The Importance of a Balanced Puppy Diet – and How to Get It Right

Feeding a puppy is like feeding a child: they need to eat a lot to maintain their energy levels for all that growing; they need the right food to grow properly; and they learn their eating habits from their carers. In other words, how and what you feed your puppy is both key to helping your him or her develop into a healthy adult dog, and the foundation towards setting life-long behavioural habits.

Buy the proper equipment

Before you feed your puppy his or her first meal, make sure you have the right equipment. This means having a puppy-sized bowl to serve the food. There are two reasons this is a good idea:

·         A smaller bowl makes it easier for your tiny puppy to eat comfortably; adult-sized bowls can be too big and disrupt their eating.

·         Puppies have small stomachs, so they should eat reduced portions throughout the day. Having a smaller bowl means you will be less tempted to overfeed your puppy. However, they still need to eat their recommended daily amount of food, so feed them often. Most puppy food containers print the recommended daily amount to feed your puppy based on their age and size. For a rough idea, pet food specialists James Wellbeloved have created a useful puppy feeding guide.

Babies eat baby food, puppies eat puppy food

Puppies need more nutrients than adult dogs because they have more growing to do. Adult dog food has less essential growth nutrients, like calcium and protein, etc. Therefore, if a puppy only eats adult dog food, they will be undernourished and face stunted growth.

Equally, it is important to transition to adult dog food once your dog reaches maturity. Adult dogs who eat puppy food receive too many growth nutrients and can suffer health problems as a result. For instance, large dogs are already more likely to endure skeletal problems in their lifetime. By overfeeding them excessive calcium, these problems become more pronounced.

Start life-long habits

Puppies quickly learn when is their feeding time. Therefore, to keep eating disruption to a minimum, it is a good idea to establish a feeding timetable that will last their lifetime.

As an adult, your dog will need to be fed twice a day, usually around 7am and again at 4pm (more or less). However, as a puppy, you need to feed them little but often. Begin by spacing six meals evenly throughout the day, including at 7am and 4pm (or your chosen times). At around 6 months, begin transitioning to four meals a day (serving more food per meal). Again, serve at 7am and 4pm. Finally, as your dog reaches full adulthood, transition to just two meals a day at your chosen times.

Another habit to instil early concerns table scraps and treats. It’s okay to treat your puppy now and then, provided you feed don’t feed them food which is bad for them, but never feed them from the table or you will encourage lifelong begging. Your dog may also decide not to eat their own food if they know they can wait for something “better”. As a general rule,scraps and treats shouldn’t make up more than 15 percent of your dog’s daily calorie intake, or you will risk health problems and bad habits.

No diet is complete without exercise

While eating healthily is the right way to give your puppy the important building blocks they need to grow, it takes exercise to effectively turn all that food into muscle. A strong, healthy and happy puppy will need to do something with all that energy, so take them for plenty of walks and always find time to play with them throughout the day.

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