Compared to even a few years ago, the question of what to feed your Australian Shepherd has gotten complicated with all the choices out there.

Here is a breakdown of your options:

  • Kibble – dry, ball-shaped food available at different locations. Ranges in quality from total junk (what you find at the grocery store) to premium (found at feed shops and pet stores)
  • Moist food – Same range of quality as kibble.
  • Prepared raw – Found in pet stores, this facilitates the back-to-natural food movement without much work but expensive!
  • Raw – The ultimate choice if you are willing to put the work in to ensure your dog eats in a balanced way and is worth your time and effort. . If you are looking for a resource about that, this is the best on the market:Going Rawr!

Personal caveat: what you choose to feed your dog is your own choice. If this breed devolves into one that cannot handle any of the feedings above, that is a fault on the part of the breeder. A healthy, well-bred dog should be able to thrive on any of the quality choices above.

Otherwise, all the information below assumes a conventional diet consisting of primarily kibble:

A breeder will usually tell you what they have fed your puppy, but if not, the following is a safe choice. For puppies six to ten weeks, they should be fed three times a day, and it should be with softened hard food (amount determined by weight, see dog food package, be sure to divide it by the times the puppy is fed each day). To soften hard food, boil hot water and pour over dog food. Add a half-can of dog food, and two tablespoons of cottage cheese. Only let the food sit for a half-hour and take up the rest. When the puppy reaches three months of age, graduate slowly from three, to two feedings a day. Eliminate the softening slowly by not adding as much water, and then eliminate the canned food. Keep the cottage cheese up until five months, at least, because from three months on a puppy may pin his ears back, and his ears may lose shaping that he had earlier. Consult a breeder, if the ears don’t stay, because you can glue or tape them down to keep them that way, but you definitely don’t have to! Also, if a puppy is being fed a high protein food at this time, the pup may be afflicted with puppy panosteitis, or growing pains. It doesn’t affect the dog later in life, but it causes the “puppy” to be lame with growing pains. Its bones are growing too quickly. The food should be changed to a lower protein diet.

Proper Nutrition for your Adult Dog:
Owners of dogs six months or older have a decision to make. Free feeding, or portion? Portion feeding requires a pre measured amount of food on a regular schedule. The amount fed can be controlled and adjusted, for weight loss, gain, or maintenance.

Portion feeding helps regulate for changing situations. It maintains regular appetites, digestion, and regular elimination schedule. It also has a few drawbacks. The dogs can become snatchers, food stealers, and gorgers. They can be more at risk for bloat (Bloat is caused partly by too much dry food swelling in the stomach. It is a deadly affliction).

Free feeding allows the dog to consume small amounts on a frequent basis, the level of nutrients remains constant. It has a quieting affect on dogs. It keeps the dog in a healthy, low weight. It prevents boredom and discourages the eating of stools. Be aware that if more than one Aussie is present, the meeker or more submissive may not get sufficient quantities of food. It also is harder to determine how a dog is eating.

Puppies six months of age should continue to eat growth FOOD. At one year of age, they may gradually be changed to a new food, depending on your needs. Stay away from supermarket foods and try to get the highest quality FOOD you can afford. Any problems you have in diet can usually be remedied by a specific FOOD. How can I decide what food is right for my dog? This is a tough question.

There are many different types of diets. One thing to take into consideration is whether you want to choose a homemade or commercial diet. Usually, a commercial diet is the best and most practical choice, as well as the cheapest. But, if you delight in cooking for your dog and can provide a well-balanced meal designed by a nutritionist, then homemade can be a great choice. For those of you (the vast majority, I’m sure) who prefer a commercial diet, yet another choice pops up. Dry, semi-moist, or canned??

Of the commercial diets, dry FOODS are the least expensive per pound of dry content. They are easily sorted and can be free fed. They provide good exercise for teeth and gums and help prevent accumulation of tartar on the teeth. However, protein is a major component of a dog’s diet and dry foods may not adequately provide the protein that is needed. It also lacks fat. These differences can be made up in supplements for dogs, or oil added to a cup of dry food. An advantage to semi-moist diet, despite the higher cost, is that a greater variety of ingredients can be used. Dogs also tend to enjoy this more than dry, although it is a little harder to find semi-moist diets. Canned diets are the best overall diet-wise, but do not contribute to tartar cleaning the way dry food does. A disadvantage is the high cost of feed.

Look for a food low in fillers, such as corn or rice meal. Look for one high in fat and protein. You will know how your Aussie reacts to it by changes in “regularity,” coat condition, energy level, or itching.

Special Nutritional Requirements for Skin, Coat, or Allergies:
Some problems in Aussies may be associated with food. Beet pul has long been a suspected culprit of changing the color of a dogs’ coat. Some dogs have allergies because of food, some have allergies for other reasons that food might remedy. If they itch for any reason other than fleas, mites, or lice, you might want to try a new food. If you are having coat problems, want to improve coat quality, tone down hyperactivity, reduce illness, then a supplement might be for you. A good supplement contains lecithin for coat building.

Special Nutritional Requirements for the Overweight Aussie:
The only way to reduce weight on an overweight dog is to feed less and exercise more. Lessen food by 1/2 cup. Also, you can mix in a low calorie FOOD into your dog’s regular FOOD. Keep your dog active. Do not take an overweight dog “lying down”. It shortens life and lessens quality. The dog won’t be able to catch frisbees as well. . . it’s just sad. Also, the ole yarn about a fixed dog gaining wait is untrue! They do experience a change in body chemistry, but the only thing that adds fat is overeating and too little exercise.

Special Nutritional during Pregnancy and Nursing:
A bitch should be supplemented and free-fed. She will need 3 1/2 times more FOOD just before giving birth and while lactating. Slowly increase feeding by 1/2 cup during feeding. Feed a the highest quality food possible and watch for diarrhea. When she has whelped, feed her as much as possible, find food that she loves and give it to her, try liver, meat, anything, the sloppier, the better.