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Moderation, that silken string which threads the pearly chain of all virtues, is the keynote of this article. Let not the reader be perturbed by the thought that a special plea for an exclusive diet of fish is about to be urged. Far from it, indeed, for no right-minded person would recommend monotony in the feeding of so precious an animal as the dog.
To hold forth on the attributes and lovable character of the dog is, in a publication such as this, an unnecessary task. Our readers are composed of dog-lovers and enthusiasts. Many of them are financially interested in the successful breeding and exhibiting of dogs. But they are none the less dog-lovers on that account. Just as the musicians loves his melody and the poet rejoices in his verse, so does the dog-fancier, amateur and professional, develop a strong affection for the animal which next to the human being is possessed of the highest grade of intelligence, and was obviously destined as the companion and faithful friend of man.
It is the duty of all dog-owners to feed their animals properly. No animal life, from the human downwards, can flourish unless adequately nourished. Now, in regard to dogs, that does not mean an unlimited quantity of food thrown to them at all times of the day. Rather must the subject of food and feeding be given careful consideration. Nothing makes a dog more susceptible to distemper than low and insufficient. In fact, underfeeding is much more injurious than overfeeding.
Beware of the individual who teaches that dogs must not be given meat. Those who have studied canine dietetics have discovered that a proportion of meat is just as necessary to the dog as to us. That Nature intended it to eat meat is proved by the large carnivorous tooth in the upper jaw. Yet it must not be concluded that the dog can live by meat alone. The most important element in the feeding of dogs is variation.
In all cases the food must be prepared in a clean and appetizing manner. The idea that anything will do for the dog is totally wrong. Tastes vary with dogs as with people. Some of the animals, for instance, refuse porridge. Every dog in normal health, however, enjoys good fish, which is amongst the best of variants in the canine bill of fare. Fresh fish is excellent food, being nutritious and easily digested; and it likewise contains those elements which form good sound tissue and build up the nervous system.
Amongst some of the earliest Roman writings, the dog is spoken of as a partly ichthyophagous animal. The Esquimaux dogs, renowned for their enormous strength which enables them to draw a weight of 120 lbs. over the snow at the rate of seven or eight miles an hour, eat with avidity the remains of the whale and sea-calf; and, doubtless, would enjoy daintier fish if only the poor beasts had the opportunity of getting it.
Modern research and experiments show that in these days a certain amount of fish is necessary, if dogs are to be kept in perfect condition. In some form or other they must have it. Well known biscuit makers are aware of this fact, and many of them include a share of fish in dog biscuits. Other foods prepared for dogs derive their albuminoids and nitrogenous matter from the presence of fish. Although it is not the business of people to disclose the ingredients of valuable proprietary foods, this is pretty well an open secret.
Seeing, then, that fish is necessary, if the dog is both to be and shown at its best, it is a logical conclusion that fresh fish, properly cooked, is the most advantageous way of giving it to the animal. It is well known that salted or cured fish is not nearly so beneficial as the fresh varieties; independently of the fact that the former is provocative of excessive thirst. Assuming that the dog is to be cared for in a thoroughly efficient manner, its fish meals must be prepared on the same principles as if for table use. Quite erroneous is the idea prevalent among so many, that fish which is not quite fresh enough for humans will just do for the dog. The poor beast may eat it, but it will not do it any good.
Therein lies the mischief. That which barely satisfies the craving of Nature for food is not the slightest use for making the dog look well for show purposes. You must not judge a man by his coat; but the dog’s coat, being part of the animal itself, is indicative of its state of health. A well fed dog presents a beautiful appearance, is alert and sprightly, has keenness in its eye – in fact, it is the best animal which receives the best attention from the judges. And the dog that is well fed is the one whose owner gives it a varied diet, including, of course, a fair proportion of fresh fish, which nowadays is easy enough to obtain. Bits from the table, half hot and half cold, will not do. The dog’s fish must be specially prepared and cooked for it; given at the proper time and in a cleanly manner, as trained dogs are clean of habit in more ways than one.
The feeding of dogs is not a subject one can master in a moment. The appetite of Hounds varies enormously; so does that of Great Danes and Toy dogs. Only by long and careful study is the expert made. Some animals enjoy fish with rolled oats or ground hominy; others thrive on fish and bread. Excess of meat is to be avoided, as too much carnivorous diet is most injurious to the kidneys, placing too much strain on those organs. That is one of the reasons why a change, such as fish and meat with farinaceous food alternately, is so good for the dog.
All dog-owners, more especially those who are desirous of success at shows, should study carefully how best to feed their dogs. Most people appreciate the fundamental principles, but is on matter of detail where in is apt to go wrong. Fish diet, which has been proved so desirable, requires special knowledge for judicious administration. The best and soundest advice, leading to correct feeding and its good results, is to consult those who have specially studied the subject. They, and they only, can provide both precept and practice.
Excerpted from Dog World magazine, January 1916, Vol. 1, No. 1. For back issues of Dog World, click here.