One of the most important elements of caring for a dog is choosing the right food. The mood, health and energy level of your dog can be deeply affected by the food you feed him, and the amount. Different dog breeds have different nutritional needs, and dogs of different energy types will require foods that are either more or less dense in terms of raw calories. There is no one “best food” for all dogs, but taking some time to understand your pup’s nutritional needs and the differences between foods can go a long way toward helping you find the one that’s right for you.
Dogs and Nutrition
Every dog has his own nutritional needs, but there are some things that all pups must have to look and feel their best. The American Kennel Club notes that dogs require proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins and carbohydrates, all of which are present in varying portions in each type of dog food. It is recommended that adult dogs are fed twice per day and are fed based on their energy level and size. If your dog seems tired or mopey, it could be a nutritional issue.
Breeds and Personality
While changing from a less healthy food to a more healthy food will often give your dog a change in mood, it’s important to understand that some breeds are bred with certain personality traits in mind. German shepherds, for example, are known to be aloof, while Labrador retrievers are notorious for their affectionate nature. Switching your dog’s diet may give him more energy and make him seem happier in general, but the change is unlikely to turn your hyper young pup into a sleeper or your grouchy old dog into a fountain of good cheer.
Learning to Read Ingredients
In finding healthy and appropriate dog food, it’s critical that you can read and understand the labels on the bag. First, you’ll want to find the AAFCO, short for the Association of American Feed Control Officials, label on the bag. The AAFCO label indicates that the food meets the organization’s minimum health requirements. This label will also indicate which dogs are best suited for the food. Next, read through the ingredients list — they are listed by quantity, so the first thing on the list is the most abundant ingredient in the food.
Choosing High-Quality Food
Finding and identifying high-quality dog food is difficult, but not impossible. Unless you feed your dog homemade food, there’s no way to be 100 percent certain that the food you’re serving is what’s promised on the bag. That being said, there are some general guidelines available for choosing good food. First, look for foods with real meat as their primary ingredient. Chicken meal, beef meal and fish meal are all good bases for food. You’ll also want to avoid foods with high cornmeal content — cornmeal is mostly filler and provides no real nutritional value. Remember: A higher price doesn’t always mean better food. Some of the most expensive foods on the market have subpar ingredients and are packed with corn.
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images