Everything You Need to Know About Feeding a Puppy
Just as babies have different dietery needs to adults, puppies also have special requirements.
Food needs to be nutritional and provide for all the dietery requirements of your puppy, but possibly even more importantly, for proper development of muscles and bones, puppies need certain minerals and vitamins in bigger quantities than adult dogs.
At the same time, too much of some minerals might also cause issues later in your puppy's life.
Commercial Food or Home Cooked?
This is a question that evokes huge debates whenever it comes up.
Some argue that manufacturers try to maximize profits by including all kinds of potentially dangerous substances. I've even seen claims that some manufacturers include animals that had to be euthenized.
This seems to be a pretty good argument for cooking your puppies food yourself, but that has other risks.
You can't guarantee that your puppy are getting enough of all the required vitamins and minerals. For example, if a puppy doesn't get enough Calcium, he could suffer from joint problems when he gets older.
For commercial foods, there are strict standards that they have to comply with, and you know that the amount of vitamins and minerals are right.
Of course, not all food is equally good. Talk to your vet and make sure that you are feeding your puppy the best food you can.
Canned or Dry Food?
This is usually a matter of choice, but personally, I feel there are more advantages to dry food.
- Canned foods are more palatable, but it contains a lot of water. This means that you are effectively paying for water.
- Canned foods are also more expensive than dry foods, so especially for bigger breeds, it can cost a lot more than dry food.
- Dry food is easier to store.
So, especially for bigger breeds, dry food is a lot more economical, just make sure that your puppy always has water available as well.
For dry food, just make sure you store it in a cool dry place. If possibly, store it in a sealable container as well, since it stays fresher.
For canned food, once opened, you need to keep it refrigerated, but don't keep it for more than a couple of days, as it can go bad quite quickly.
If you are feeding refrigerated food, take it out of the refrigerator 30 to 60 minutes before feeding, since your puppy won't want it if it's too cold.
Your puppy obviously needs to have clean water available all the time. Make sure you change the water every day.
Puppies will need to drink often, and you'll notice that they drink a lot. This is because they haven't figured out when they've had enough yet.
Just keep in mind that this water will go straight through them in a pretty short time, so you need to watch them carefully after they've had water.
Exercise is very important for puppies to develop properly, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
Keep in mind that your puppies joints are still developing, and as such, the exercise should be in moderation (Especially in bigger breeds. Large breed puppies should not be encouraged to jump until they are at least 12 months old.)
Around 4 months of age, puppies will start teething. This is when their puppy teeth are being replaced with permanent teeth.
This is often uncomfortable and even painful for your puppy, so they might be less inclined to eat. If you are feeding your puppy dry food and they are refusing to eat, you might want to try softening their food with some warm water to make it easier for them.
Quite often you will also find that they start chewing on everything during this period. If they do, give them some ice to chew on, or even take a clean rag, wet it, wring it out and put it in the freezer to freeze, then give that to your puppy to chew on. The cold ice aleviates their discomfort and gives them something acceptable to chew on.
When You Get Your Puppy
When you bring your puppy home from the breeder, ask them if they can give you half a kilo or so of the food the puppy is currently eating.
The reason for this is the fact that any sudden changes in food is likely to upset the puppies stomach and cause diarhea, which is not only unpleasant for you, but could also be dangerous for your puppy.
After you've decided what food you will be giving your puppy, You'll be mixing the 2 foods together for the first 5-6 days while your puppy gets used to the new food.
- What you want to do is start with 90% of the old food with a tiny bit of the new food on the first day.
- Then on the second day, 75% of the old food and 25% of the new food.
- Day 3: 60% old food and 40% new food.
- Day 4: 40% old food and 60% new food.
- Day 5: 25% old food and 75% new food.
- Day 6: 10% old food and 90% new food.
- From day 7, you'll feed the puppy only the new food.
How Often Should I Feed My Puppy?
Puppies younger than 2 months old need to be fed small meals at least 4 times a day.
For puppies 2 - 6 months old, you can generally feed them 3 times a day.
At about 6 months old, you'll notice that the puppies start becoming less interested in lunch, and you can start making their lunchtime meals smaller and breakfast and supper bigger. For giant breeds (Bigger than 40kg or about 90 pounds), you should ideally continue feeding them 3 meals a day for their entire life.
Eventually you'll end up feeding smaller breeds 2 times a day and giant breeds 3 times a day.
Puppies should NEVER have food available all the time. Firstly because they will eat until they can't fit anything else, and secondly because it could cause behavioral problems later on.
When Should I Feed My Puppy?
This isn't really important. You can feed your puppies at any time, but you should try to always feed at the same times.
Personally, my puppies get their food at about 7am and 6:30pm. When they were younger, they got lunch at about 12:30.
You just want to make sure that they get breakfast fairly soon after they wake up (They've spent 12 hours without food you know!), and they shouldn't get supper too late.
Keep in mind that dogs need the energy at dusk and dawn, since this is when they are most active (I call this crazy hour).
How Much Should I Feed My Puppy
How much you feed depends on your dogs breed and weight, as well as the food you're feeding, so it's impossible to say exactly how much.
Any commercial food will have a table on the bag showing yu how much you should feed at a specific weight.
Another point that affects how much you should feed is how active your dogs is. As such, you should use the tables as a guideline, but also check your puppy at least once every week. You should be able to feel their ribs and to see the outline of their ribs in the sun, but you shouldn't be able to easily see their ribs all the time.
The easiest mistake to make is also the one that can easily be the most damaging. If you get food meant for a small breed puppy and feed it to a large breed, the puppy won't get enough Calcium, which could cause joint problems (Especially in dogs like Labradors that are prone to these problems).
So make sure you are feeding the right food. Not only the right breed, but also make sure you are getting food specifically meant for puppies.
Another common mistake is leaving food out for your puppy all the time. If you do this, your puppy will eat more than they should. They just don't know better, and it is genetically built into a dog to eat food when it is available. If your puppy hasn't finished his food in 5 minutes, take it away. You can always try giving it to him again in an hour.
Giving a puppy milk or dairy products is another common mistake. You take them from the breeder, and because they aren't getting milk from their mother anymore, so you figure you'll give them some milk. This is wrong! Milk will likely cause diarhea and an upset stomach for your puppy. If they get too dehydrated, this could be fatal.
Is It OK to Feed Human Food?
In a word, NO!
A lot of human food isn't good for your puppy, and even the food that isn't necessarily bad for them could cause problems simply because they are getting too much food, or too much of certain things.
For example, too much of the wrong kinds of fat could cause liver failure in a puppy. By giving them that nice big piece of fat you could off your steak, you could kill them! This isn't very likely to happen, but is it worth the risk?
Some puppies will become aggressive and guard their food once you give it to them. You have to stop this immediately.
If a puppy starts growling when you approach their food bowl, tell them "No!" and take the food away, then ignore them for several minutes. Then try giving their food and approaching them again 15 minutes later. Keep doing this until they ignore you when you approach them.
Once you can do this reliably, start taking food out of their bowl (Or just putting your hand in their bowl if feeding wet food). If they growl, take away the food immediately and wait 15 minutes before trying again.
If you have a bigger dog that has food guarding issues, do NOT try this. You need to speak to a dog behaviorist to help you solve it!