Your Cocker needs a good quality diet with the right balance of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals etc to ensure optimum health and fitness. However opinions vary enormously as to what constitutes a healthy diet for dogs and there can appear to be a bewildering choice of options available for owners. The most important thing to remember is that there is no one diet or one brand of dog food which will suit every Cocker at every different stage of his/her life. What suits one dog very well may not suit another and it is up to every owner to do their own research and find the food which suits their own dog the best at a price they can afford. Here is a very brief summary of the type of diets available (for more advice on feeding your Cocker, visit the forum)
Commercial Complete Dry Food: This type of dry food is designed to provide all the nutrients a dog will need without the need to add or supplement with anything more. It is very popular and undoubtedly convenient for owners since all they have to do is fill their dog’s bowl with the appropriate amount and serve up. There is a huge range of different brands on the market each claiming to be the best available but quality can vary tremendously. If you want to feed your Cocker this type of diet, do your homework first and remember that cheap brands can often contain cheap, inferior quality ingredients; look for a brand which has a real meat such as chicken or lamb listed as the first ingredient, does not contain too much cereal (cereal is a cheap source of energy but some dogs suffer digestive and/or skin troubles if fed food high in cereal content) and has no artificial additives or colourings. Many supermarket brands are cereal-
Commercial Wet Foods: This type of food is supplied in cans or sealed pouches. Some are designed to be fed with biscuit mixers and some are complete and designed to be fed alone. Some dogs find wet foods more appetising than dry foods but as with dry foods, quality can vary a great deal. Some contain cheap ingredients and additives (the brands usually found on supermarket shelves) and some contain only natural ingredients such as meat with vegetables and rice (eg Naturediet). The better quality wet foods are inevitably more expensive than cheap supermarket tinned foods.
Home Prepared Cooked Food: As the name implies, this diet is prepared from scratch at home from either totally freshly prepared ingredients (meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, brown rice etc) or sometimes a combination of fresh ingredients with a commercial biscuit mixer. Since it is essential to get the balance of nutrients right when feeding a home made diet, it’s a good idea to do some research first. Here is some useful guidance for anyone thinking of feeding this kind of home made diet to their dog: http://www.dogaware.com/wdjhomemade3.html
BARF stands for Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food and goes a stage further than the home made diet described above since it involves feeding only raw food and bones, imitating the natural diet of a wild dog’s diet as far as possible. This diet has been frowned upon by many in the veterinary profession (due to the perceived risk from eating bones) but it is becoming increasingly popular with owners who report many benefits for their dogs such as cleaner teeth, improved skin and coat condition, fewer digestive problems etc. Again, if you intend feeding your Cocker this diet, you need to do your research and ideally buy at least one book such as Dr Ian Billinghurst’s Give Your Dog A Bone.
How Much To Feed My Cocker?
Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question as it will depend on a whole range of different factors such as your Cocker’s age, activity levels and whether he/she is neutered or not. Young, active dogs will require more food than a senior, less active dog. Very active dogs (eg working dogs) can require more still to maintain their ideal body weight and give them enough energy for what they’re required to do. On the other hand, neutering can lead to a tendency to put on weight (in some not all Cockers) so less food may needed then.
If you are feeding a commercial dog food, the label will give a guide to how much to feed your dog BUT you don’t need to follow this rigidly as many Cockers will need a lot less than the suggested amounts. Generally it is a case of trial and error – experienced owners rarely measure out exact amounts of food, instead they rely on their eyes and hands to tell them whether their Cocker is the right weight or not and adjust the food accordingly. If you can see your Cocker’s waist and easily feel (but not see) his ribs, then he is probably the right weight. If the ribs are easily visible and the backbone feels prominent, then he is probably underweight. If you can’t feel your Cocker’s ribs at all and he has no waist to speak of, he probably needs to lose a few pounds! But don’t be fooled by a fluffy puppy coat into thinking your young Cocker is fat – you need to really feel under the coat to get the true picture.
How Often To Feed My Cocker?
If you have a new puppy, your breeder should have supplied you with a detailed diet sheet with information on how much and how often to feed your pup. Puppies at 8 weeks will need 4 meals a day but as they grow and their stomachs can accommodate more food, this can be reduced to 3 meals a day at 4 months and then two meals at 6 months old. Many Cockers will be happy to continue with two meals a day as adults although a few may prefer just the one meal.
Spaniel bowls (as demonstrated below) are very popular with Cocker owners. They have high, tapered sides to allow the ears to fall either side of the bowl rather than falling in with the food. This can help avoid messy, dirty ears after meal times!