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» Feeding

Introduction  | Characteristics  | Standard  | Grooming  | Feeding  | Training  | HealthFinding your Pyr

General Feeding Introduction
Ah, feeding time at the Great Pyrenees corral. The Great Pyrenees is a big dog and you will need to take out a second mortgage to afford the food bills right? Actually, pound for pound the Great Pyrenees has a very moderate appetite, which is far less than other large breed dogs. This can be attributed in part due to their calm disposition and temperament and also to their lower than average metabolism. These greatly aid in keeping the monthly food bills manageable. In fact, many owners find that their Pyr eats less than a medium sized Golden Retriever would eat. Roughly, an adult Pyr will consume approximately 1.5-2 40lb bags of food per month. Puppies will require somewhat more during their development and first year to year and a half of growth. Individual appetites can vary somewhat from dog to dog and some Pyr's have been known to tell you how much they want you to feed them. They do this by governing their food intake themselves. Not all Pyr's will do this however and some will consume anything that is put before them. Seasonal activity also affects food intake. In the hot summer months, Pyrs will prefer to quietly lie in the shade or in a nice, deep hole that they have excavated in your yard and will generally not be very active until the evening cool down. This will cause their summer appetites to be less than average. They are far more active in the cooler months and accordingly, their food intake will be at its peak.

Feeding your Pyr is no different than any other dog. You will need to feed it a well balanced and quality food that will aid it in developing and maintaining good health and shiny coat. A quality dry feed is all that is required, with the occasional treat. Some owners recommend a raw feed, however generally this does not offer a balance of vitamins and nutrients and you will be better off giving your dog dry feed. You should avoid frequently feeding moist canned food, these contain a much greater amount of sugar which can cause plaque buildup and eventual dental problems. They can also cause your Pyr to become finicky and refuse to eat less appealing types of food. The occasional canned food treat can be mixed into dry feed to make it more appealing. Dry food can also slightly be moistened to increase its appeal.

A quality dry feed, with adequate water is all that your Pyr requires to keep it in top form.

Required Feeding Supplies

Feeding Bowls

You will need to acquire at least 2 large quality feeding bowls for your Pyr. One for food and one for water. These come in many shapes and sizes and generally are available in stainless steel, ceramic or plastic. The different compositions have pros and cons to each. Stainless steel bowls are inexpensive, durable, easy to clean and less prone to bacteria growth, however they are lightweight and prone to sliding around, which may present a problem if feeding your dog indoors on a smooth surface. Plastic bowls are also inexpensive and less prone to sliding around, however they are prone to breakage become brittle during cold weather and are also prone to scratches and gouges, which can harbor bacteria. Ceramic bowls are heavy and slide resistant and easy to clean, however they can easily be broken or chipped, which also can harbor bacteria. We generally recommend stainless steel feeding bowls in most situations. These also are available with rubber bottoms, which make them more slide resistant. Ensure that you purchase the large sized bowls. Automated feeding stations are not recommended as Pyr's are very intelligent and resourceful and will quickly figure out how to take them apart, which can lead to over-indulgence.

Food Bin

A food bin is an inexpensive and wise investment, especially if the dog food is kept in a location that your dog has access to. Remember, your Great Pyrenees is highly intelligent and resourceful with keen senses. They will very quickly determine the source of the tasty food they get everyday, and will help themselves to an unscheduled meal if allowed to. Food bins are designed to hold an entire 40lb bag of dog food and it will help keep it cool, fresh and free of contaminants. Most important of all, it will help keep your Pyr from an unhealthy and unwanted all you can eat episode. Many of the quality bin brands will come with a latch to secure it closed.

Types of Feed

There are 3 main types of commercial dog feed on the market. Classified within these primary types are a great number of different brands, all with pros and cons. The general rule of thumb, that you get what you pay for does not apply for commercial dog food. Purchasing the most expensive feed does not mean it is the best, in fact in many cases it can be inferior to more moderately priced food. Sometimes it will be required for you to try and few different brands before you find the one that best suits your needs and your dogs. Ideally, you are looking for a feed that is well balanced, offers all of your dog's nutritional requirements, is fairly low in preservatives and is affordable. Once you have finalized your choice, it is recommended that you stick to one brand as alternating brands can cause digestion problems and loose stools.

Dry Food:
This is the most common type and is best suited for everyday feeding. It should provide virtually all of your dog's nutritional requirements. Dry feed also helps to keep plaque and tartar growth to a minimum. There are many different brands of dry food on the market. As the great Pyrenees is a large breed dog and grow very quickly, you will need to ensure than the type of feed you purchase is suitable for large breed dogs. Many of the brands offer a special "large breed formula", which are intended to help minimize muscle and joint problems. If your dog is under 24 months of age, you should also be selecting a "large breed puppy formula", which help regulate your Pyr's growth spurts, so as to minimize growing pains. If you Pyr is over the age of 8, you can also select a quality "large breed senior formula", which contain extra nutrients to help with age related problems such a bone and joints. Most dry feeds have a prolonged shelf life, usually a year or more and should be stored in a cool, dry place.

Semi-Moist Food:
Semi-moist food is moist, contains up to 40% moisture and usually comes is resealable packages. Pound for pound, it is substantially more expensive than dry food and has a limited shelf life. It needs to be kept in a cool, dry place to avoid evaporation. Semi-moist food is very palatable and can be mixed with regular dry feed for an occasional treat. It does contain a much higher degree of preservatives however and some dogs may have digestion problems while using it, resulting in loose stools. If you intend to later switch to dry feed, it is generally not recommended to feed semi-moist food for prolonged periods as it may cause your dog to become finicky.

Canned (Moist) Food:
The third type of dog food on the market is canned dog food. Like dry feed, canned food comes in many shapes, sizes and brands. Although it has a long shelf life, once opened it will dry out and spoil quickly, even if refrigerated. Canned food is far more expensive than regular food, but can be mixed with dry food for an occasional treat. Containing up to 75% water or more, some brands are low in preservatives, however higher in sugar content, which will lead to an increase in tartar and plaque if used frequently.

Home Prepared Meals:
Some owners prepare their own meals for their dogs. This can offer some advantages and many disadvantages, especially if improperly prepared. Great care must be taken to properly prepare balanced meals and a nutritionally sound diet. If your chosen diet is not properly balanced, your dog's health will suffer. We strongly recommend you consult with your vet before making a decision to go this route to ensure you develop a proper strategy and diet plan. This is definitely not an aspect of your dog's development that you want to depend on trial and error. Home prepared meals are more costly than many other types of feed, however if well-balanced meals are properly prepared, it can help ensure that you meet all your dogs nutritional requirements.

Feeding Guidelines

General Puppy Feeding (>18 months of age)

Any responsible breeder will not release puppies to their new home prior to 8 weeks of age. Breeders that release before this should be definitely avoided. Between 8-10 weeks of age, the puppy will be ready for its new home and to experience the world that awaits it. At this time, the puppy should have been fully weaned for at least 1-2 weeks and on a dry food diet. From the time to bring him home to at least 12 months of age, his diet is critical. Improper feeding or diet will result in a poorly developed adult dog, so ensure that you offer it a well balanced and healthy feed to ensure proper muscle and skeletal development. From the day you bring him home to approximately 3 months of age is the most critical time. For best results, choose a high quality large growth puppy formula. This will meet all his nutritional requirements and regulate his growth cycle. The actual feeding amount can vary greatly with each dog, depending on his size, weight, age and activity level.

From 8 weeks-12 months is the most critical time to ensure you feed your puppy high quality, well balanced meals that meet all their nutritional requirements. This is definitely not the time to begin experimenting with different feeds.

Great Pyrenees Puppy Feeding Cycle

8 weeks - 3 months old:
Feeding 4 times daily, each moderate portions, dry food (large breed puppy formula) can be mixed with warm water or moist food. You can begin with a 1 1/2-2 cups of dry feed per portion. This will help allow you judge your particular dogs requirements. If he completes his meal quickly with no problems, you can begin slightly increasing the portions. On the other hand, if he doesn't complete the meal, decrease the portions. Always have plenty of water on hand as well.

3-6 months old:
Continuing with the large breed puppy formula, the daily portions should now be increased in size, but decreased in frequency. 3 medium portions per day, morning, noon and night. Typically add 1/2-1 cup to your previous portions and use the same guidelines to determine your dogs needs. Always have plenty of water on hand as well.

6-12 months old:
Still continuing with the large breed puppy formula, the portions should now again be increased and the frequency decreased to 2 feedings per day, morning and night. Always have plenty of water on hand as well.

Young Adult Feeding (12-24 months of age)

12-18 months old:
By one year of age, you dog will have a achieved a good majority of his adult growth of height & weight. The daily feedings should be reduced to once daily and the portion increased. Always have plenty of water on hand as well. Use the same guidelines as before to determine the dogs needs.

Typically by this age, your dog will consume approximately the same as a highly active medium breed dog, such as a collie or retriever. Some dogs will eat as much is put before them, so use caution not to overfeed, which will lead to obesity. A healthy pry at this age, should be lanky and lean, not fat or skinny. You should be able to feel the rib cage by running your fingers long its body, but they should be be obvious to the naked eye from a distance. A small amount of tuck is normal, but it should not be excessive, such as a border collie. A small difference in height at the back compared to the front is normal at this age.

At one year of age, you now have a choice. You can continue him on large breed puppy formula to 18-14 months or you can switch him onto adult feed. If you will be putting him on home prepared meals, and you have a well balanced diet and recipes, you can begin anytime after 12 months of age. Be sure to closely monitor his development, including height, weight and energy levels. Excessive weight gain, loss or lack of energy indicates a problem, possibly due to an improperly balanced diet. Be sure to check his teeth regularly as well, for plaque and tartar buildup. Rapid buildup is usually an indication or excessive sugar in the diet. If any problems develop, switch him onto adult formula.

After 1 year, your Great Pyrenees will have achieved a majority of its adult height & weight. It is normal for a young dog's gait to be clumsy at this age and its hindquarters may be slightly out of proportion with its front quarters. This should balance itself out by 18-24 months of age. Your dog will continue to grow gradually, with full adult height and weight is achieved by 3 1/2 - 4 years of age. Typically, it begins to achieve mental maturity by 24 months of age, by which time, its guardian instincts will begin to emerge.

Adult Feeding (18 months - 8 years of age)

Feeding your adult Pyr is the same as the transition from young adult to adult feeding. Once a day feeding, healthy portion with plenty of water. Best times for feeding will be early morning or late evening, especially during the hot summer months as a Pyr will typically have little interest in meals during hot periods of the day. Dry feed is the best to minimize dental problems. Check teeth at least twice a year for tartar or plaque deposits, more often if feeding moist food. Ensure you use a quality well-balanced feed that is designed for large breed dogs. Some feeds are marketed for all sizes of dogs, others are not. Read the packaging and ingredients carefully. If it does not mention that it is designed for large breeds or all size dogs, assume that it is not.

As with your puppy feeding guidelines, once you have found a quality feed that meets all your dogs needs, as well as your budget, stick with it. Dog's are not like humans and are creatures of habit, they do not need variation in their diet, in fact it can be unhealthy and cause digestion problems and loose stools. Additionally, avoid the temptation to feed your dog scraps from the table or leftovers, which can also unbalance the dog's diet and be a cause of numerous problems from excess gas to obesity.

The adult period in your Great Pyrenees life begins after 18 months of age. This period is accompanied by a rapid slowdown in its growth cycle, where it will slowly fill out over the next 2-2 1/2 years. During this time, its natural instincts will begin to develop, although it will still retain a very puppy-like behavior in many respects. By this time, you dog should be fully trained in obedience and basic commands, as well as fully socialized with both people and other animals. Typically, by 4 years of age, your dog will be fully developed, both physically and mentally.

Senior Feeding (8+ years of age)

The Great Pyrenees unique slow metabolism helps them live considerably longer than most other dogs their size. 10-12 years is the average life span, with some living up to 14 years or slightly longer. The onset of your dogs senior years is a gradual process that usually begins sometime after 8 years of age. you will notice a gradual slowdown and marked decrease in activity. Where your dog used to bounce up to you when called, it will begin to come much slower. As with the puppy years, your Great Pyrenees golden years brings about changes that require increased vitamins and nutrients in order to help minimize bone, joint and muscle problems. This can be achieved through use of specially designed "senior formula" feed that will meet your aging dogs changing needs. Additional food and vitamin supplements can also help if your Pyr is having difficulty getting around or shows an onset of arthritis. Combined with regular vet checkups, this will help ensure your Pyr sticks around for as long as it can.

Your Pyr's golden years will begin sometime after 8 years of age and will show a gradual, but noticeable decrease in activity and energy levels. The senior Pyr requires additional vitamins and nutrients to help minimize age related problems, such as bone, muscle and joint problems. Hearing and eyesight related problems can also occur as your Pyr reaches the end of its life span. Increased vet checkups and a healthy diet can make a big difference as well as special vitamins and supplements available from your vet. These can help increase your older dog's mobility and energy levels.

Next: Great Pyrenees Training

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