Most of us have our breakfast at around 6 to 8 in the morning, lunch between 11 and 1, and then dinner at 7 to 8 in the evening. We also tend to have snacks in between and, for those who work the night shift, dinner may as well be at around 11 to 12 midnight. But does this mean our pet dogs will have the same routine as well? This is one of the questions often asked by newbie pet owners who think that their dogs should be fed at almost the same time as human mealtimes. So, what is the best time to feed your dog?
A Look at Common Practices Involving Feeding Schedules
If you look at online resources you’d get a variety of answers to this very simple question. Unfortunately, there are no right or wrong answers. As such, we’ll try to examine some of the most common practices related to dog feeding schedules.
- Feeding dogs twice a day
This recommendation holds that the best time to feed your dog is early in the morning at around 7 and early in the evening at around 6. The reason for this is that the anatomy and physiology of the canine digestive system requires about 4 to 6 hours for the food to be fully digested and absorbed. After about 8 to 10 hours, the receptors in the dog’s stomach will begin sending hunger signals to its brain. This is why most veterinarians and dog experts recommend feeding adult dogs about twice a day, providing an 8 to 12 hour window in between feedings.
Waking up in the morning and preparing for work simply means that you have to feed your dog even before you leave the house. And since mutts are generally known to defecate after a meal, providing them meals early at 7 in the morning means you still have time to walk them outside for them to pass their poop. Once this is accomplished, you can then go about your own business for the rest of the day.
Once you arrive from work in the evening, you can then feed your pooch first before taking them out for a long walk. This will help them poop outside while at the same time tire them easily that they will want to rest and sleep as soon as you come back from walking.
It should be understood that this is technically for healthy, normal adult pooches. If you have a puppy, then the twice a day feeding may not suffice since they should be fed at least 4 times a day. The same is true if you have a senior dog or even a highly active pooch. Their feeding schedule will vary somewhat.
- Feeding dogs once a day
There are also proponents of feeding your dog only once a day, preferably in the evening. This is for the basic reason that has already been described above. Feeding them in the evening will give them the nutrients they need to last the rest of the night until the evening of the following day. It is essentially up to you if you want to take them out for a walk after their evening meal, although this practice has been proven quite useful by many pet owners.
- Let your dog decide
Some pet owners would rather have their dogs decide when they should eat. Their food is left on their pet’s food bowl while their human masters are away during the day. This means the dog gets to eat whenever it feels like eating. This can be particularly helpful if you have a hyperactive dog that needs plenty of calories all the time. It’s also ideal for nursing dams. The problem with such an approach is that the food is exposed to other creatures such as ants, cockroaches, and rodents, just to name a few. It’s also not good for diabetic dogs.
Understanding Feeding Schedules Across the Canine Lifespan
Given that there are no definite answers as to what time is the best time to feed your dog, it would help if you know some of the feeding schedule recommendations depending on the type of pooch that you have.
- For puppies – Generally, it is recommended that puppies be fed at least 3 times a day and its housetraining needs should be factored into its feeding schedule. The typical schedule follows an elimination-feeding-elimination pattern. As such, you can walk it outside the house early in the morning upon waking up before you start feeding it its first meal of the day. Then, walk it again about 30 minutes after its breakfast. Next is lunch time followed by a walk outside then a walk at around 4 in the afternoon before its dinner at around 6 or 7. Then walk outside just before going to bed.
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- For senior dogs – Elderly canines have reduced activities so you can either adopt the once-a-day feeding schedule or still observe the twice-a-day feeding but with significantly reduced amounts of food. You may have to check with your vet on the correct amounts of dog food that you have to give to an elderly canine as its health status may require some adjustments in its nutritional needs.
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- For highly active dogs – If you have a working breed such as a Border Collie or even a very active mutt like a Terrier or Vizla, you may need to feed it three times a day following the recommended schedule for puppies. These breeds have very high metabolic rates which essentially mean they process their food a lot faster. That said, you’d have to feed them more frequently.
- For sedentary pooches – If you have a breed that prefers sleeping most of the time, then a once-a-day feeding should suffice. Great Danes and Mastiffs are considered to lead very sedentary lifestyles.
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There are no strict rules as to when you should feed your dog and how often you should feed it. Everything is depended on the needs and activity levels of your mutt. So, to answer your question what is the best time to feed your dog, it actually depends on your mutt itself.