Sheepdog Training 20 – The correct food for your dog

Close photo of smooth coated Border Collie Cotton standing in water and looking around her

Take a little care over feeding your dog (and take care not to over-feed it).

Your sheepdog will be your friend and your pride and joy – so rather than feed it on the cheapest food you can find, take care to find a suitable diet. Equally, don’t take it for granted that the most expensive food is the best for your dog.

In the UK, dog food which is manufactured for “Working Dogs” has no tax on it. The reason for this totally escapes me, because nearly all farmers (surely the ones who need working dogs) are registered for “VAT” and as such can simply claim the tax back! Perhaps this exemption is designed to financially benefit some other class of “working dog” owner?

Most farm feed suppliers will stock several brands of suitable food in large economical bags, so your local feed merchant is a good place to look for good quality dog food at reasonable cost. Steer clear of those which are pretty colours and have bone and other shapes in them. The colouring and “doggy” shapes are there for your benefit, and definitely not the dog’s.

Protein level for sheepdogs

I wasted most of a trial season with Glen, purely because the food I was feeding had far too much protein (28%). If your dogs regularly work from dawn ’till dusk, they’ll need a high protein diet but otherwise, a good level is around 18 – 20% maximum.

Glen (normally an easy dog to control) became increasingly erratic and hard to stop and it wasn’t until someone asked what protein was in his food that we discovered the cause of the problem. It takes two weeks for a new protein level to take full effect. (The following season, Glen won a Novice Championship)!

Read the label to ascertain which food may best suit your dog. How much food you give your dog will depend on his size, condition and how much work he does. Follow the instructions on the feed bag but watch your dog carefully and if he puts on too much weight (we need our dogs to be really fit) cut back. Many people feed adult dogs once a day but we feed ours twice to help break the monotony when they’re not at work.

Chappie! (Dog “Medicine”)

We feed our dogs on dry food but if they get an upset stomach, we swear by tinned Chappie! It’s like a medicine to them – and they love it! In the UK Chappie is inexpensive and widely available. Don’t be tempted by any particular flavours, just get the plain, original tinned Chappie and it will do wonders for your dog’s upset stomach. Chappie is low on protein though, so avoid feeding it to puppies for prolonged periods.

If your dog simply has a “runny tummy” Chappie might be ideal for it, but if you have any cause for concern about your dog’s digestive system, such as more than the odd speck of blood in the faeces, or diarrhoea lasting more than a day or so, you should seek the advice of a veterinary surgeon without delay.

Provide clean fresh water for your dog

I’m stating the obvious, I know, but it’s essential to provide plenty of clean fresh water. Your dog will appall and disgust you by drinking the most revolting and unmentionable fluids but this doesn’t mean you should skimp on clean water.

We have no financial connection whatever with any dog feed manufacturer, other than buying our dog food in bulk (1 ton pallets at the regular bulk price) from Gilbertson and Page. We use a mixture of Dr John Gold, and Dr John Silver – Beef. We start puppies with Purina Beta Puppy (Lamb and Rice flavour if we can get it) and as the pups get older, we mix it with Dr John Gold to reduce the overall protein level as it seems a little too high for some.

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