For the first few weeks of life, a puppy's nutritional world revolves around his mother. Making the transition to dry food is a small puppy's first real challenge. He'll soon learn that if he eats anything strange, it'll bring on a bout of diarrhea or if he overeats, he won't be able to hold it all in. However, most of us know that young puppies generally need a lot of food to fuel their quickly growing bodies. So, how does one safeguard against overfeeding and overeating?
Tender Tiny Tummies
Mom supplies the bulk of your puppy's nutrition during the first weeks of life, so a 6-week-old puppy is still growing accustomed to solid food. If possible, get the same kind of food your breeder was using to wean him to avoid digestive upset. Feed him three to four times each day, breaking up the recommended food amount between the servings. A tiny breed puppy eats as little as a quarter-cup per day, while larger breeds may need 2 or more cups.
Big Pups, Big Appetites
Don't leave food down all day for larger breed pups, as they are prone to overeat when they feel bored. This increases the amount of food you'll serve up and the amount of droppings you'll have to pick up. It also contributes to overweight and disease when he grows into an adult. Puppies naturally scarf down their food to fill their bellies, so when your large breed puppy walks away from his food bowl after chowing down, pick up his food until the next scheduled feeding. If your pup is easily distracted by activity going on in the house, feed him in a quiet, confined place such as his crate to decrease meal-time distractions.
Special Treatment for the Little Guys
Tiny toy breeds such as Yorkies, teacup poodles and Chihuahuas are especially prone to hypoglycemia as puppies. Leave food down constantly for them to nibble when they feel hungry. If you have older dogs that eat the food you leave down, make a creep feeder by putting a child gate across the doorway to an enclosed room with just enough space for the pup to slide underneath, but not the larger dogs. This will greatly reduce the amount of overall food outlay and keep the older dogs from overweight issues.
Doggie Knows Best
Guidelines on the dog food package are approximations of how much your dog needs to consume for ideal growth. You'll notice your dog's daily consumption exceeds these amounts when he's going through growth spurts. During times when his growth levels off, food left in his bowl is not usually a cause for concern as long as he is energetic and growing well. Dogs' ancestors did not necessarily eat on a regular schedule -- or even every day -- so it won't hurt a healthy puppy if he naturally curtails his appetite for a few days at a time.
By J. T. O'Connell
About the Author
A former world-class swimmer, J.T. O'Connell shares her love of adventure travel, extreme sports and pets through thousands of published articles. O'Connell studied journalism at Grand Canyon University, and brings professional experience as a tour guide and travel consultant. She authors the blog, Traveling With Large Dogs.