Feeding a pet can be among the cutest activities you'll ever see, but pets and food can be a minefield for new pet owners. From excess treats to people food to simply too much generosity on your part, you have to be very careful about what your pet ingests. This is not going to be as simple as dumping some food in a bowl twice a day, but face it -- the rewards of seeing your pet's face every day will be worth all the care you take to feed them properly.
Pet Needs Change
Your pet's food needs will change according to age, size, weight, activity level, and even the weather. You must work with your vet to find the right meal schedule and amount pretty much every few months. You'll eventually find some patterns that you can plan for, such as appetite loss in hot weather.
Observe the Pet for Hunger vs. Greed
One behavior that you'll have to deal with immediately is the pet's desire for food. This goes for both dogs and cats; eating food they like is something fun and can alleviate boredom as well as make them feel good. Unfortunately, eating too much food can make any pet fat, so you have to set limits. Your vet will give you a feeding schedule and help you monitor the pet's intake and weight to find the best amount of food to give it. Watch the pet's behavior around scheduled feeding times versus other times when the pet appears to beg for food. If you can find specific actions or sounds that the pet makes at regular feeding times, you'll get a better sense of how the animal acts when truly hungry.
Your Social Life May Change
The uncomfortable truth about owning a pet is that you'll have to deal with people who are determined to feed your pet whatever they want, rather than what you or your vet wants. In many cases, you may have to limit that person's exposure to your pet. In cases where that's not possible, you need to keep an eye on the pet, have someone with you to back you up and run interference, and learn how to take charge of a situation in which someone else is still cluelessly trying to shove food in your pet's willing mouth.
The Ultimate Training
This might not be possible for every dog (let's not get into training cats here), but some dogs can be trained to not take food from anyone except certain people. It's not the easiest task, and you have to start young. But if you are getting a puppy who shows signs of being very good at following commands, you may want to look into training the dog not to accept random treats from random people. Think about it: Police dogs don't accept treats from suspects, right? So you know it can be done.
It sounds like a lot of work, but much of what you learn can be repeated over the years -- once you have coping strategies for fending off extra treats, and once you have a handle on how your pet acts around food, you'll find it gets easier to manage your pet's food intake. Talk to professionals at animal health services for more information.