Those ticklish whiskers. That soft, pink tongue. Those tiny, high pitched yaps. The peace and quiet when they finally stop chewing your couch, shoes, and walls and fall asleep in your lap. Few things are quite as cute as a brand-new puppy. But whether you’re a first-time canine best friend or a long-time dog owner, you know that puppies are also big responsibilities. From potty training to obedience classes, owning a new dog means looking out for their health and well-being. Perhaps the most important of these duties is setting your puppy up for long-term health and wellness by starting them out with proper diet and nutrition.
For Puppies, Nutrition is Paramount
Before we address the how, it’s important for puppy owners to understand why proper nutrition is so important to your growing pooch. Unlike human children, who reach maturity over 15 to 20 years (and for some of us-- never), your puppy will typically reach their full-grown adult size within 18 months to two years of age. Much of this growth happens during the first critical six months, with some breeds doubling in size as quickly as every few weeks.
Bones, teeth, organs and other vital structures are all forming during this time and use the fuel provided via proper nutrition to gain strength and function properly. Not feeding your puppy properly can therefore cause serious harm that affects your dog both in the short term and for the rest of their lives.
It’s All About Routine
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we’re here to tell you that proper puppy nutrition is easier than you think. To start, one of the most important aspects of feeding your puppy will be establishing proper routines. Feeding schedules, in which your dog is given similar meals around the same time every day, not only provides consistent nutrition, it also helps with potty training.
Since so much of your puppy’s growth happens while they’re young, it’s important to feed your puppy several meals throughout the day. Much like human children, a solid breakfast, lunch and dinner will help keep them fueled and growing and will also help curb destructive behaviors when they wander off looking for something to chew on between meals.
As far as what type of food your puppy should be eating, whether commercially available kibble or homemade cooked or raw meals, your puppy should have a balanced diet with protein, starch and fat. Avoid processed foods or too many snacks as your puppy grows to better track your dog’s eating habits and food intake.
Chubby Puppies are Cute But…
Speaking of snacks, it’s important to set your puppy up for success as an adult by avoiding overfeeding. While excess weight isn’t good for dogs of any age (or humans for that matter) an extra 5lbs on a young dog can put undue stress on joints, bones and other bodily tissues at the critical growing stages. While your puppy should never be starving, a good rule of thumb is that you should be able to feel their ribs when gently pressing on their sides. A last rib visible while your dog is running or fully stretched out on the floor is also a great indicator of proper body weight.
The Final Word on Puppy Nutrition
Remember that when it comes to feeding your puppy it’s all about establishing health routines. From consistent meals, eaten at approximately the same time during the day, to measured portions and consistent nutrition, having structure in what and how much your dog eats is paramount to their long-term health and well-being. Once you’ve set up a few basic protocols, you and your new pooch can get back to the important things in raising a young dog… such as fishing that designer shoe out of their shark teeth-filled jaws.