Feeding and Toileting Routines for your Rescue Dog

Dogs are creatures of habit, and are happiest when they have a familiar schedule or routine to follow. This needn’t be cast in stone, but in general, they should fed and walked at a similar time each day.

There are two main areas in which you should establish routines for your dog: feeding and toileting.


Frequency of meals: How often should you feed your dog? In the early stages, you should feed him as often as the staff did in the shelter. That may be once a day, or twice a day. By doing this, you reduce the chance of diarrhea associated with a change in feeding regimen.

Most people prefer to feed their dogs twice a day. Your dog may already be on this schedule, or you may want to change from a once daily meal to feeding him twice daily. If so, for the first few days divide his meal so that he gets most of his food at the usual time, and only a small amount for his second meal. Over the course of seven to ten days, gradually even out the amount he is being fed so that eventually, he is having two meals a day.

Give your dog only ten minutes to finish his meal, and remove any leftovers. If he doesn’t want it, he has been given too much. Overfeeding him will lead to obesity and its associated health problems: arthritis, heart disease and diabetes.

Similarly, don’t leave food out for your dog to have an all you can eat doggie buffet. This too will lead to excessive weight gain.

Young puppies may need three meals a day, until they are three to four months old.

What to feed your dog: Again, feed your dog the same food he was given in the shelter, to avoid diarrhea. Gradually transition to your preferred food over the course of seven to ten days, by increasing the amount of his new food and reducing the amount of his old food each day.

When it comes to dog food, you get what you pay for. Cheap foods have a higher cereal content, whereas more expensive foods have higher quality ingredients with more meat content. The more pricey foods are also highly digestible so you need to feed them less, and they produce less feces. You don’t need to buy the most expensive food, a kibble that is middle of the range is fine. You may have to experiment a bit to find one you like.

After meals, let your dog rest for an hour or so. Don’t run around with him, or take him for a walk. Dogs, particularly those with a deep chest, are at risk of bloat if they exercise too soon after a meal, and this can be life threatening.

How much to feed your dog: The feeding guide on the bag of dog food is a good starting point when it comes to working out how much to feed your dog. However, it is only a guide. Watch your dog, and adjust how much you feed him based on his body condition.

You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs as you run your hands over his body. Also, his abdomen should be tucked up. If he’s a bit curvaceous, cut back on the amount you are feeding him.


Many people associate treats with love – they give their dogs a yummy snack to show them how much they care. This can be killing them with kindness, as many dog treats are high in fat. Instead of showing your affection with food, why not give him some extra attention or play time? He’ll appreciate that just as much.

If you want to give your dog a treat, keep them from when you want to train him. Your dog will quickly learn to sit, drop and stay if there is a delicious reward for him.


In America, over 90% of dogs live inside the home with their family. This means that if you rescue a dog, you’ll have to go through the same toilet training procedures that you would if you had a puppy. This will ensure he learns exactly where you want him to go to the toilet.

Most dogs are fully toilet trained within a matter of weeks, however it can take longer if he has developed bad habits in the past. Having a regular feeding schedule will allow you to better predict when your dog needs to go outside, and will reduce the risk of accidents.

For quickest results, follow these simple rules for toilet training your dog.

1. Never punish him if you catch him going to the toilet in the wrong place. This will only teach him that he mustn’t be caught, and he will become more secretive in his toileting habits.

2. Don’t punish him if you come home and find an accident. He won’t connect your anger with his toileting, and it won’t teach him anything. Not only that, it will teach him that you are someone to be feared.

3. Never leave your dog unattended inside. Keep him on a leash and bring with you wherever you go. If you see him sniffing and looking like he needs to go to the toilet, take him outside to his toilet area, and praise him enthusiastically when he goes.

4. If you can’t watch your dog, confine him in his crate. Dogs don’t usually soil their den, so he’s not likely to go to the toilet there. Make sure you take him outside regularly and praise him for toileting in the right place.

5. If you life in an apartment, you may prefer to use pre-treated toileting pads which encourage your dog to go to the toilet on them. If so, the training technique is the same.

6. When your dog is reliably toileting in the right spot, you can start to add a verbal command to this behavior. As he goes to the toilet, tell him to “Do your business” or “Potty”. It won’t take long for him to associate the word with going to the toilet, and you can then use the word when you need him to go in a hurry, such as before bed time.

7. Make sure you take him outside to go to the toilet even if it’s raining. He needs to know that he must go outside to the toilet, whether or not the weather is bad.

Dogs feel most secure when they can predict their daily routine. Initially, work out a schedule and be prepared to adjust it in those first few weeks with a new dog. It won’t take long until you have a routine that suits both you and your dog.

Adopting a Rescue Dog – The First Seven Days
By: Dr. Susan Wright & Misty Weaver

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