Feeding your Belgian the perfect diet is a goal of all Belgian fanciers. The first step is often simply educating yourself about pet foods and canine diets.
Start by looking at the labels on your Belgian's food. That means ALL the labels, from primary diet to treats. A pet food label is required to have the following information: what species the food is for, the weight of the product, plus the brand name and manufacturer.
The information panel on the container will have the nutritional adequacy statement, a listing of ingredients by weight, the guaranteed analysis, feeding directions and contact information for the company. Right now, only foods designated for weight loss or as "light" or "lite" diets must also list calories. That will change in 2015 when all foods will need to list calories.
The nutritional adequacy statement will say things like "balanced and complete for all life stages", "puppy food" or "adult maintenance". You also want to verify if this statement is based on formulation evaluation or an AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) feeding trial. Formulation evaluations do not actually measure palatability or digestibility - this is a laboratory evaluation with no live dog involved. Ideally your Belgian's food has gone through feeding trials.
The listing of ingredients by weight can be a bit deceptive. Read through the list carefully. If the list reads "chicken, corn meal, corn gluten," - this could mean that there is actually more corn in this food than chicken. The manufacturer simply spread out the various forms of corn on the label. You want a good animal source of protein right there at the top like the chicken in the example above, but you also don't want it overwhelmed by lesser ingredients.
The guaranteed analysis must cover protein, fat, fiber and moisture. The crude protein and fat amounts are given as minimums. The fiber and moisture amounts are given as maximums. If a food label says there is 16 percent crude protein, the food may have more than 16 percent, but not less. If it states 20 percent crude fiber, there can be less than 20 percent but not more. These values are listed "as fed" - not by dry matter weight. This can be deceptive with a canned food. The food may list the crude protein as seven percent. That doesn't seem like much compared to your Belgian's dry dog food at 30 percent protein. A quick rule of thumb is to multiply the protein listed on a canned food by four to give you approximate dry matter values. That seven then becomes 28 percent.
AAFCO approved the addition of calorie values this year to be added to all pet food labels by 2015. These will be listed as Kcal/kg or Kcal/cup or can. This will be valuable information for those who need to watch their Belgian's weight - whether it is to keep a senior Belgian trim or put some weight on an energetic adolescent Belgian. The exact number of calories your individual Belgian will need will vary with sex, activity level and lifestyle, including if he is outdoors in the cold winter playing in the snow for hours or is happily lying on the couch by the fire instead.