In a nutshell, your chihuahua’s daily food allowance is the total amount of food that your dog eats across the day. Which sounds simple enough. But people get very confused when it comes to training their dogs and what they should be feeding.
When training their dog owners tend to move towards ‘treats’ which they feed on top of breakfast or dinner. For a large dog, you might get away with this for a while, but a small breed like a chihuahua, would quickly get fat and unhealthy.
The truth is food is food to a dog, they lick their bums and eat poop. They don’t know the difference between a ‘turkey & cranberry sausage’ treat and their dinner. The problem with treats is they are often full of rubbish, dubious ingredients, chemicals, and preservatives. They come under the heading of ‘ultra-processed foods. Some treats do appear to have better ingredients than others, but they won’t have the full nutritional profile that your dogs need in their diet. (Assuming your dog eats a healthy fresh or raw diet in the first place).
Then there is the cost, the average owner will spend *£34/$38 a month on dog treats. Not food, treats! That’s a staggering £400 a year per dog. Dog treat marketing is aimed squarely at the owners. This money would be better spent on better nutrition.
To train our dog in a healthy way we need to reframe their daily food allowance. Be more creative with food and use it to help with training, enrichment, and mental health. Studies have shown that dogs prefer to work for their food. It’s called contrafreeloading. The need and desire to scavenge and hunt for dinner is hardwired into most dogs and when we drop their food into a bowl in the morning and evening, we do them a huge disservice.
How to use your chihuahua’s daily food allowance.
Decide how much your chihuahua should eat across the day and know the amount. This means have a scale and weigh it out, don’t try and dish it by eye. Also don’t take any notice of the feeding guide on a packet as they are deliberately vague.
How much you feed will depend on the life stage of your dog and whether they have been neutered or not. As a starting point, an adult neutered dog will eat about 3% of their correct body weight. If you’re not sure ask you vet. I say correct body weight because if your dog is overweight or underweight you need to know what your dog’s correct weight is and feed for that and not the weight they are now.
Make dinner more interesting.
Use lick mats and Kongs to make food more interesting. Lots of owners think Kongs are just for peanut butter, but squish some of their food into it and let your dog work for it. Kongs can be used to keep your dog busy when an event is happening that might over excite or worry your dog.
Minnie is Queen Kong and can mine one in minutes. You can see in the video how she is thinking the best way to get the food out as quickly as possible. So not only does it keep her engaged for longer it’s good for her brain
Licking is naturally calming for a dog, working a lick mat is calming and keeps your dog engaged in their dinner long after the initial food has been eaten. (Don’t leave the mat down if your dog is going to chew it.
Scatter feeding is another good way to feed your chihuahua, it pays into mental health, can be used to keep you dog busy is something is happening and is a good activity when they are looking a bit sad or bored. We use this a lot. It helps prevent rehearsal of excited behaviour at the door if they are busy in the garden or on a snuffle mat.
Are you training your chihuahua today?
If you have some training scheduled or are going for a walk and want to have some food on hand hold back some of their daily food allowance back. If you are raw feeding this can be problematic, just substitute it for cooked chicken or pork which is easier to handle. A dog can switch between raw and cooked food with no issues.
Designing your chihuahua’s daily food can look a bit like this. You can download your own version of this here.
What’s excluded from your chihuahua’s daily food allowance?
The only thing I exclude as part of our chihuahua’s daily food allowance are long-term chews like hooves or raw bones. These aren’t really ingested in the same way as food. Bones are a super treat for your chi but take the marrow out first as it’s very rich and can cause an upset belly.