There's so much to think about and so many new experiences when you bring home your puppy that you may forget an important part of puppy homecoming: establishing a routine. Your new canine family member needs structure to feel secure and know what's expected of him. The best way to do this is to create a schedule and stick to it. The first few weeks with your new puppy is the time to start establishing good behaviors. By the way, the puppy is not the only one who benefits from a schedule; it also helps every member of the household understand his or her responsibilities. You won't have to plan out every moment of your pup's day, but there are a few important areas where a schedule can make the difference between a well-adjusted dog and chaos.
Unlike mature dogs that eat once or twice a day, most puppies need to eat three time a day. Make it easier to remember by planning his mealtimes around your own breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Wash out his water bowl and make sure it's filled with clean water, too.
Walk down the dog food aisle of any large pet-supply store, or peruse the shelves at a boutique pet-food shop, and you can quickly become overwhelmed. This is especially true for puppy owners, and probably even more so for first time puppy owners. When did it get so complicated? Back in the day, dog food options were far more limited, and even responsible dog owners didn’t worry too much about what went into their dog’s dish.
The process may now be somewhat more involved, but that’s a good thing. Higher quality ingredients with better sourcing and specialized diet formulas lead to overall better health for our puppies. And every bit as important as what to feed your puppy is having an understanding of his special nutritional needs.
All puppies are different, so if you have any concerns or questions about your puppy’s food, feeding schedule, or nutritional health, always consult your breeder or veterinarian—that’s what they’re there for.
Many puppy owners wonder, “How long should I feed puppy food?” Here is a general timeline for what your puppy needs at each stage of his first year of life.
There’s a saying in canine feeding: Watch the dog, not the dish. Body condition, not the amount eaten or left in the bowl, should determine portion sizes. Portion sizes depend on individual metabolism and body type, and nutritional requirements vary from dog to dog. If your puppy occasionally skips a meal or picks at food, don’t worry. It could mean she is ready to eliminate a feeding or that you have given her too much, in which case simply reduce the quantity served.
Also, if you are doing treat based training with your pup, adjust the amount you feed at mealtime accordingly. Whenever training with treats, keep the treat as small as possible.
Like human babies, puppies start out needing many small meals a day, of a food formulated for their special nutritional requirements. Most, but not all, dogs finish meals quickly. To discourage picky habits, feed at regular times in regular amounts and don’t leave food down for more than 10 to 20 minutes.
Your breeder will be an excellent source of guidance for both of these questions, as will your vet.
Premium food has higher nutritional density, so you can feed your dog less to achieve the same results. Also, premium foods have stable ingredient profiles; the composition of bargain brands can vary from batch to batch.
The major dog-food companies invest heavily in product development and research, constantly upgrading formulas to keep up with their competitors. This means that feeding premium food puts you on the cutting edge of canine nutrition.
Many pet-food companies have worked with canine-nutrition scientists to develop special formulas for both large- and small-breed puppies.
Some dog owners say there is an oral-hygiene advantage in hard kibble because the friction produced helps to keep the gums and teeth healthy. Kibble can be moistened, either with water or canned food. Although unnecessary, that addition may make food tastier.
When switching from puppy food to adult food, you should make the switch gradually over a period of a few days. A sudden change in your dog’s diet may cause stomach upset. Talk to your veterinarian about the best type of food for your dog.
* Make sure everyone gets with the program!
Your entire household must be committed to your dog’s feeding regimen. If there’s a soft touch for a handout in your family, your dog will find it and exploit it, thus undoing the good you are trying to do. Keeping a dog trim takes a conscious effort from everyone on your team. And remember: There is room for only one alpha dog in your house, and that’s you. Allowing a dog to beg at the table undermines your status as pack leader, resulting in training and behavior problems.
* Give a dog a bone? Careful!
Our best advice here is caution. Poultry and pork bones, or cooked bones of any kind, are strictly forbidden. They splinter into shards that can cause choking and serious damage to the dog’s mouth, throat, or intestines. Any bone, in fact, once chewed into small pieces, can block the intestines and lead to a nasty bout of constipation, can cause lacerations of the mouth and internal organs, or can lodge in the throat with fatal results. It is important to note that bones have little if any nutritional value.
There are other ways to satisfy a dog’s craving to chew. Commercially available chew toys and simulated bones are made for dogs of all sizes.
As the famous food writer M.F.K. Fisher wrote, “First we eat. Then we do everything else.” This is true for our pups, too.
One little French fry will invariably lead to another, and another. Before long, an obese dog will be crowding you off the love seat. Also, a steady diet of table scraps can create a nutritional imbalance, and certain ingredients and spices in your favorite dishes can cause upset stomach in dogs.
The pleading gaze of a begging dog can be irresistible. This is no accident. During his long partnership with man, the dog has perfected cunning methods of exploiting the human habit of associating food with affection. In prehistoric times semi-domesticated canines first cultivated human beings as a food provider. As the two species grew closer, dogs modified begging behaviors to maximize results: The more pathetic a dog seemed, the more scraps were tossed his way. Dogs have since refined this approach into a low-risk, high-reward hunting technique.
But don’t be fooled: Begging is not an emotional crisis or a test of your love. It’s what scientists might call an evolutionary survival strategy, or what the rest of us might call a scam. Allowing your dog to guilt you into overfeeding him, or serving him a steady diet of table scraps in a misguided show of affection, can have harmful or even fatal results.