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Nutritional Needs of Guard Dogs

Nutritional Needs of Guard Dogs

Most dogs used as guard dogs are German Shepherds, with an occasional Doberman Pinscher, Boxer, or Labrador Retriever. The average weight of an adult male guard dog is about 70 pounds. None should weigh less than 50 pounds. To satisfactorily provide a guard dog with adequate amounts of energy and nutrients every day, its food should have the following three characteristics: 1) It should contain approximately 2000 calories in each pound. 2) It should have the nutrients balanced to be fed at about 40 available calories per pound of body weight. 3) The overall digestibility of the food should not be less than 80 percent.

No food exists, in normal commercial dog food channels, that will satisfy the characteristics just listed. While a few canned foods meet the digestibility requirements, no dry foods do. Neither type meets the caloric density or nutrient balance requirements. Soft-moist foods meet the digestibility requirements, but have even lower caloric densities than the dry foods.

The addition of fresh, or canned, meat and meat by-products to a dry food usually improves the digestibility of the protein and fat in the diet. But, because of the high water content of meat foods, their addition actually reduces the caloric density of the final diet combination.

Caloric density can be increased by the addition of corn oil. This procedure works well only when increased energy needs are minimal. With a guard dog's energy requirements, however, so much corn oil is needed that it, too, will dilute the food and nutrient deficiencies are apt to occur.

All guard dogs should be fed by strict portion control. How each dog's weight, general condition, and performance are affected by its diet can be much more accurately compared when feeding by portion control. Guard dogs whom are from a self-feeder are apt to become overweight, sluggish or unresponsive. The last two are particularly fatal to a guard dog and its mission.

Guard dogs should be fed no less than three hours, before or after, their tour of duty. To feed any closer to the tour is an invitation to bloat, torsion or other gastric distress. The danger of these diseases is further increased if the dogs are eating low-quality foods containing poorly-digested nutrients.

Feeding guard dogs is an exception to the rule that all dogs should be fed at the same hour every day. A guard dog's tour hours are subject to frequent change. Also, its meal hours must changed because feeding three hours before duty tours is more important than regular feeding hours. Actually, once their feeding routine is learned, most guard dogs will become accustomed to being fed three hours before going on duty and will adapt their behavior to cue on their feeding time the same way any dog does that is fed at the same time every day.

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