Friday, 9 May 2008

a dog's diet

Recently someone commented to me that Penny has lost weight. I didn't think it was likely, but I called in at the vet's to weigh her and the results were normal. This incident got me thinking about whether we are feeding her enough. (We are.)

I remember when I first held her, I looked down at the tiny creature in my hands and said nervously to the vet, ''How to people keep them alive?" (You can probably tell that I haven't had children, or I would have known that we all just muddle through.) I asked the vet how much to feed her and he suggested a general amount and said we'd know if we were doing okay.

Well, to judge by her level of activity and her shape, we've got it about right. I was told recently that we should be able to feel the last two ribs quite clearly and there shouldn't be too much fat over the other ribs. The vet said to just compare with how my own ribs feel. I thought that was rather kind of him, given that there's a 'little' more fat on me than I would want to see on Penny.

However, to judge by her starving look, you'd think we never fed her. She sits pitifully by our sides as we prepare meals, probably encouraged in this behaviour by the regular scraps that 'fall' to the floor - ends of carrots and tips of beans, for instance.

It's the walks on lead, though, that bring out the scavenger in her. Sure, if we give the command that means 'walk nicely on lead and don't stray by even half a metre', she doesn't scan the surroundings for possible sustenance. But if we're just mooching along companionably, she realises that it's up to her to collect as much food as she can, for fear that we might forget to ever feed her again. We don't seem to have such a problem when she's off lead - I think she's too busy enjoying the surroundings and keeping an eye out for any areas of mown grass where her humans might toss a ball around.

I've been trying to define what it is that she looks for and the only parameters I can think of are, 'If it's carbon-based you can eat it.' That would include:
sticks (just chew off the bark, don't eat the whole thing);
possum poo;
cat poo;
horse poo, of course;
the occasional dog poo (very mysterious why this happens, but thank goodness it's quite seldom);
rotting leaves of the right kind;
some rotting fruit (she's quite choosy about which ones);
lollies (fortunately easy to spot because of the bright colours, so these are usually wrenched out of her mouth before she can swallow them);
suitable types of grass;
and, best of all (but she has to be VERY QUICK with these because those greedy humans ALWAYS try to wrestle them away from her with lots of angry yelling) cooked chop bones and chicken bones. It's amazing how many cooked bones there are lying around in a seemingly clean suburban landscape.

Oh, I forgot...paper. Paper's good for chewing on and shredding, not so much for actually swallowing.


Johann The Dog said...

Ha! That's a dog for ya! Gracie and I are exactly the same way. Mum thinks that people probably wonder if she even feeds us at all.

Oh, and we like sheep poo too.

Woofs, Johann

The Aphasia Decoder.... said...

When I got Levi a couple of weeks ago, I had the same question for our vet: how do I keep this little guy alive. It's been 16 years since I've had a puppy. His list of things he likes to eat isn't as long as Penny's but it's growing. Penny looks very pretty in her 'begging' photos.

Levi's mom

parlance said...

Johann, thanks for the warning! I hadn't thought to make sure she doesn't duck under a wire fence in the country to scavenge for cow poo. She did once terrify me when I had her (illegally) off lead near a horse paddock. She raced under the lowest wire and I was having conniptions that she might terrify the horse into endangering itself or that she might get kicked.

parlance said...

Aphasia decoder, I love reading about Levi. It's so exciting seeing the world from an infant's perspective. It's interesting what you wrote on your blog about free feeding. We have trained Penny always with food and it's been very successful generally, but I sometimes wonder if that's why she's so fixated on food.

The Aphasia Decoder.... said...

Thanks for the tip you left on Levi's blog about barking and the comment about crating. I shall try that.


parlance said...

I hope the barking is not an issue for long. Sorry to hear about the sore paw!