Puppies can bring so much joy and warmth to the hearts of your family. As a new dog owner, it’s your responsibility to do everything that you can to provide your puppy with a safe and healthy home. Start by establishing good habits and training early on. Puppies will do a lot of eating in their first few months, so setting a reliable eating schedule is an important place to start.
Dogs, like many of their human owners, are creatures of habit. Establishing a routine can help your puppy adjust and learn what is expected of them in their new family. Routines for eating, playing, sleeping and walking can help your puppy be more at ease as they settle into their forever home. Creating a healthy eating schedule is one of the first steps to providing a healthy start for your puppy.
Young dogs require excellent nutrition from their puppy food to help them grow into healthy and happy adults. Setting routine feeding times installs a routine that can also help with potty training, ease digestion, and maintain solid bowel movements, making everyone’s life easier.
Your new puppy is relying on you to help guide them into this new world, and they’ll be happier and healthier if you get them started on a schedule right away. Your dog’s nutrition is just part of maintaining a healthy eating schedule.
Paying attention to the quality of food that you are feeding your puppy can make a big difference in their health. Lower priced foods contain fillers that will fill little tummies but not give them the minerals and nutrients they need. Once you have settled on a quality puppy food, it’s time to set a schedule and teach good eating habits.
Let’s take a look at a few ways that you can create a healthy eating schedule for your puppy.
Feeding Schedule By Age
8 – 12 Weeks
- Once your puppy has been weaned from their mother, you can start feeding them soft canned foods or dehydrated kibble softened with some water. Newborn puppies have very delicate teeth that will need to be protected from foods that are too hard. For the first weeks that you are feeding them regular food, you need to make sure that kibble has been softened, so it’s easier for them to chew. Small babies need to be fed often, at least 3-4 times a day.
3 – 6 Months
- Feedings should be spread across three times during the day. Regular kibble can be fed at this age. By the age of 3 months, your puppy’s teeth will be healthy and sharp. This means that they can handle a more rigid type of kibble. You can supplement them with wet food at this age without it upsetting their digestive system. Keep in mind that although your young puppy can eat kibble at this age, their mouths and throats are still tiny, and puppy-sized kibble is the best choice.
6 – 12 Months
- By six months of age, you can start weaning them off their midday meal and stick to a twice a day feeding schedule with increased meal sizes. As your puppy grows, start by decreasing their lunchtime meal by half the size. Pay attention to them at feeding time and initiate play shortly after they are done their serving to distract from the changes. Over the next few weeks, continue to reduce the noon meal until it is gone entirely. If your puppy is begging during this time, you can supplement it with a few low-fat treats until they get used to the new schedule.
Avoid Free Feeding
Leaving food out all day for your puppy can lead to issues with their digestion and potty training. Puppies, like small children, have very little self-control when it comes to devouring their favorite food. As the owner, it will be up to you to keep them on a regular feeding schedule by establishing regular feeding times rather than allowing them to eat when they want during the day.
Puppies do better when they have a standard feeding time. When left to feed freely, they will tend to just nibble here and there in between distractions. This can be tough on their digestive systems. Full, regular meals give them the best nutrition and teach them what to expect from their daily schedule.
No Table Scraps
Your puppy has a delicate digestive system that needs to be regulated. Human foods can have unexpected consequences causing irritated bowels or diarrhea. Just because you want to share everything with your puppy doesn’t mean that all your treats are healthy for them. Human foods tend to have more chemicals, artificial coloring, and high calories that can harm your puppy.
Feeding your puppy table scraps can also encourage unhealthy habits like begging at the table, which should be avoided. If you are inviting your puppy to eat scraps from your plate or at the table, they will quickly get the message that this is where extra feeding takes place. Once they get into the habit that you are enforcing by allowing them to have table scraps, it can be confusing for your puppy, and challenging to change the behavior.
No more than 10% of your dog’s food intake should be made up of treats. Keep your treats for training or as a reward for good behavior and not as a snack or during mealtime.
Low fat treats for training are easy to find and are recommended if you are using them daily. Dogs that are eating too many high-fat treats can develop weight issues. Obesity can reduce energy levels and leave your puppy acting and feeling lethargic, making it more challenging for them to burn off the calories.
Track Their Weight
Weighing your puppy once or twice a month will help you track their development. It can also alert you to any growth spurts that may require an increase in portion size or a loss of weight that could point to an illness.
During the first year of your puppies life, they will more than quadruple their weight. Regular veterinarian visits will help you keep track of how much weight they are gaining. Keeping track of their weight gain can help you monitor their healthy progress.
You can talk to your vet about getting a weight chart for your puppy’s specific breed so that you can keep track of it at home. If you notice any sudden weight gains or losses, it’s a good idea to visit your vet.
Wash Their Bowl
Even if your puppy cleans every bit of their food out of their dish, it should still be washed often. Bacteria from leftover food residue and saliva can cause your dog to get sick. No one wants a stinky food dish smelling up the house, so your dog bowls should be washed every few days.
Fussy puppies might be turned off by a bowl that smells foul. Remember that your dog has a very sensitive nose that can smell a funky bowl better than you can. Washing the bowl out regularly will cut down on the smell. Try to avoid strong-smelling cleaners and stick to something more natural.
To create consistent levels of nutrition, you should measure out each of your puppy’s meals. Use a specific bowl or measuring spoon to ensure they are getting the right amount at each feeding.
Each puppy is different, so it’s essential to observe their eating habits during every feeding. Your puppy may have a big appetite in the morning or be more hungry at dinnertime. You can adjust your feeding times according to their behavior.
This monitoring can tell you a lot about the required serving size. For example, if your puppy is cleaning their dish in the morning but only eating three-quarters of their bowl at night, they may be a morning eater and need a slightly bigger portion.
Choose a safe and clean spot that is not too crowded or difficult to keep clean as your regular feeding spot. Your puppy will quickly grow accustomed to their mealtime spot and be more comfortable taking their food.
To make your puppy more comfortable, dedicate an eating space to let them eat with minimal distractions. Setting their bowls in a busy household hallway where people are always walking past, they may become distracted or protective of their food. Try to find a place that is quiet and safe for them to eat.
Puppies are cute but they can also be messy. Some dogs are just sloppy eaters and drinkers. For example, Shepherds and Labs are notorious for getting their water everywhere when they drink and dribbling half of their drink on the floor. It’s a good idea to put down a specialized rubber mat under their water and food dishes to catch the mess. An eating mat can also help their dishes to stay put as they are trying to eat instead of sliding all over the floor.
Bringing a new puppy into your home can be a wonderful experience. To make the adjustment smooth for both you and your puppy, it’s essential to quickly establish a routine. Follow some of these tips to help you create a healthy eating schedule that works for your puppy.