Veterinarian Reviewed on January 4, 2008 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Getting a new puppy means you’ve got a bit of work ahead of you. Feeding and training your puppy are two very important aspects of puppy care that will help them become happy, healthy, and well adjusted adult dogs.
Feeding a puppy is different than feeding an adult dog. Special considerations need to be made about the type of food that best suits your puppy as well as how much and how often your puppy needs to be fed. Typically, this will vary some between different breeds so ideally you should consult some expert opinions about the best food for your breed. However, there are some guidelines that can be followed to ensure that you will have a happy puppy with a healthy diet.
Firstly, choosing the type of food requires thought about the activity level of your puppy and its dietary needs. Ideally, you should choose a puppy-specific brand of food. Most often, regardless of breed, experts advise starting your puppy on dry food that is developed specifically for puppies. Evidence shows that dry food is better for their teeth and generally provides the healthiest option for puppies. In addition, dry foods are cheaper than wet foods. Also, some care should be taken when choosing foods loaded with vitamin and dietary supplements as overfeeding and over supplementation are associated with hip dysplasia in dogs. Food should also be chosen based on whether it is recommended for large or small breeds. The activity levels of these dogs tend to vary drastically as does their dietary requirements.
The frequency with which you feed your puppy can often be determined by the puppy’s own needs. Still, to start, you should try feeding 3 times per day and then make adjustments according to how often you puppy actually eats in combination with its activity level. After about 3 months you should reduce feedings to twice per day. Puppies and adult dogs should not be fed once a day as they may be hungrier and overeat.
Most experts also agree that you should avoid giving your puppy human food. Feeding dogs from your plate will teach them to expect to be included in meal times and often leads to begging and other adverse behaviour. Puppies that are fed human food may become picky about their regular diet and also may experience other health issues from upset stomachs to obesity.
You should begin housetraining your puppy around the 5 week mark. Although housetraining can be quite challenging for some breeds, like pugs for example, dogs usually do not like to go to the bathroom where they live. As a result, with consistence and patience, housetraining should be a relatively fast and pain free process. Ideally, to housetrain, you should give a young puppy ample opportunity to go to the bathroom outdoors and reward them when they do. They’ll soon learn that reward is associated with going outside while it is not associated with going inside. The best reward is usually verbal praise and a good pet. On occasion, introduce treats as well, although it is best to balance this with a healthy diet.
It is also important to establish certain rules from the start. As dogs are pack animals, it is important to establish yourself and your family members as higher on the pecking order. This teaches dogs that they are not in control and that they need to be respectful toward humans. By rewarding good behaviour with verbal praise and petting, dogs will learn which behaviors are appreciated but will also learn their role as the student and your role as the teacher. For specific training techniques, search the internet or visit the bookstore to find some effective manuals for training that will be relevant to your particular breed.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan