You’ll have noticed your puppy speaks only two human words: “feed me!” But he would say that, wouldn’t he? Here’s a look at his actual needs and how to address them at dinner-time.
When to feed puppies: the puppy diet
The puppy diet isn’t about humans eating like puppies to lose weight. It’s about your pupper's need for extra food while he gains weight and grows into a strong and healthy dog.
Experts reckon that puppies grow twenty times faster than adult dogs. That means your puppy will probably require a specially formulated growth food. A puppy needs good quality proteins and grains, adequate levels of carbohydrates, energy, minerals, and vitamins. Puppy food will also come in smaller, pup-sized chunks that he can cope with in his little mouth.
Pay attention to the serving suggestion on the tin (the portion size, not the sprig of parsley) and make sure you choose the right amount for a pup of your fluffy one’s size and age. Your puppy’s vet can give you more specific direction on just how much he should eat, and what type of food might be best.
Your puppy should produce firm, dark brown poo if he’s eating well. But naturally there may be occasions when things are a little more… mobile. El Puppo probably eats everything he can find in the garden, so diarrhoea will occur from time to time. Just like a baby!
But if your puppy produces weird poo, unreasonable levels of gas, or endless torrents of diarrhoea, it is best to speak to his vet in case something more serious is going on in that little belly of his.
When to feed puppies: timing and frequency
Your puppy may have the appetite of a lion. But he has the stomach of a puppy. That is his curse.
So although you need to give him adequate food to ensure he grows, be careful not to overfeed him. Your puppy’s appetite does not have an ‘off’-switch, so leaving your young doggo with a full bowl to keep him going all day will end in belly-aches and other trouble.
It’s probably best to divide your puppy’s daily food intake between four meals a day at evenly-spaced intervals until he’s four months old. Then three meals a day until he reaches six months. That’s when he hits puberty. After that, two meals a day is fine.
When to feed puppies: snacking and treats
Naturally, with four modest-sized meals a day your puppy may indicate his interest in the occasional between-meal snack. For the most part these should be avoided, especially unhealthy, sugary snacks. An overweight puppy will put worrying amounts of stress on his growing limbs and joints.
When you do give in to those big ol’ eyes of his, consider giving him a piece of apple or carrot. He’ll eat this quickly enough not to notice that it wasn’t a Mars Bar, so no worries. (Serious side note: human chocolate is dangerous for dogs.)
And your pupster should be getting plenty of treats anyway, since you’ll be training him. Training often involves the giving of treats as a reward for doing what he’s supposed to. This is more effective, for example, then telling off your dog for not doing what he’s supposed to.
But even if you’re using treats for training purposes, it’s important to measure how much you’re giving him. A small treat will do. In total a dog’s daily treats should amount to no more than 15% of his diet.
Keeping a routine
Dogs like routine on a psychological level. But it is also important for puppo’s physical well-being. Make sure his feeding times are regular, and don’t make any sudden, dramatic changes to his menu. This can be super-disruptive to his digestive system. And nobody needs that kind of disruption in their home.
If your dog’s diet doesn’t seem to be working for him, change it gradually.
If you think he’s eating too fast, buy or make him a puzzle bowl. This will help avoid wind or bloating.
And avoid feeding him right before serious exercise. Okay, now you know when to feed your pup. Time to put on your chef’s hat and make the little fellow’s dreams come true.