Dog Feeding Schedules
Many of us use some sort of scheduling tool, like a Daytimer, to plan our hectic days and nights. This plan helps us to establish a routine and to get all the important tasks done. Dogs don't need reminders about picking up the laundry or going to Little League but they benefit from a schedule which includes things like eating and play time. Dogs thrive on routine and, though they do not keep track of time like we do, their circadian rhythm, or internal clock, makes it possible for them to tell when it's close to the time for a routine task.
The following sample schedule is meant for a breed or mix who is of average activity and has no health problems.
Sample Schedule of an Average Day with an Adult Dog
Food: Most adult dogs should eat twice a day. This keeps their metabolism stable and aids in digestion. You'll find they quickly catch on to when feeding time is. A sample schedule would be:
- 7:00 a.m. - Breakfast
- 6:00 p.m. - Dinner
Water: In general, it is best to leave a fresh bowl of water out for your dog every morning and every evening. Dogs should always have clean water after any activity. If you're working on housetraining or have a dog who overdrinks, you can schedule the amount and times you provide it. But watch your dog carefully and, if he seems to be thirsty, increase the amount. A sample schedule for monitoring water would be:
- 7:00 a.m. - Clean and fill bowl half-way.
- Noon - Rinse out and refill half-way.
- 6:00 p.m. - Rinse and fill half-way.
- Bedtime - Clean and fill bowl about 1/4 of the way.
Sleep: An average dog sleeps about 14 hours a day. Unlike humans, they sleep for shorter times more frequently. A dog's REM cycle is more active than a human's and may explain the phenomenon of "chasing in their sleep." If your dog sleeps more than 16 hours a day, it is wise to check for any illness. By scheduling his activities throughout the day, you will naturally create a good sleeping routine.
Play: Play is imperative to keep a dog's skills honed, to provide stimulation and just to have fun. Play can mean a game of fetch with you, a board game where your dog has to do tricks to earn a turn, a doggie play date, or even interactive toys when you are away. Try to get two play sessions in a day. A sample schedule would be:
- 8:00 a.m. - Spend at least 15 minutes playing with your dog
- 4:00 p.m. or Right after work - Schedule a play date or try something creative like a game of hide and seek
Activity: Activity is imperative for a dog's mental and physical health. Ideally, a dog should be walked twice a day for 30 minutes. An extra walk does no harm and, in fact, will benefit you both. In our hectic society, however, this can be tough, so consider enlisting the help of a dog walker. Also keep in mind activities other than walking such as the dog park. A sample schedule would be:
- 6:30 a.m. - Walk your dog before his breakfast
- Noon - Walk your dog (this is where a dog walker could be helpful)
- 5:00 p.m. - Walk your dog before his dinner
Together Time: Together time is a bonding experience for you and your dog. This is the easiest thing to schedule as it can be on the couch while watching T.V. or outside reading a book, or on the bed at the end of the night. The key is to focus on your dog and pet and massage him. Dogs love a light massage and many are happy with your foot stroking their back. Even just sitting touching your dog is a bonding activity.
Modifications for Puppies
Housetraining: With puppies, there is housetraining to consider in your schedule. When beginning housetraining, you or someone you trust, such as a dog sitter, really needs to be on hand frequently, so you can catch your pup before or in the act and rush them outside. Older puppies can go between three to four hours between elimination. A sample schedule would be:
- Outside upon waking.
- Outside after breakfast.
- Outside around noon after second feeding.
- Outside around 4:00 p.m.
- Outside after dinner.
- Outside before bed.
Food: A puppy will ideally eat three times a day so schedule in a feeding around noon. Get a dog sitter to help if needed.
Sleep: A puppy sleeps more than an adult dog, averaging about 16 hours a day. But some will sleep for up to 20 hours!
Activity: A puppy will have bursts of energy and then flop down where he is and sleep. Try to get your puppy out as much as you can, starting with short walks and building up to 20 minutes.
Modifications for Senior Dogs
Food: Older dogs should be fed twice a day but it should be a smaller amount since their activity is limited.
Water: Older dogs may need more water than their younger counterparts.
Sleep: A senior dog will sleep more than an active adult dog, on average 16 to 18 hours a day. Just like humans, the older a dog gets, the more his needs resemble that of a puppy.
Activity: It's important for a senior dog to still get walks and mild activity. Ideally, you, or a sitter, could take your dog out three or four times a day for shorter walks. Avoid excessive activity and any rough play such as at dog parks.
Modifications for Active Breeds
There are a few modifications for active breeds such as the Border Collie, the Vizsla and any Terrier. Sleep for these dogs is often less than an average breed and you will find they are usually running around even when dozing. It can help to feed these breeds three times a day because their metabolism is higher.
Modifications for Sedentary Breeds
Breeds that are very large such as the Mastiff and the Great Dane tend to sleep more than an average sized dog. Some of the large breeds, such as the Greyhound and many of the hounds, do as well. The feeding schedule is also often different with these dogs being fed only once a day since they are not burning off as many calories.
Every dog is unique and you may have to alter your schedule depending on your dog's activity level. You also may need to adjust your dog's schedule to meet yours. The things to keep in mind are that a dog will need something scheduled every two - four hours, whether feeding, activity or playing. And consistency is key to keep you on schedule and your dog happy. Perhaps someday there will even be Daytimers for Dogs.