My dog has had breakfast and dinner, and chews or treats in between, ever since we stopped the three-meal schedule of puppyhood, some time in her adolescence. (Dogs don't have adolescence as humans do, but there is still a difference between a young puppy and a fully mature, seasoned dog, with 'adolescence' bridging the gap.) Now, at 9 years old, she is what is known as a 'senior' Boxer. She is still physically active and gets lots of walks, but she doesn't bounce around like she used to, and she has put on weight. Her appetite seems to have slightly declined, and I also reduced her portions, but until recently she was still getting treats between meals, partly because so many of our games involve them (chasing a bag with nothing in it wouldn't have any appeal). Even with the portion reduction, I am still faced with the problem of how to bring down her weight. As in humans, being heavy puts extra stress on her joints, and is not good for her health in general.
Cutting out treats entirely didn't seem a good option because she asks for them between meals, when clearly her blood sugar is dipping a bit and after a walk she's feeling hungry. I didn't want to make her miserable, and it is important in dogs -- even though their metabolism is slower than ours -- to keep their energy on an even keel. In the summer I had decided to give her three smaller meals a day, instead of two, on the puppy schedule. But we came back from vacation, life got in the way, and I seem to have forgotten about that plan. Now, however, I have an even better one.
The solution is four meals a day -- which actually means less food, not more in total, while sweetheart's hunger is kept at bay. I break up her original breakfast and dinner into two further meals, the first larger than the other. So she gets a smaller breakfast and then at midday has the balance of that breakfast to keep her metabolism stoked and to allow us to skip the usual treat.
In the afternoon, it’s the same thing: around 4:30 she has most of what used to be her final meal, and then at 7:30, she has a mini-meal to round out the quantity. Again, we skip the treat she might have had instead. Even if she still has a treat or two at some point during the day, her food intake overall remains below what it used to be. She feels no sense of deprivation, and I know that everything she ingests is of the highest nutritional quality.
Will she lose weight on this plan? I believe so. Even though I don’t agree that ‘a calorie is a calorie’, it’s hard to get fatter on less food. I’m hoping soon to see a slimmer darling — not because I don’t adore her as she is but because it’s better for her health and longevity.