Pet Care: Healthy eating for active dogs

This post is in conjunction with James Wellbeloved, but all images and opinions are our own.

Last month we celebrated four years of having our spaniel, Penny in our lives. She has been an excellent companion and comfort, and the best friend we could hope to have. Penny is a fairly low maintenance dog; as long as she gets a couple of good long walks each day, plenty of play and cuddles and a healthy diet, she’s as happy as can be.

Pet Care: Healthy eating for active dogs

She is however a terrible food thief. I’ll never forget the day she figured out how to climb onto the dining table to eat the food left on it. I’ve lost count of the number of packets of butter she has stolen off the counter, and say goodbye to any food you leave unattended and not locked away.

We’ve recently had to stop buying chocolate brioche because she was stealing and eating them. Chocolate is really bad for dogs and they were making her poorly. If it’s not nailed down or put away, she will eat it and that includes all the things she really shouldn’t eat, like chocolate.

Spaniels make excellent working dogs, they’re generally really active dogs; they love water and could keep running for days if you’d let them. They are also well known for being greedy and cockers especially are prone to putting on weight if you’re not careful. Because of this we feed her a varied diet including a good healthy dog food and sensible treats. She is full of energy and a healthy diet, tailored to her needs is essential to her continued good health.

Pet Care: Healthy eating for active dogs

Being an intelligent, lively, but still fairly greedy breed of dog; Penny has always responded really well to training with food. She is very motivated by food, but we try to be careful to not feed her too many treats. She gets a daily dental stick and a small handful of dried food out of her daily allowance as rewards for good behaviour throughout the day. Things like responding well to recall, walking to heel really well, or just looking at me with those big brown eyes of hers.

We do try and feed her a varied diet, I think she can get bored with the same meal twice a day; so we mix it up with different flavours and textures of natural dog food. About once a week she gets a tin of sardines in oil as a treat, which she loves. Lean meat and fish are a great addition to her diet; some veg is good too, though onions are toxic and should be avoided. We started giving her carrots when she was teething as a puppy and she still loves them. She has no qualms about stealing fallen apples from the tree in the autumn and snacking on them; (though we have to wrestle them out of her mouth, as the core and seeds of apples can be toxic to dogs).

She can be prone to an upset stomach, but this is down to her thieving nature rather than anything we actually feed her. Over the years we’ve just had to get better at putting things back in the cupboard or the fridge, rather than leaving them out and in the way of temptation.

One change I have made this year, is during the very hot summer I put out another water bowl for her upstairs. She seems to prefer the upstairs water bowl and I’m certain her water intake has increased as a result. Water is as good for dogs as it is for us, so lots of fresh clean water every day is vital in keeping her in fine fettle.

Pet Care: Healthy eating for active dogs

I’ve often thought that although she isn’t the dog I originally wanted; she is the dog I absolutely needed to help get me out and walking again. She’s helped me regain my confidence and some of my fitness following my operations; and she’s been great company for me while I’ve worked from home and throughout lockdown.

I couldn’t be without her now, and she absolutely deserves the best of whatever we give her. She thrives on good walks, lively company and the healthy dog food we feed her. She is an important part of the family and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Our top tips for feeding Active dogs

  • Don’t feed them anything toxic, like chocolate, onions, grapes and raisins.
  • Don’t overdo the treats, have a daily allowance and stick to it.
  • Make sure you’re feeding your dog the right amount; packets will have recommended portion sizes on them, if you’re not sure, check with your vet.
  • Keep it exciting; add in some lean meat, fish or vegetables if you have them.
  • Discourage begging at the table and them wanting to lick plates clean.
  • Some dogs can be sensitive to some ingredients; so watch out for upsets and speak to your vet if your dog is having digestive problems.
  • If you have a spaniel, put food back in the cupboard or fridge once you’ve finished, it’s safer that way.