There are two benefits to keeping him to a feeding routine: firstly you will be able to monitor what he is eating and when, and secondly you’ll be able to tell if he starts having problems eating or develops allergies or illnesses. If he’s eating as and when, and being given table scraps, his appetite and feeding is just that little harder to monitor.
Dogs need a certain amount of food for their weight and breed, and this is best decided in a chat with your vet. Many veterinary experts believe that the recommended amounts given on the labels of many brands are misleading and that amounts need to be tailored to each dog. So firstly, you need to find out what the optimum weight is for your dog’s breed and age. What he will eat at six months is likely to be completely different to what he will eat when he’s 15 and slowing down, so having a sliding scale of weight along which you can chart a suitable sized meal for his physical needs will help him maintain a constant and steady size to weight ratio.
Most vets suggest that one meal a day is perfectly acceptable and that this should be given in the morning when he’s up and ready for the day. It is best to give him his daily fuel when he most needs it and can burn it off. Giving him two meals a day makes it likely that after the second meal he won’t work off the excess energy and over time he will become overweight because he’s not doing anything but lying in front of the fire!
Teach family members (and possibly yourself?) not to give in to his begging look and appealing eyes when he just wants a little mouthful of what you’re having, particularly if what you’re having is not going to be appropriate. Certainly he shouldn’t have sweet or sugary foods as this is likely to lead to weight gain and dental problems with the accumulation of plaque, and by giving in to his begging you’re setting up a bad precedent for life.
Proper eating habits can include learning to sit until his bowl has put down in front of him. Wolfing his breakfast in three seconds flat can lead to indigestion so it’s best to encourage him to wait, teach him to slow down, and praise him when he spends a little time eating what’s put in front of him.
There may come a time when he starts turning his nose up at what he’s offered, maybe because he has developed a begging habit and maybe because he may have learned from you that if he refuses, you might just put something extra tasty in his bowl to encourage him. It’s a downward spiral after that, because now he will have learned that you will always have something nicer to eat if he only turns his nose up.
The best way of training him if he gets picky is to put his bowl down for about 15 minutes. Leave him alone if possible. When you go back in, pick up the bowl and put it out of his reach. He will realise in a short time that the fifteen minute slot is all the time he has for eating his breakfast, and pretty soon he’ll be making sure he licks that bowl clean before you take it away.
It’s always a good idea to clear his bowl away anyway after each meal. This stops him staring at it hopefully all day, and his attention can be diverted elsewhere until it’s time for him to be fed again.
If he starts to lose or gain weight, work out by how much by weighing him and then slowly reduce or increase the amount of food so that it’s not a sudden overload or a yawning hole if he’s suddenly left hungry.