Once you've decided to purchase a German Shepherd Dog it is very important to understand the feeding requirements of this breed.
The German Shepherd Dog was bred to be an athlete. Just as a human athlete needs the proper balance of nutrients and exercise to maintain their proper physical condition, so does a German Shepherd Dog. I recommend using a premium quality kibble as a base feed.
I have found that a lamb and rice kibble formula works best for my dogs. I use the Adult formula, Healthwise Lamb and Oatmeal kibble by Natura. For more information on this food, please go to http://www.naturapet.com It's a great website that is very informative even if you don't plan on using their food. In 2003, I switched my dogs to the Natura brand California Natural line of food which is chicken and rice based. They did even better on this formula. I feed that for about a year then discoverd a new line of food by Royan Canin.
in the spring of 2004, I switched to the Royal Canin Maxi line of puppy food
(which is formulated specifically for large breed puppies) and put the adults
on the Royal Canin Maxi line German Shepherd formula food. I figured if they
went to all the trouble to research what specific nutritional needs this breed
has I could at least give it a try. If you would like more information on these
formulas here are the links to the appropriate pages on thier website:
German Shepherd formula http://www.caninehealthnutrition.com/germanshepherd.htm and
the puppy formula http://www.caninehealthnutrition.com/maxipuppy.htm
So far I have been very impressed with the results of these foods. Their stools have never been so firm and small. Their coats are the best they've ever been and no one has been picky about eating. I did have a couple of dogs that didn't care for the California Natural. Royal Canin has an online book that goes into depth about the German Shepherd formula if you want even more information about the food. http://www.caninehealthnutrition.com/gsbook.htm I have several friends that have switched their dogs to the GSD formula and they too have been impressed.
As you can tell, there basically is not any one food that will work for all dogs though. That's why there is such a variety of dog foods available. Find one that works well for your dog and stay with it. How can you tell if a food is working properly for your dog? Good levels of energy and strength, firm and dark stools (and not a lot of volume of waste either), supple and clear skin, shiny and lush coat, bright eyes, and pink healthy gums are some of the ways you can tell if a food is doing what it should for your dog.
I will occasionally (a few meals a week) supplement their kibble with a very high quality lamb and rice formula canned food. I also on occasion give them eggs (either microwave scrambled or hard boiled) as a good source of protein. I start my dogs out every morning with some cut up raw carrots. Raw, crunchy veggies are good for their teeth and make a healthy snack. I also give them fresh fruits and plain cooked veggies. I have found it best to give my dogs two small meals each day instead of one large meal. Puppies get three or four meals a day until they are about 4 months old.
To soak the food or not to soak the food. If my dogs are going to be going to bed after they eat I will not always soak the food, but I still do put some water in the food. Otherwise, they have to be quiet and settled down for an hour before and after eating soaked food. This is to help avoid the condition called "bloat".
How much you feed your dog each meal will depend on the individual dog and their metabolism. I had an adult male that ate 6 cups per day and have an adult female that eats 3 cups per day. This is the amount of food they each need to maintain a slim athletic shape. German Shepherds are supposed to have a waist. During the warmer weather that means that when my ADULT dogs are running around, that I should see the outline of the last 2 ribs. During the winter months when it is much colder out I like to have a slight layer of fat on my dogs to help them stay warm on those cold nights. So that means that I can still tell where the rib cage ends, but I can't see the individual outline of the last two ribs anymore. The best way to determine how much to feed your dog is to ask me how much the dog is used to getting at meal time and then as the dog grows older you should adjust the amount of feed accordingly (so that they have a waist). If you need to take some excess weight off your dog it is best to decrease the food intake slowly so they won't think they're being deprived. You should also increase the amount of exercise to help shed those extra pounds.
For baby puppies (2 to 4 months old), they will get round little tummies after they eat then as it gets closer to the next meal time their tummies will flatten out more. You should still see a little tuck at the waist when their tummies are empty. It is very important for large breed puppies to grow slowly. It is important to not put too much weight and therefore stress on their little bones and joints as they are developing. I actually feed my puppies the adult formula kibble to make sure that they don't grow too fast. Some dog food companies have begun to develop and market food formulated especially for large breed puppies. Remember that puppies are constantly growing and need a lot of fuel to do so. They will go through growth spurts just like children do and their appetites will show this. So make sure to increase their food as they grow, but do so gradually and always maintaining that waist. On a junior pup (5 to 7 months old) you should be able to see the last rib when their tummy is empty. My older puppies will eat more per day than my adult females (when the females are not pregnant or nursing). Realize that there are some puppies (and dogs) that will always want to eat and those are the ones that you have to really make sure not to overfeed. Senior puppies (8 to 12 months old) should be getting enough excretes so that you see the the first rib and start to see the second rib, as they get closer to 12 months you should see more of the second rib.
Some puppies and dogs eat very quickly while others will take their time. Many times a pup will be so used to having competition for food from their littermates that they don't know they can slow down when they're the only one now eating.
There will be times when your dog may end up having loser stools than normal. This can be brought on by stress (change in ownership and environment, training, traveling, excess excitement,etc.) it can also be a result of your puppy "cleaning up after themselves". If the puppy or dog is acting normal with normal energy levels and not showing any other abnormal signs or symptoms other than loose stools you can change their diet to get them back on track. Plain cooked rice and eggs or chicken can be feed to your dog in place of their regular feed. I have also used oatmeal as an alternative to rice. A dollop of plain, nonfat yogurt mixed in the rice/egg meal will help to balance their system out. You can also use a little bit of Pepto Bismo to help firm things up. You can use the liquid or the tablets crushed up. It's easiest to mix it into their food. One to two tablets or 15 to 30 ml is all right to give even a 10 week old pup. Always start out with the smaller dosage and give it per meal. Once the stool begins to firm up very gradually decrease the amount of Pepto and increase the amount of kibble mixed in with the rice. It should only take a day of so before you see signs of improvement. If you pup or dog is showing any other signs or symptoms besides just loose stools, contact your vet. Also, if it takes more than 7 to 10 days to get your pup or dog back to all kibble, contact your vet.
Be aware of
how much your puppy or dog intakes in the form of treats. While training a puppy,
it is easy to use food to reward the pup for desired behavior. If you find that
you are giving your pup or dog a lot of treats during training then it will
be best to also cut down on the amount of feed used for their meals. Try to
stay away from the "junk food" treats. They are ok to use once in
awhile or as a special treat. But for regular training treats try to use something
that is more healthy. Turkey or chicken hot dogs cut up in nickel size slices
work very well, are economical, and better for your dog than using the commercial
jerky or sausage type treats. Stay away from using raw hide chews because your
puppy or dog can tear off large enough pieces to cause blockage either in their
esophagus or intestine. Be careful with pig ears also. I had a dog that ate
(really swallowed whole) one in about 30 seconds. The choo hooves are usually
ok, but watch to make sure your dog is gnawing on them and not trying to break
off chunks. Nice large knuckle bones are great, small, hard, sharp bones are
a big no-no.