I’ve been training dogs professionally for over 15 years. Over the years, I have come across many different feeding methods, philosophies, and fads that are often considered “best practices.” Because of this, I thought it might be valuable to share what I feel are the top 10 things you should be aware of when feeding your dog.

When trying to determine what the best feeding method is for you and your dog, always remember that there are no absolutes. You need to be aware of research as well as common sense. If you feel a certain feeding method may work for you, by all means, give it a try. Use this list as a guide to help make sure you’ve covered all your bases and aren’t missing anything.

10 Things You Should Know About Feeding Your Dog:

1. The type of diet fed to the parents before breeding will affect the puppies’ future health and performance, including working ability and potential for chronic diseases such as hip dysplasia, allergies, and cancer.

2. The breed of the parents will affect the health, growth rate, and potential working ability of their offspring. For example, large breeds reach reproductive maturity later than small breeds. Therefore they have a longer window to be exposed to diseases that could compromise their immune system.

3. Puppy formulas are not needed if the parents are healthy and their diet is balanced. If the puppy’s working or show career will be short, feeding a puppy formula with higher calories can potentially reduce the chance of chronic disease.

4. Caloric needs are highly variable in puppies depending on breed, growth rate, activity level, and early exposure to pathogens that can compromise the immune system.

5. Feeding a growing or performance dog too many calories in relation to their level of activity and growth rate can accelerate skeletal and soft tissue growth before it’s structurally sound, potentially causing orthopedic problems such as panosteitis, hip dysplasia, ACL tears, etc.

6. Feeding growing or performance dogs too few calories in relation to their level of activity and growth rate can stunt the skeletal and soft tissue growth, potentially causing orthopedic problems such as panosteitis, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, etc.

7. The best way to feed puppies is to allow them free access (as much as they will eat) to balanced, unmedicated raw meaty bones (RMB’s) supplemented with organ meats. This diet closely mimics the diet of wild canids and is highly beneficial for mental development, bone and soft tissue growth, intestinal tract health, and disease resistance.

8. The best way to feed large breed adult dogs is to restrict their intake of high-calorie foods and supplements without keeping them hungry.

9. The best way to feed small breed dogs is to limit their intake of low-calorie fillers such as kibble but not let them get too hungry.

10. If you prefer to feed commercially prepared food over a balanced homemade diet, look for a good quality, balanced commercial food that doesn’t contain harmful ingredients such as by-product meats or fillers such as soybean, corn, wheat, and rice which can cause allergies and disease.