ONCE YOU BRING A PUPPY HOME, you become responsible for supplying all of his or her nutritional needs. It can seem a bit overwhelming. But follow these simple do’s and avoid a few don’ts and you’ll be on your way to a lean and healthy pup that’s already learning some good manners along the way.
Do choose a food or recipe appropriate for your puppy
Toy breeds need smaller bits of food and giant breeds benefit from a slow and steady growth rate to avoid bone problems. You can do a good job with commercial food or home-cooked meals – just be sure you’re basing your choices on solid information, not some Internet fad.
Do feed multiple meals
All puppies need at the very least two meals a day to fuel their growing bodies; three would be preferable. Some dogs may even do better with four square meals a day. The number can be decreased as your puppy gets older.
Do keep an eye on your puppy’s condition
It’s easier to keep a puppy lean from the beginning than to try and shed excess pounds later on. And living lean can add as much as 1.8 years to your dog’s life. If you look down at your puppy from above, you should see a definite waist. If you look at him standing in profile, you should see a tuck-up in front of the rear legs.
Do assess more than weight
Less-than-optimal nutrition often shows up in the lackluster look of your puppy’s haircoat. Even perfectly good foods can simply be the wrong match for a particular dog, so it’s best to assess how your pet is doing on the food you’ve chosen. The coat should be shiny and the proper texture for your dog’s breed. Your puppy should have plenty of energy (punctuated by naps) and spunk.
Do measure food
You will have to change the amount as your puppy grows, but the only way to consistently give the same amount from day to day is to use a measure. Your “handful” is not a reliable measure. And in a small puppy, a seemingly tiny variation can actually create a significant lack or over-abundance of calories.
Do keep as regular a feeding schedule as possible
It will not only let your puppy know what to expect, it will help with housetraining, as you will better know what to expect in the form of elimination.
Do expect some vomit from time to time
It doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is wrong. Puppies just seem to upchuck every now and then. As long as it doesn’t continue, all is probably fine. Clean it up, keep a little closer eye on your pup to be sure it isn’t a symptom of some problem, and move on.
Do feed multiple puppies from their own bowls
If you have made the decision to take ownership of more than one puppy at the same time, you may be tempted to put down a communal dish and let the pups have at it. But with this approach, you have no way of knowing how much each puppy is consuming. And it can encourage gulping down food, a bad habit that could lead to bloat.
Don’t change food and ingredients on a regular basis.
You may think a dog needs variety, but most dogs really don’t. The intestinal flora in the dog gets set up for a particular food, and changing the food can result in digestive upsets. Also, if you feed a wide variety of ingredients, you will be facing a real problem if your puppy should develop food allergies.
Do use some of your puppy’s meal for training
It’s never too early for a puppy to start learning. Using a food lure to teach “Sit” is really simple, and “Down” is only a little more difficult. Call the puppy up and down the hall and give a piece of food each time she arrives and you’ll be on your way to a reliable “Come.”
Don’t give your puppy “people food” as a treat without giving it some serious thought.
Artificial sweeteners can be toxic to dogs, as can chocolate and grapes. High-fat foods can result in pancreatitis, a serious medical problem. You may be okay offering an occasional bit of low-fat string cheese or a mini turkey pepperoni, but save such things for special occasions or efforts.
Do have fresh water available to your puppy at all times
It may be tempting to limit water, especially before bedtime, in an effort to decrease nighttime urinating, but it’s not a good idea. Efficient metabolism requires water, so it’s much healthier for your puppy to be able to drink at will. Besides, you wouldn’t want to go to bed thirsty.
Don’t add supplements or vitamins to your dog’s diet without consulting your veterinarian.
The diet itself should be balanced to provide all the necessary nutrients, and in the world of nutrition, too much of a good thing can have really bad consequences.
Do instill good manners around food
That means your puppy should learn to take a treat nicely, accept having the food bowl picked up and put back down, and learn to give up something even if he doesn’t really want to. Puppy training class can help with all of this. And if you don’t want your dog to beg from humans when they are eating, then see right from the start that no begging behaviour is rewarded. Dogs do what works for dogs, and if begging doesn’t pay off, it won’t continue.
By Cheryl Smith | Photo by Suzanne Bird (Long Coat and Short Coat Chihuahuas courtesy Cogie Reg’d)