We go behind the scenes to discover what kind of puppy food is best and what to look out for to achieve maximum nutritional benefits.
The food you choose for your puppy in the first year (or two if a large breed) is critical to his adult development.
They need specific nutrition to support their growing teeth, bones and muscles. All that growing requires calories, protein, vitamins and minerals in the perfect balance.
Puppy food timeline
0-4/6 weeks – your puppy should be taking milk from his mum. Her milk provides him with the best nutrition and passes on her antibodies to protect him from disease. Milk Magic!
4/6 weeks – weaning can begin but is not an overnight thing. The process should take 2-3 weeks and usually involves offering a puppy mash where the selected puppy food is softened with warm water. Puppies at this age will still be with mum so often supplement with her milk but can be offered this mash 3 or 4 times a day. The amount of water added is then gradually decreased so the puppy becomes used to firmer food over time.
6/8 weeks – puppies should be fully weaned and eating 4-5 meals a day. When you pick up your puppy from the breeder they will often you a small amount of the food the puppy has been eating. If not always ask for details so that you can get the same food to begin with. Your puppy is going through enough change at this point so let his food be a reliable.
Puppies often have loose bowel movements as a result of the upheaval. Its easy to assume (incorrectly) that this is because of a new food if you change him too quick. After a couple of weeks settling in, you can change the food. This should be done very slowly so it does not upset your puppies delicate digestive system.
What food should I choose?
There is no single right answer – sorry.
Different dogs do better on different diets, so choosing a food will always involve a bit of trial and error.
What you can do is choose a good quality, complete diet which meets the needs of your puppy at his stage of life.
Many puppy diets are further specified to the expected adult body size and their rate of growth. This may seem an unnecessary complication but small breeds have a shorter, more intense growth period. Large breed puppies on the other hand must be allowed to grow more slowly over a longer period of time whilst their joints form.
In all puppy foods high levels of protein are needed for growth. But if levels are too high, protein is broken down to produce energy or stored as fat. Whilst a chubby pup is cute obesity has severe health implications so this should be avoided
Keeping an adolescent dog on a puppy food for too long can also lead to the dog becoming overweight. At 6/8 weeks a puppies energy requirements are approximately double that of an adult of the same breed (per unit of bodyweight). As the puppy grows this requirement steadily declines. Once the growth period is at and end an adolescent dog should be transitioned onto an adult food.
Different dogs mature at different rates. Small breeds may reach full size at 9 months whilst large and giant breeds continue growing until 18 months – 2years.
Picking your pup’s food is one thing, but making sure they don’t develop any bad habits is another. As we’re sure you know, stopping a bad habit from forming is far easier than breaking one, so start off your puppy’s feeding right.
Time and place. Just like us humans, dogs are animals of habit. Establishing a time and place for feeding will therefore regulate the intake of food.
Limit treats and human food. We know it’s hard but try limiting their exposure to human food and doggy treats (however doggy treats may be needed in training). Giving your pup too many treats may cause them to develop bad habits and fussiness.
Overfeeding. Overfeeding is easily done and whilst a chubby pup might be cute, obesity in dogs is on the rise and therefore you should regulate meals. Read more about overweight dogs for tips and tricks to keeping a healthy dog.
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