Our last blog covered a few things on how to select the right food for your puppy. Choosing the right dog food can be almost as challenging as keeping all those fun extracurricular items out his mouth! If your puppy is anything like our Skipper, he’s equally as interested in the rubber and plastic bits of toys as he is puppy kibble. Once you settle on the right food to give your puppy, the next step is deciding how and when, and where to feed him.
There are two main feeding styles for pets: free feeding, or allowing the pet to have unlimited access to food at all times, and meal feeding, where an allotted amount of food is given at specific times of the day. I always recommend meal feeding, for both cats and dogs, for several reasons. First, it allows for monitoring of an individual’s appetite and feeding habits. Change in appetite is often one of the first signs that a pet is feeling unwell. Second, it allows for appropriate metering of a pet’s intake. Dogs often eat way too much, way too quickly, and in their later years, this can lead to obesity. And finally, some types of food can spoil, or minimally become less appetizing, if left uneaten for several hours.
In either feeding option, you’ll need something to set the food out in. There are many bowl options aside from the standard dog food dish. Skipper currently enjoys his meals from a puzzle bowl, as does his sister, Lily. We even use feeding toys for Whisper, the feline sibling as well! These bowls cause the pet to take a lot longer to finish meals and prevent them from eating their food too quickly. There are many options on the market, and changing up the puzzles can keep feeding time fun and stimulating. Always make sure to select a bowl or puzzle that can be easily and thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis.
When your puppy is young, his belly will be quite small. He should be fed three to four times a day for the first few months to ensure that his stomach doesn’t become uncomfortably distended from being overly full. For toy breed puppies, like baby Yorkies and Chihuahuas, regular feeding every 4-6 hours is also important to ensure that they have a constant source of energy, as these little guys can experience low blood sugar levels more easily than some larger breed puppies. Skipper was fed breakfast, lunch, and dinner until he was about 4-5 months old. As he got older and bigger, we started weaning him from three to two meals daily, by decreasing the size of his lunch meal, and increasing his breakfast and dinner meals. At 7 months of age, sometimes he forgets and still thinks he should get a lunch, but otherwise he’s adjusted pretty well!
Historically, most families have fed the household dog in the kitchen. This may work well for some dogs, but it’s important to make sure that your puppy eats in a location where he feels safe. Large, open spaces can seem vulnerable, and make a dog feel the urge to guard their food or eat it too quickly for fear of someone else stealing it. Always make sure to allocate a safe, quiet space for the puppy to finish his meals on his terms. This may mean separating other pets into other rooms for a short time to prevent any altercations from occurring. Keeping a bowl of fresh water full near the food bowl can also encourage appropriate hydration following a meal.
We know that feeding your puppy is a huge part of your relationship, and there are lots of conflicting sources of information out on the internet. The staff and veterinarians at Aldie Veterinary Hospital are more than happy to discuss your puppy’s individual feeding program and ensure it is right for both of you!
Skipper & Dr. Conroy
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