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Changing feeding / exercise protocol while dog's primary carer away: advice requested

1056 Views 7 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  skylark
Hi everyone. I would appreciate the input and advice of more experienced heads than mine regarding the advisability of moving my dog to a once-daily evening feed (same amount of food in total) for a two-week period to compensate for less exercise / elimination time. Thank you in advance.

I will be away for nearly two weeks, which means my wife and two kids will become our 18-month-old rescue bitch Nellie's primary carers during that time. This means Nellie will not be short of love and attention, but she will be getting fewer trips out of the apartment - we have no yard, but we have a wonderful dog-friendly park thirty seconds walk away.

Whereas she now typically gets five daily outings*, this will be down to not more than three and sometimes maybe as few as two - with the wife and kids to school and then back through the park, and then again in the evening for a session in the park, not necessarily off-leash. I am therefore thinking of moving her to one feed a day, the evening one, so she will eliminate when she is in the park afterwards.

Nellie has been with us for five months, and is a great little (26-pound) dog; relaxed and compliant at home, she has NEVER peed or pooped in the apartment, and I am keen to help her keep it that way. What do you folks think of the suggested change to one feed a day in such circumstances? Would you make the change a permanent one?

*first thing in the morning for 10 minutes (urinates, sometimes eliminates, too); kibble; with me or the wife and kids to school and then back through the park (sometimes urinates, generally eliminates if she hasn't already done so), about 20-30 minutes; with my 11-year-old son some seven hours later for about 10 minutes (urinates, sometimes eliminates, too); with the family to the park in the evening for a walk and a vigorous off-leash romp with her doggy friends, about 30 minutes-1 hour (urinates, often eliminates, too); kibble; 10 minutes last thing at night.
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In my opinion, sounds like you got a reliably housebroken dog there who isn't going to eliminate in the apartment regardless. She can hold it longer when she needs to. If you have time to step it down from 5 to 4 to 3 over a few days, might make a smoother transition, but that's just pure speculation.

I think once-daily is enough. I've always free-fed my dogs, I understand that not all dogs are good candidates for free-feeding, but it sure is convenient if yours is. Just fill the bowl when you notice it's empty. If you don't notice, they'll probably find a way to get your attention. This might not be the best time to experiment with that, though.
Personally, I would just feed as normal.
I would feed as normal, as well. Dogs notice changes in routine, and, while they typically will adapt, they do get bothered by these things. Nellie will notice your absence (and will miss you!), she will notice if she gets fewer trips outside, and she will notice the change in feeding.
So, in my opinion, I'd try to keep as much the same as possible.
She's still going to need basically the same number of outing to urinate even if you did change her feeding schedule. Looking at her 5 trips outside, I can't really see how you could drop that down to 2 or 3 trips outside while you are gone.
Routine is very important to dogs, and while they can adapt to different routines, it is slow and not really something worth doing for a 2 week trip. Your wife will probably find it far easier to keep with the routine the dog has now than try to fight (battle of wills :) ) with her to change it.

Here's my example... my dog eats twice per day, he gets up at 6:30 am with me, eats then goes outside and usually gets a walk about 7 am. He eats again at 6 pm because that's when I prefer to eat. When he stayed with my father during my 2 week vacation, my father tried hard to convince the dog that he could sleep in till 9 am (based on taking him outside much later in the night than I take the dog out for his last potty). Ha ha ha ha. Yeah, no go. My father resorted to feeding him and letting him out before 7 am and returning to bed for 2 hours which the dog grudgingly allowed... same with dinner, 6:05 and the dog is bowing and dancing and staring you down ready for his meal. When the time changed, he was doing the same routine at 5:05 pm.

Dogs have amazingly reliable body clocks for meals and other routines like walks or when the kids in their families get home from school.
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Yep what Shell said. Routine is best to mantain as close as possible. The more you have a daily routine now and change that while you are gone the worse it'll be for Nellie. You being gone is change enough, your wife should try and keep everything else close to 'normal' for her. I have a pretty solid routine with Jubel so when we stray from that routine he lets me know.

The most amusing is his reaction to me staying up later than the usual 11pm. Starting as early as 10:30pm (thankfully not everyday) I'll start getting the sad puppy dog eyes, leading up to a head in my lap, soft whining, even eventual barking all to say "IT'S TIME FOR BED!" Once I head to bed he settles in right away and goes to sleep. He could have been peacefully sleeping on the couch in the basement but his internal clock told him it's time for bed so he woke up and started reminding ME it's time for bed. Surpisingly he didn't put up much fuss over the time change though.
.... On the other hand, dogs adapt when given a chance. I fed my dog once a day until he was 7-9 yo. I now feed him twice a day. However, when I go away for a week, the sitter feeds him once in the afternoon. Consistency is important, but you can change and redefine what consistent is.

As far as potty, I think it is safe to take the dog out first thing in the morning. If you can take her out at noon, that might be good, but I think she can learn to wait until the afternoon. And, you probably want to take her out about 15 -30 min. before bed.
Thank you very much to everyone for the considered and thoughful feedback and advice; it has been instrumental in helping me make what I think is the best decision for my dog given what I can realistically expect from my family.

Based on the suggestions, I will go with keeping the feedings to two a day, as is, and transitioning to the lower number of outings over the next few days. Since she and I are fairly full-on when it comes to childcare and don't have an accessible family support system, my wife will pretty much be doing the work of two while I am away, as well as continuing with demanding professional studies, so keeping to the same number of daily outings for Nellie is, unfortunately, not feasible.
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