General Feeding Recommendations
Briards are a highly active, deep chested breed. All feeding recommendations here should help to significantly improve the quality of your dogs life. As with people, proper diet is a key ingredient to good health.
One of the most critical aspects in keeping Briards healthy is keeping them at an ideal body weight. Obesity is an epidemic in America and it has crossed the species lines into our pets. Recent studies have shown that a calorie-restricted diet can lead to a longer and healthier life for your dog, with reduced or delayed onset of arthritis or other joint problems in older dogs. One large pet food manufacturer has recently reduced the recommended portions on all their foods, and launched an ad campaign that touts their food, fed in the appropriate amounts, can extend your dog's life up to two years.
This is why, regardless of what you feed, we do not recommend free feeding. Also, refusing to eat can be the very first sign of an ill Briard. We do recommend multiple smaller daily meals, rather than one larger single feeding. We feed our adult Briards two daily meals, and try to space them 12 hours apart. Portion control is also important, feeding a measured amount of food, not just pouring kibble into the bowl. When we feed dry food, we combine it with enough warm tap water to fully float most of the kibble.
We feed our Briard puppies under 4 months of age three times daily. When you take your puppy home, we will send along enough food for several days, with a schedule of how many daily meals they are eating, and how much they are being fed for each meal.
We recommend that you do not make a food change for the first two weeks in your home, to avoid any stomach upset during what is already a somewhat stressful time for your Briard puppy. In general, it is not a good idea to make a sudden change in the type of food you are providing for any age dog. If you wish to change your dog's diet, it should be done gradually, first substituting a small amount of the new food for the current food, and then shifting the ratio of new to old over the period of a week, ending with feeding all new food.
Do not feed your dog from an elevated bowls. Contrary to popular folk lore, raised feeding platforms increase the incidence of bloat over 200%. Also important to your dog's health is type of bowl use to provide food and water. Plastic bowls get micro-scratches that can harbor bacteria and result in a contact dermatitis. Either ceramic or stainless steel bowls avoid that issue.
Fresh, clean water should be available to your Briard at all times. Be sure to wash the water bowl daily.
Selecting the Right Dog Food
In addition to how much you feed your dog, another very important consideration is the quality and type of ingredients in the dog food you choose.
In the wild, dogs are opportunistic omnivores. Meat sources such as whole small animals, and fruits would be potential sources of nutrition. Grain would not be part of their natural diet. Yet many commercial dog foods today rely heavily on grain or gluten. How do you select a food that will maintain your dog's health and supply the nutrition they need to be active and fit?
Sarah Irick (aka Fredalina), a Great Dane owner and rescue volunteer, has developed a dog food rating system to help people select a good quality food for their pet. While not scientific or veterinarian advocated, this system has been used as a guide by many people in the show dog and performance event communities.
Giving Dry Dog Food a Grade
Start with a grade of 100 points
1) For every listing of "by-product", subtract 10 points
2) For every non-specific animal source ("meat" or "poultry", meat, meal or fat) reference, subtract 10 points
3) If the food contains BHA, BHT, or ethoxyquin, subtract 10 points
4) For every grain "mill run" or non-specific grain source subtract 5 points
5) If the same grain ingredient is used 2 or more times in the first five ingredients (i.e. "ground brown rice", "brewer's rice", "rice flour" are all the same grain), subtract 5 points
6) If the protein sources are not meat meal and there are less than 2 meats in the top 3 ingredients, subtract 3 points
7) If it contains any artificial colorants, subtract 3 points
8 ) If it contains ground corn or whole grain corn, subtract 3 points
9) If corn is listed in the top 5 ingredients, subtract 2 more points
10) If the food contains any animal fat other than fish oil, subtract 2 points
11) If lamb is the only animal protein source (unless your dog is allergic to other protein sources), subtract 2 points
12) If it contains soy or soybeans, subtract 2 points
13) If it contains wheat (unless you know that your dog isn't allergic to wheat), subtract 2 points
14) If it contains beef (unless you know that your dog isn't allergic to beef), subtract 1 point
15) If it contains salt, subtract 1 point
1) If any of the meat sources are organic, add 5 points
2) If the food is endorsed by any major breed group or nutritionist, add 5 points
3) If the food is baked not extruded, add 5 points
4) If the food contains probiotics, add 3 points
5) If the food contains fruit, add 3 points
6) If the food contains vegetables (NOT corn or other grains), add 3 points
7) If the animal sources are hormone-free and antibiotic-free, add 2 points
8) If the food contains barley, add 2 points
9) If the food contains flax seed oil (not just the seeds), add 2 points
10) If the food contains oats or oatmeal, add 1 point
11) If the food contains sunflower oil, add 1 point
12) For every different specific animal protein source (other than the first one; count "chicken" and "chicken meal" as only one protein source, but "chicken" and "fish" as 2 different sources), add 1 point
13) If it contains glucosamine and chondroitin, add 1 point
14) If the vegetables have been tested for pesticides and are pesticide-free, add 1 point
We recommend that you feed a food that qualifies as a "Grade A diet".
94-100+ = A
86-93 = B
78-85 = C
70-77 = D
69 = F
Optional Feeding Enhancement: Dietary Supplements
Most meat, fruit, vegetable and unmodified starch (potatoes, rice) table scraps are fine to add to your dogs diet, provided it does not make the overall food offered exceed the recommendations regarding calorie restriction-- basically for anything you add, you should subtract some kibble. We recommend never replacing more than 25% of your dog’s kibble with leftovers, and if your dog starts leaving the kibble, put them back on straight kibble until they relent.
Unless a dog is acutely or chronically ill, a dog will never starve themselves. If your Briard is leaving food at meals, then he or she may be self regulating. However, it is important to know your dog, as loss of appetite can be an indicator of the onset of many different illnesses.
Never Feed your Dog these Foods
The following foods are either poisonous or not healthful for dogs. You should not feed these foods to your dog, or allow your dog to have access to them where unintended consumption could take place.
- Onions and garlic
- Grapes or raisins
- Macadamia nuts
- Pear pips, the kernels of plums, peaches and apricots, apple core pips
- Potato peelings and green looking potatoes
- Moldy/spoiled foods
- Yeast dough
- Coffee grounds, beans & tea (caffeine)
- Tomato leaves & stems (green parts)
- Broccoli (in large amounts)
- Cigarettes, tobacco, cigars
- Xylitol (sweetener often found in sugar-free gum)