Bringing home a new puppy is the first of a long list of highlights in dog ownership. But as soon as the new family member begins sniffing around the new environment, some owners may second-guess their decision to bring home the adorable new addition to the household. They suddenly realize that it will require more than just love and affection to raise an enthusiastic puppy into an obedient adult.
Much like children, puppies need equal amounts of dedication and patience. They need routine and discipline. And they need to eat. New owners need not be discouraged, as all of a dog’s requirements can be met by first implementing a strict feeding schedule.
Creating a schedule
One of the most important steps in raising your new dog is creating a feeding program that suits your own lifestyle. You should be able to feed your new puppy at the same times every day, so making a schedule that you can’t meet without being two places at once will make life difficult for both you and your pooch.
It doesn’t matter if you are an early riser, or if you work through the night, your puppy will be able to conform. Building a feeding plan that fits your needs, in the end will better fit your dog’s needs as well.
A successful program includes more than just three meals a day. It will also include at least five trips outside to relieve themselves. Plan to take your puppy outside approximately 15 minutes after meals, and make sure that you give them plenty of time to “take care of business.” Following such a routine will help your new member along in the house training phase as well. Other things you should consider:
- Indoor playtime
- Your regular bedtime
- Other people caring for your puppy
You can enlist other members of your household in meeting your puppy’s feeding times, just as long as they understand that they shouldn’t deviate from them. Post a copy of your schedule on your dog’s crate or near its food so there are no misunderstandings. Once you consider all your options, your detailed plan should look similar to this:
|7:00 am||Let outside|
|7:30 am||First feeding|
|7:45 am||Outside, walk|
|9:30 am||Return to crate|
|12:30 pm||Second feeding|
|2:00 pm||Return to crate|
|5:30 pm||Third feeding|
|5:45 pm||Outside, walk|
|10:00 pm||Return to crate for night|
Training with water
Water is just an important a part as food. Water should be fresh, and given in a bowl or dish that is regularly washed. Proportionately, puppies need more water than adult dogs. Growing dogs burn lots of energy, so when it is time for them to drink, allow them to drink as much as they need. After the puppy finishes drinking, wait approximately fifteen minutes before taking it outside.
Be patient with accidents. This will help your pet in learning to control its bladder and to hold it longer. Soon, the pooch will be able to hold its bladder through the night, and eventually begin to let you know when it needs to go outside.
Crating your puppy
A crate is a valuable tool in the feeding process. Think of a crate as your puppy’s den—a place where it can lie down and feel safe. The crate functions as a bed, a place to keep your pet out of trouble when you are not around, and as a place to go when you need some time to yourself. A crate plays a dual role in raising a young dog.
First, letting your puppy out signals that it is time to eat. Second, it helps to train a puppy to “hold it” longer. Dogs instinctively do not relieve themselves in their dens. By using a crate as a teaching tool, your puppy will be well on the way to being a manageable, and that much more loveable, member of the family.
Another advantage to crating your puppy is safety. Puppies will get into all sorts of trouble if you are not watching them. They will chew on your shoes, knock over plants, spill containers, and crawl into spaces they can’t back out of. If your puppy discovers something it can sink their teeth into, odds are it will try to eat it. He or she may even lick up spilled cleansers or other poisonous liquids. Confining your puppy to a crate when you aren’t around may save its life.
Feeding your puppy
Once you have figured out when you are going to feed your pet, you need to also figure out what and how much to feed it. He needs healthy and properly proportioned meals. According to the breed, size, and weight usually there’s a certain quantity and type of food. If you bought your puppy from a breeder, you should follow the breeder’s advice. If you didn’t get it from a breeder, then seek your veterinarian’s advice. Breeders and veterinarians will know the proper type and amount of food your breed of dog should eat.
Puppies grow fast, and to compensate, they will eat large amounts of food. In fact, they need to eat at least twice as much as an adult dog of equivalent size in order to have the energy to grow. Your puppy should gain about two grams each day for every pound it should be when it gets to the adult age.
This means that if your female Golden Retriever puppy will be 60 pounds as an adult, your puppy should gain just under four ounces each day. Feeding your puppy at regular intervals will encourage proper growth, and will ensure that your pet has plenty of energy for play.
Regardless of breed, you should feed your new doggie quality food. Puppy food is higher in calories and protein than adult dog food, which will help to spur weight gain. You can also supplement your puppy’s meals with sweet potatoes, carrots, and other vegetables, as long as you keep in mind that the majority of what your puppy eats should always be a quality puppy food.
Choosing the right puppy food
Puppy food is available as dry kibble, in sealed packages, or canned. Trainers and veterinarians typically recommend dry kibble over the other two varieties for several reasons. Sealed packages, also known as semi-moist, consist of over 50% water and contain high amounts of salts and sugars, which puppies do not need.
Canned, or moist, dog food is no better. Canned varieties contain approximately 80% water and are much higher in fat. On the other hand, dry kibble contains around 10% water, and usually costs less than other types on the market. Dry kibble is much easier for an owner to manage, too.
Choose a puppy food that is designed for your puppy’s breed size. Small breeds, like Chihuahua and Yorkshire Terriers, do not have the same nutritional needs as Mastiffs or Great Danes. The puppy food’s label will indicate what size breed the food is intended for. Also, in case of dry kibble, the kibbles are formed into sizes according to the breed.
Price may play a role in your choice of puppy food. Remember that you get what you pay for. Brands classified as “Economy” are cheap because they are made with cheap ingredients. Puppies don’t digest the ingredients as well therefore they don’t gain the nutrition that they would from higher-grade brands.
Consequently, puppies will eat more of the Economy brands in order to gain the nutrition they need. Low-quality food can also cause the puppy a number of digestive problems. When selecting puppy food, be sure to read the ingredients. Many low-quality dog foods will contain fillers like corn or wheat. Dogs, especially at young ages, aren’t vegetarians, and they shouldn’t be treated as such. The main ingredient of any dog food should be a specific type of meat, such as beef, or chicken. If the ingredients just read “meat,” then you should choose a different puppy food.
The ingredients do not tell you all you need to know about your choice of puppy food. Many companies use ingredients such as beef tallow (animal fat) and meat by-products (organs and connective tissue). You can find an exhaustive list of ingredients found in dog food at Naturalnews.com to help you decipher good ingredients from the bad. If you still have questions about your choice, talk to your veterinarian.
How much to feed a puppy
By six weeks, your puppy should be eating solid food three times per day. Figuring out how much your puppy should be eating can be a guessing game but if you follow a few simple rules, your doggie can help you determine how much it should be eating.
- Consult the back of the bag.
- Measure out the recommended portion.
- Feed your puppy on schedule.
- Take away any remaining food after 15 minutes.
- Measure the remaining food.
- Reduce the puppy’s next meal by the amount remaining.
- Repeat as necessary.
Puppies often don’t know when to quit eating, so taking away leftover food after 15 minutes helps to prevent them from gaining too much weight. Gaining weight too quickly can cause your puppy long-term health problems so you need to be very careful with this. A good way to tell if your puppy is getting the proper amount of food is to give it a gentle squeeze around the chest.
You should be able to feel your puppy’s ribs. If you cannot feel them, then you should reduce the amount of food for each feeding. If you can see your puppy’s ribs, then you should increase the amount. You should also consult your veterinarian, in case your puppy may be suffering from an unrelated health issue.
If you allow your puppy to overfeed, the excessive food can cause gas and discomfort. What’s worse is that this can lead to a condition called “gastric torsion,” more commonly known as “bloat”. This condition occurs when the stomach swells or twists, and is often fatal if not immediately treated.
Large breeds with deep chests are particularly susceptible to this condition; however, any dog can suffer from it. If you think your puppy is suffering from gastric torsion, seek a veterinarian immediately.
Changing the schedule
By the time your puppy reaches 6 months, it should not require as much food as it did when you brought it home. You’ll need to reduce the meals to twice a day: a morning meal and an evening meal. Gradually reduce the amount you feed him for the midday meal over several days before implementing the change. This way, your puppy will be less likely to “act out” or have “accidents” (as many dogs will do when confronted with change), once you implement the new feeding times.
Once your puppy reaches 12 months it’s most likely the time to change his diet to adult dog food. Much of this depends on your dog’s size. Smaller breeds mature faster than larger breeds, so consult your veterinarian to know the best time to do so. A good way to handle this adjustment is by gradually mixing larger amounts of adult dog food into the puppy food for a week to ten days. By the end of this period, your puppy should be used to the new food.
Some changes will have nothing to do with your puppy’s age. If you find it necessary to make schedule changes in your personal life, don’t hesitate to do the same for your puppy. You are the “alpha,” or boss, in the relationship, and your own well-being comes first. It may be difficult at first, but your puppy will adjust. Just remember to follow the same pattern of the original schedule.
Training with treats
Puppies love treats and you will love to give your cute pet treats. Treats make great rewards and you may even be tempted to give your puppy a treat every time it does something cute. Don’t give in to that temptation. You should only give treats as an occasional reward, and treats should never exceed 10% of your puppy’s total diet.
The same rules about ingredients apply for treats. Avoid sugars, fillers, and animal by-products. Your puppy doesn’t need any of those things. So, if you decide to make treats a part of your puppy’s diet, there are some advantages and disadvantages that you should keep in mind.
Giving your puppy a treat is a great way to reinforce correct behavior. Dogs are more likely to respond favorably to a command when you condition it to behave correctly through positive reinforcement. Your puppy isn’t expecting a treat (unless you are waving it under their nose), but they do understand that correct behavior leads to a positive award. Treats can also add some variety to your puppy’s diet. If your young dog eats dry kibble, give it a semi-moist treat. Semi-moist treats contain extra water that can help your puppy with digestion.
You may consider giving your puppy a hard biscuits, rawhide, or even bones as treats. One advantage of hard treats is that they can keep your puppy busy for hours. Hard treats also help to clean teeth and massage gums.
Be sure to choose hard treats that are appropriate for your puppy’s size. Your local pet store will have plenty of options. Some hard toys are designed to insert food or other treats that your puppy will spend hours trying to get to. You can even consult your veterinarian for a toy recommendation. You may want to avoid soft rubber toys because puppies love to tear them to shreds.
The main disadvantage to giving your puppy treats is how easy it can be to give it too many. Treats make your puppy happy and, in turn, it makes you happy to see it devouring its reward. Exceeding the 10% limit on treats can lead to unnecessary weight gain and other health issues because treats are usually overloaded with ingredients your puppy does not need in its diet.
Also, if your puppy is used to receiving a treat for everything it does, your puppy may start begging for treats all the time. Finally, too many treats can spoil your puppy, which will make your puppy more difficult to train.
Scheduling when your puppy eats is perhaps one of the most important aspects of raising your new family member. This schedule should be one that conforms to your own lifestyle and incorporates informed appropriate food choices. But in order for it to be successful, you must stick with it.
Your puppy may hesitate at first, but it will soon learn to accept and follow your lead. Before long, you will have figured out how much to feed your puppy. And, with dedication, patience, and a conservative use of treats, your puppy will grow into loyal and disciplined family member; one that is sure to provide you with plenty of love and affection.