Whenever I work with a client I always ask about the dog and owner's daily routine, which includes knowing the dog's feeding schedule.

What, where, when and how much food is fed is important in solving some behavior problems, as well as setting up housebreaking schedules.

And this information is as pertinent for adult dogs as it is for puppies.

When a dog goes into its new home from a breeder it will usually be accompanied with instructions on how much to feed as well as how many times a day for its age, but if the dog is a rescue or is acquired elsewhere the owner will not have that guidance. In that case their veterinarian can become a good source of information.

It is always best to get professional advice on nutritional development and not rely on the dog food bag's instructions since they are just a general recommendation and can't take into account your dog's frame size, condition and exercise level.

Should you free-feed?

In some cases free-feeding is warranted and veterinarian-recommended for dogs with special health conditions (convalescent, anorexic dogs or toy dogs with low blood sugar), and there are those who believe that it aids in the prevention of gastric torsion and bloating.

But the most frequent free-feeders fall into two other camps: those with busy schedules who just fill a bowl when they see it empty, or those who believe dogs should have food available at all times.

It is not unusual to go to a housebreaking consultation and find that the root of a dog's mistake problem is that food is left down 24 hours a day. What goes in must come out, so instead of being able to schedule walks based upon feeding times, the dog is eliminating around the clock.

Another problem with free-feeding is that appetite is one of the most important ways to monitor a dog's health, and a dog may be in the beginning stages of illness for several days before an owner notices it is off its feed and seeks veterinary treatment.

Food should be measured precisely for each feeding so the owner knows exactly how much the dog is, or isn't, consuming.

I also believe that since a big purchasing point for so many premium foods these days is that they contain natural ingredients and no preservatives, leaving food out for extended periods of time and allowing the quality of its ingredients to degrade is just a waste of money.

Just how unhealthy can a bowl of dry food left outside all day be? For starters, flies, roaches and rodents are attracted to dog food. They eat, walk (and you know what) on the food, depositing their saliva and droppings which in turn are ingested by the dog.

Which leads me to another important part of feeding that people often give little thought to: bowl cleanliness.

According to canine nutritionist Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D,, associate professor of clinical nutrition at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, dog bowls can be coated with biofilm from saliva if not washed regularly, and this biofilm is a great home for microbes like salmonella. To properly clean the bowl after meals, Wakshlag recommends soaking it in a bleach solution (one to two capfuls of bleach per gallon of water) for at least 10 minutes. Then wash it in warm water with mild detergent, thoroughly rinse and allow to air dry.

(Even Dawn detergent -- my go-to for everything-- will not strip Newf-slime from a bowl. I have to use a bleach-soak to get it off.)

Another problem people often don't realize is a health hazard is the way they store their dog food. According to Wakshlag, "Emptying the food into a plastic container -- even though it's air-tight -- can still cause food to go rancid because there are fats sprayed on the food and it lines the inside of the food storage container. If you don't completely empty and clean the food container before adding a new bag of food, it can cause the new food to go rancid quicker."

Wakshlag instructs people to rinse the container, add the bleach solution and allow it to soak for 20 minutes, then rinse and dry it completely before adding a new batch of food. He goes on to say, "If you just keep the food in the original bag and put it in the plastic bin, you don't have to worry about cleaning the bin, just throw the bag away."

Or as we do at my house, recycle the bags for poop clean-up. Hey! what goes around, comes around.


The First Annual Oildale Pet Festival is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10 at 800 Airport Drive. It is sponsored by New Covenant Church, The Friends of the Kern County Shelter, Angel Dogs Foundation and Bakersfield Pet Food Pantry.

It includes raffles throughout the day; free balloons and activities for kids; hot dogs, chips and soft drinks are available; and leashed pets are welcome.

Vaccination and microchipping clinic: 9 a.m. to noon, $10 each.

Spay-neuter clinic with $20 co-pay; call 888-504-SPAY to make an appointment.

Participants include Alpha Canine, Kern Humane, Sherry Davis, Orphan Kitten Rescue Association, Self-Serve Pet Spa and more are being added.

Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at csi4k9s@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter @csi4K9s. These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.