Puppies grow at a fast rate. The quick and ever changing development and growth they go through to reach their full adult size requires special nutrients, different feeding times and more attention than an adult dog needs. Feeding a puppy is much more manageable if you set up an eating schedule from the very beginning.
Puppies seem to be hungry all the time, but they can get used to eating at specific times during the day. The key is consistency. They are capable of learning and living with your routines. They will get used to a routine of their own as well.
Don’t leave food out all the time if you want your puppy on an eating schedule. It might seem like it would be easier, so they can eat whenever they feel like it, but they may eat too much at one time. If you’ve ever seen a ravenous puppy at feeding time, they often eat the food so quickly that it makes you wonder if they even bothered to chew it. They almost inhale their meals.
Instead of one large meal a day, it is better to space out the food throughout the day with three or four feedings, dividing up the daily allotment. It keeps food in their hungry bellies, and incoming fuel for their bursts of energy.
A human baby needs food more than once a day, and may get upset if they don’t get fed. A puppy may show hunger in different ways than a human baby, though. Because they are mobile, a hungry puppy will chew on whatever looks appealing. If they are used to a specific eating time, they will be less anxious and destructive when they get hungry. Their body will signal them that it is food time.
Set up the eating routine around your schedule to make it easier on you as well. Although it may initially seem like you are constantly catering to their ravenous appetites, putting a puppy on your routine will make it go smoothly for both of you.
A puppy will let you know when they are hungry. It is quite humorous sometimes to see how dogs have their humans trained to feed them on their routine, once they get used to it. They know when it is time to eat. They will let you know with body language, behavior cues, or not-so-subtle hints such as standing staring at you when they know it is time to eat, whimpering for food, or standing by their empty bowl to make you feel guilty.
An added benefit of feeding a puppy on a schedule is that their potty routine and digestion will follow suit to make house training and cleanup a little easier. Take your puppy outside after they eat.
Once fed, a young puppy may want quiet rest time for a while. Again think of a human baby falling asleep after a nice warm bottle. They feel satisfied and content. They curl up and nap.
Don’t forget to give your puppy plenty of water too. A full bowl of fresh, clean water should be easily accessible at all times, not just meal time. Puppies can dehydrate at a faster rate than an adult dog. Make sure their water bowl is nearby at meal time as well. If the dog is eating dry food, water is necessary to rehydrate the dry food to help in proper digestion. A puppy also needs more water pound for pound than an adult dog because their higher metabolism uses it up more quickly.
Try not to feed table scraps to your puppy. Not only are they not nutritionally balanced and could contain foods that may be dangerous for a puppy to consume, once a dog gets used to human food it may be impossible to train them not to want what you are eating.
Read the label instructions for the amount of food to feed at each meal for a daily total. It may take some adjusting to figure out what amount works for your puppy. Dog appetites do vary the same way they do for us. Take cues from them when they eat. If you have questions or are concerned that your puppy is not getting the right amount of food, ask your vet how much your breed, type or size of puppy should eat at each meal.
If you will be out and about with your dog at meal time, plan ahead and take the food with you, or carry a few tasty CANIDAE Pure Heaven treats with you to tide the puppy over until you get home. Don’t overdo it with the treats though. The primary meals at scheduled times should be what keeps them full.
Consistency in specific feeding times during the day, amount of food per meal, and proper food appropriate for a puppy will make for a satisfied and calmer puppy and happier human caregiver.
Top photo by Michael Ruiz
Middle photo by Chris Sobczak
Bottom photo by Tommy Lew
Read more articles by Laurie Darroch