Feeding your puppy
Feeding your puppy correctly is not difficult or complicated but very important especially during his first year
Dogs don’t choose what they eat! We choose what we think is best for their health and enjoyment.
A puppy is going through its fastest growth period from birth until it’s between 12 and 18 months old. This is when he plays hard and naps often. It is during these early stages of his development that proper nutrition is essential. In their first year of life, puppies grow up so quickly that they age the equivalent of 31 human years.
The correct food start is vital to your dog’s lifelong health. Fortunately the many dog food producing companies all have booklets and nutritional advisors available to help you make the right choices for your dog.
Puppies come in many different shapes and sizes, and their needs are different. Large breed puppies that will weigh more than 25kg when they reach adulthood have different needs than others. They are predisposed to joint disease such as Hip Dysplasia. The amount of food you should feed your puppy will change during his first year of life based on your pet’s weight and body condition. You can usually find an easy feeding guide on your bag of food.
Pedigree puppies obtained from a breeder should continue the food he was fed on. Most breeders supply a sample bag to take home with you. If you want to feed something different then introduce the new food gradually by adding half of the new food to what he has been on. Gradually phase the old food out. Try to stick to a diet that was especially formulated for your breed of dog especially if it is a large breed dog.
Dry vs Wet Puppy food
The first big question is to decide on whether to feed dry kibble/pellets or wet food (also referred to as canned food) or a combination. There is no research to support that one food form is better than the other and so the choice is really based on personal preference.
Dry food can be more convenient since it does not have to be refrigerated and also usually less expensive.
Wet food has much higher moisture content and is less energy dense (fewer Calories per 100 grams) and so you can feed a larger volume of food compared to dry food. This can be helpful for puppies that are always hungry.
In general, it is a good idea to expose your puppy to both forms of food, even if you plan on exclusively feeding one or the other. There may come a time where you need to feed canned (or dry) food and if your puppy turns into a picky eater as an adult dog, he or she may refuse a food type that is unfamiliar.
I recommend hand feeding during the first few weeks at home for the mothering effect it has in telling the puppy that good things come from you! Food that is not given by hand can be stuffed into a Kong and is a great way for the pup to keep itself busy while eating and also when you are absent.
How much and how often?
The actual amounts needed vary depending on age, size, activity level, temperament, product and general health. Puppies less than 3 months of age should be fed at least four times a day and also some by hand. As they grow older from 4 to 6 months they should be given 3 meals a day. However, from experience I have found that the puppy soon lets you know when to reduce the number of feeds. Adult dogs should be fed once or twice. Memphis does not want food in the morning and only eats at night.
When feeding your puppy there are a number of important factors to consider:
- Respect your puppy’s privacy. Don’t disturb him while he is eating.
- Eating and drinking bowls should be placed in a quiet out-of-the-way place.
- Use a bowl that your pup cannot tip over easily.
- Try to follow a set routine for feeding. A dinner gong is a great idea.
- Be flexible. Feeding instructions are mere guidelines.
You can make sure your puppy gets the right amount of food by using meal restricted feeding, where you give him a set amount of food at specific times each day. This is a better feeding method than free choice feeding, where food is available to your pet throughout the day. Personally, I monitor my dogs food dish after 10 minutes so that I can see if the dog is not eating and possibly is unwell.
Never over feed your dog. The quality of the food is more important than the quantity, and the amount depends on the size of the dog.
Items to avoid
- Chocolate: This can be dangerous for a dog.
- Biscuits: High in fat, low in nutrition.
- Dairy products: Could cause diarrhea.
- Bones (from meat and poultry): Can break into shards and stick in the throat or intestines.
- Table scraps: Usually too high in salt and fat.
- Onions: May cause blood disorders.
It is very important that you give your puppy the best nutrition to protect its health. Choose food that will provide a balanced diet. As a rule you should buy what your dog can eat in a month in order to make sure the food has not expired. This will naturally depend on the size of the dog and the food.
Dogs like routine, so establish a feeding routine and stick to it. For many a good time to feed the dog is during family meals. This keeps the dog busy while the rest of the family is eating and stops begging at the table.
They know when their food is being prepared by the sound of their dishes being moved, the noise of the food container and the tin opener being used. Making use of a whistle or dinner gong like tapping a spoon on a tin is a novel way of summoning the dogs and they react very well to the sound.
Now is the time to put them into calm, waiting mode to experience/learn self-control and to build attentiveness by getting them to wait some distance away from where the food is being prepared.
Right from the start dogs also need to learn a very important lesson, that ….”nothing in life is free” and they need to “earn” the food given to them. Depending on their age, you can ask to first make eye contact or sit, or sit- down- sit etc. before you say, “Yes” place the food and leave the room.
Puppies don’t fast. So if your puppy is not eating you may consider going to the Vet.