy weight is one of the most important things we can do as dog owners.  Just like people, dogs are generally much healthier and feel much better (less physical or behavioral issues) when they are at a proper weight. Being just 10% overweight decreases a dog's lifespan by one-third and predisposes them to heart, kidney and liver disease as well as diabetes, arthritis, and cancer.  It also helps to decrease the risks of certain conditions and injuries (CCL tears, joint problems, etc). We also notice other non-health related benefits like a higher food drive (easier trainability), dogs that are able to jump into the car, playing more, and have less annoying panting!

Refer to this diagram to tell you if your dog is at an ideal weight: 

How Many Cups of Food per Day You Should Feed?: 

A lot of people don't know they are over-feeding their dogs. Most pet owners look at what their bag of dog food recommends to feed. Looking at what the bag of food recommends is a good starting point to see how much to feed, but then we suggest never looking at it again and instead paying more attention to our dog's body condition. You should be able to feel ribs easily, they should have a defined waist, and you should be able to see the last 2 ribs with short coated dogs (you don't want to see all of their ribs!). Depending on the body condition of your dog, you can adjust their food accordingly (and you should check and do so regularly!). Just because you have a large dog does not mean you need to feed them a lot of food! Another important thing to keep in mind is that just like people, all dogs have different metabolisms. The food bag recommendation is coming from a business selling dog food. Often the recommended amount exceeds what is appropriate. Below is a list of staff dogs, their breeds, weights, how much they get fed, and what their food bag recommends for feeding. Notice that most of our dogs are fed 2 cups or less, and are often fed significantly less than what the bag recommends. Except Psych. She is one of the smallest dogs but gets fed the most, this is a good example of paying attention to her body condition and adjusting her food accordingly. She is very active, a bit neurotic and has a high metabolism so she requires more food. 

Listed below are the staff dogs, their weights, how much they are fed, & what the bag recommends: 

Dolly, Shih Tzu


fed 0.5cups/day

bag recommends: 0.66c/day

Willow, Cavapoo


fed 0.25 cups/day

bag recommends: 1 cup/day

Flash, Border Collie


fed 0.75 cups/day

bag recommends: 1.5c/day

Burton, Border Collie


fed 0.75 cups/day

bag recommends: 1.8c/day

Psych, Belgian Tervuren


fed 6 cups/day

bag recommends: 1.5c/day

Veda, Belgian Malinois


fed 1.75 cups/day

bag recommends: 2.25c/day

Floki, German Shepherd


fed 2 cups/day

bag recommends: 2.87c/day

Wendy, German Shepherd


fed 3 cups/day

bag recommends: 3.33c/day

Norma, German Shepherd


fed 2 cups/day

bag recommends: 3.33c/day

Atticus, Standard Poodle


fed 1.75cups/day

bag recommends: 3.33c/day

Sunny, Golden Retriever


fed 2 cups/day

bag recommends: 3.25c/day

Odin, German Shepherd


fed 2 cups/day

bag recommends: 3.5c/day

Kash, Doberman Pinscher


fed 2 cups/day

bag recommends: 4.75c/day

*our trainers feed foods that have 400-570 calories/cup, the majority being in the 400-450 calories/cup range. Except Psych.. who is on a 720calorie/cup food.. she is a major outlier. 

When to Consider Switching to a Higher Calorie Food: 

If you are feeding your dog 4 cups a day or more and they are at a healthy weight, we suggest switching to a higher calorie food like Inukshuk, Purina Pro Plan Sport, or Victor High Energy. This way, we can feed our dogs less, but they still get the calories that they need. This will help our dogs feel less full and groggy and maintain good food drive which has many benefits, such as easier trainability, better focus/less distractibility, and easier transitions to boarding environments or other places that may be new or stressful. 

Other Calories & Considerations: 

Be mindful about the treats or chews where your dog might be getting extra calories. For example, if they get bully sticks, pigs ears or other similar chews they can ingest, that can add a lot of calories. I would consider switching out those chews for something else. Some of our favorites are Benebones, split antlers, nylabones, or water buffalo horns. 

Another thing that can help is that you use their meals for training at home- not extra kibble or treats. Dogs need to eat, so we might as well use the food they need to train with.

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