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Feeding Schedule for a Labrador Retriever

Dear John,
We have 2, two year old Labrador retrievers that provide us with great affection, humour, entertainment and exercise! One has an issue that is food related. He has always been a picky eater but now will often refuse to eat at mealtimes which are twice a day. He will eat some now and maybe some later, maybe not at all. He is a big, strong and beautiful dog, full of energy and mischief. There are no health issues as checked by the vet. Leaving the bag available for him to pick at is not an option as the other one would just consume everything in the bag! Is there something we could do to encourage proper eating habits?
Thanks, Joyce
Dear Joyce,
He may just have a different metabolism and be missing the Labrador Retriever “eat-everything-in-sight” gene recently discovered in the mapping of the canine genome.
If he’s healthy, stop worrying about it. I feed adult dogs on a schedule. Once a day for some, twice for others. The food is down for five or ten minutes and then nothing else is offered until the next scheduled feeding. For dogs that are being house trained or are really finicky eaters; not even a treat in between meals. I don’t ever waver. You’ll find that by the 4th day your dog will be into a meal time rhythm. There are a few reasons for feeding this way.
I believe mother nature does everything for a reason. We don’t always know what the reason is but there is always a reason. Here’s my theory. It has to do with saliva. When food’s about, hungry dogs salivate, some drool. Why is that? Human saliva contains an enzyme which mixes with the food as we chew it. Dogs don’t chew and there is no enzyme in their saliva. So why the spit? The answer is lubrication. Free fed dogs lubricate less and hack/cough more. Eating dry food without the saliva to smooth the way must be like swallowing crackers on a dry day without soup. 
I’ve wondered as well if dogs that were allowed to free feed had more dental issues as well. One of the things that cause the most suffering later in life, often leading to death are issues stemming from dental problems. It would be interesting to see if dogs that salivated naturally around meal time benefited from more teeth flushing and had fewer dental issues.
Another reason I like schedule feedings is it’s easier to tell if the dog is skipping meals which is sometimes due to illness.
Sometimes dog owners with finicky eaters fall into the “S/he doesn’t like this, S/he only likes this.” trap. I like chocolate cake. That doesn’t mean I should be eating it 3 square meals a day. Same goes for dogs; what a dog likes shouldn’t be the primary consideration, what is good for your dog should be. Good food is usually more palatable anyway. But what the heck is good for a dog? We could go on the basis of just buying foods that are “veterinarian approved” but they’re all veterinarian approved. I’d like to meet this veterinarian, because he or she sure approves a lot of different foods. Some with grain content so shamefully high that I should think they’re really popular in goose circles rather then for a species that is predominantly carnivorous.  Besides, “veterinary approved” to what? Thrive, sustain life, barely keep their hair from falling out? Dog owners should do their own research. If you want to write me I’ll send you some information where you can learn enough to make an informed opinion.
So just as your mother told you, tell your dog, “Don’t you know their are starving dogs in . . .” and stick to your guns.

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