Labrador Retriever puppies and adults are about as close as it comes to the perfect dogs. While genetics can handle much of that there is one very important thing that needs to be taken into consideration by their human: their diet. By combining a proper diet with the right amount of exercise your Lab can be a valued member of your family for as long as possible.
First a disclaimer: As with anything that affects your dog’s health it is best to consult your veterinarian about what to feed your dog as this is just a general idea. Definitely seek veterinary care if your dog develops any food allergies and follow their recommended treatment.
So generally what should you feed your Lab? There are a lot of options out there. The easiest way to answer that is that anything that is labeled as a proper or balanced diet is OK. There are of course a lot of different brands touting all kinds of different flavors though. Which one your dog will eat may be determined by their own tastes and your budget. You might even have the time to prepare your Lab their own meal from scratch and that works too.
Labradors and Dried Food
A large part of any dog’s diet is their dried food, also known as kibble. These come in multiple different flavors and can be found just about anywhere that sells pet food or supplies in the country. The convenience of this type of food is obvious as it can be quickly poured into a bowl for their consumption and it is also generally pretty cheap. The packaging can be resealed so the bag can last for
The biggest problem with kibble is that some of the preservatives that are used can be hard to digest which leads to a smellier product when it comes time for your Lab to do their business. Some Labs have also been found to develop allergies from their kibble, though that is rare. The best products for your Lab are made mostly of meat with some vegetables added and little or no grain. What works best though may be up to your Lab and their own taste.
Labradors and Meat
There are certain natural instincts that your Lab cannot overcome and the desire to eat meat is one of them. Meat contains fats and proteins that help to keep them healthy and provide the energy that has made Labrador Retrievers famous.
With many people turning to veganism they have also tried to feed their dog a vegan diet. That is not a good idea as any dog needs the fats and proteins that only meat can provide. Veganism may be your choice but it is not a choice that your dog can make. Please feed them meat.
How often should I feed my Lab puppy or adult labrador retriever?
Just like with people, the frequency of feedings is important and it depends on what is being fed to the dog. Most Lab owners will feed their dog twice a day and this should be done if most of their diet is kibble. If you want to feed your Lab raw meat as well, one feeding per day should be sufficient. With any prepackaged food follow the instructions included on the packaging and if two feedings are given simply divide the prescribed amount by two.
Puppies are different. They should be fed smaller portions of food several times a day. They tend to eat all that is given to them so smaller portions will prevent their stomach from being damaged. Two to three month old puppies should be fed four times per day, and three to six month old puppies should be reduced to three meals per day. Once the puppy is older than six months they can be fed the standard twice a day.
Should I leave food out?
We humans have major advantages over our canine friends, as in if we get hungry we can reach into the cupboard for a snack or into the refrigerator to make a sandwich. Dogs do not have that luxury. Some owners will leave kibble out for their dog so that they can eat something if they get hungry. Some owners also only put it out when it is time to eat so that the dog eats the entire meal. Which course you follow is up to you as there is no wrong answer and ultimately may be up to your lifestyle.
Your Lab will eat their food quickly, just time them the next time you put food out. In many cases their diet is also supplemented by treats and human food as well. Who can say no to that face after all? People food will not harm the dog if it is given to them sparingly and with only adult dogs (DO NOT give lab puppies people food), but it could lead to your Lab starting some bad behaviors to try to get more food.
Speaking of Treats
You like something sweet every now and again, whether it is ice cream, pie, cake or candy. Your Lab likes treats too. Treats can have a powerful influence over them to help reinforce good behavior and their training, and when it comes to treats you have lots of options. Prepackaged treats like Beggin’ Strips or Milk Bones are beloved but they are empty calories so don’t let your dog gorge on them. More natural options like raw meat or vegetables can work just as well and are much healthier. When in doubt consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog any treat. Rawhide or beef bones with marrow are great treats that also promote healthy teeth. Never feed your dog chicken bones, this is a choking hazzard, these type of bones are brittle and can splinter causing internal injuries or become lodged in your dogs throat.
The most underappreciated part of a Labrador diet, but perhaps the most important:
There is one very important part of a Lab’s (or any dog’s) diet that should not be overlooked and that is water. How much your dog will need to drink depends on their diet. Water should be available for your dog at all times, though with puppies water can be taken away an hour after feeding to help reinforce their training. How much will your Lab need to drink? It depends on what they are eating. Dogs that eat more kibble will need more water and dogs that eat more meat will need less.
What NOT to Feed Your Lab Puppy
There are some food items that you should avoid feeding to your Lab. Puppies should not be given cow’s milk ever. Once a dog is older than 8 weeks they do not have a need for milk and it can give them diarrhea (and you a mess to clean up). Some dogs can tolerate it but it is best to avoid it. Human foods like onions, nuts, avocado, raisins, alcohol and several other foods are toxic to dogs and can kill them, as is chocolate. Peanut butter can be a great treat for dogs, but make sure it does not contain any artificial sweeteners such as xylitol as these are also very toxic to dogs. Do not give your dog any of these foods and get a complete list from your veterinarian. If your dog does eat any of these seek veterinary help immediately and follow their instructions.
"Choose raw, unsalted peanut butter. NOTE: Be absolutely sure that you're not using sugar-free or "lite" peanut butter that has artificial sweeteners, particularly xylitol, as these substances are incredibly toxic to dogs."
It is also not a good idea to give your dog any sweetened beverages. You may love them as a treat but your dog may not. Just like with humans sweetened drinks can cause dental problems and if given enough lead to obesity. It is best to avoid those.
Your Lab puppy or adult Labrador Retriever's diet goes a long way towards being happy and healthy. It may seem like they will eat you out of house and home and it may be very tempting to just give them any scrap or morsel of food, but knowing what to give them and how much will keep them as valued members of your family for years to come. You want that after all don’t you.