Is the subject of puppy feeding causing you turmoil?
If you're unsure what or how often to feed your new puppy, this article will give you all you need to help your new bundle of fur grow into a strong, healthy adult Cocker Spaniel!
When it comes to puppy feeding, it's essential to get it right.
Cocker pups grow quickly during their first few months, so they need an especially nutritious diet to help them develop into strong, healthy adult Cocker Spaniels.
When you brought your puppy home, your breeder may have given you a small bag of puppy food and instructions to help you with your puppy feeding routine.
I recommend you continue using this food because, apart from being specially formulated to help your pup's growth and development during his early months, his delicate tummy and digestive system will already be used to it.
If you decide to change your puppy's food later, do it gradually by mixing in a little of the new food at each meal time; otherwise, you risk upsetting your puppy's tummy.
Gradually increase the amount of the new food whilst decreasing the old, over 7-10 days, or longer, until the change has been made.
In case you don't already know what the term 'free-feeding' means, it's literally what it sounds like; leaving unlimited kibble in your dog's bowl so that food is available all day long!
I don't recommend allowing your puppy to free feed because their eyes are often significantly bigger than their bellies; your greedy little puppy is likely to eat much more than he needs!
Left to his own devices, you'll almost certainly end up with an obese puppy!
If kibble is always available, it may reduce your puppy's drive for food, making it more challenging to train him. If your dog isn't driven by food, he's unlikely to be motivated by it, (for example, as a reward) and is, therefore, less likely to listen to your training instructions.
Feed your puppy at the recommended feeding times.
Take it away if he doesn't eat all his food within 15 minutes. He'll soon learn that if he doesn't eat his kibble at the designated times, he'll have to wait until the next mealtime.
Puppies need to be fed small amounts regularly throughout the day so as not to over-stretch their little tummies.
Feeding them this way also keeps their energy levels up all day.
A typical puppy feeding schedule could look like this:
Make sure you evenly space your puppy's meals; for example, If you feed him at 7:00 am, his next meals should be at 11:00 am 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm, based on 4 meals daily.
You can change these times to suit your lifestyle, but be sure to leave plenty of time between his final meal and bedtime to allow proper digestion.
Puppy feeding requirements will differ for every puppy depending on their size, age and how active they are.
Generally, your breeder will offer you the best advice, but your vet can help too. Additionally, you could refer to the puppy food manufacturer's packaging for guidance.
My experience is that manufacturers' recommendations are often quite generous. I reduced Max's kibble allowance by 10% when he was a puppy because I felt he was becoming a little 'chubby'.
I feed him a 'senior' mix today, but I still reduce his allowance by around 10% or more if he's had extra bits of chicken or lamb during the day.
Nowadays, you can buy a wide range of commercial puppy food, ranging from tinned and organic dog food to dry kibble.
When you buy commercial dog food, you may notice it's sometimes labelled as 'complete' or 'complementary'.
What's the difference?
Complete dog food should contain all the nutrition your puppy needs.
Complementary food should only make up part of your pet's diet because it won't meet his nutritional needs. It is meant to be given with other foods such as mixer biscuits.
Dry food is a specially formulated complete meal in the form of small, bite-sized biscuits known as kibble.
Popular flavours are lamb, beef, salmon, rabbit and chicken, and it has all the essential oils, vitamins and minerals your dog needs.
Some of the benefits of feeding your dog kibble:
The only downside to kibble (if there really is one) is that recently weaned puppies may sometimes refuse to eat it because it's too dry.
To get around this, simply moisten the kibble with a little warm water and let it stand for a few minutes to soften. Step back and watch your puppy wolf it down.
Personally, I prefer kibble to wet food.
Not only because it provides Max with all the essential nutrients and vitamins he needs to keep him fit and healthy, but because kibble is so easy, needs no preparation, is clean, and doesn't smell...all of the above reasons!
And most important of all, Max loves it!
If you choose to feed your puppy tinned dog food ('wet food'), be sure to check the label for nutrition levels. Some tinned dog foods are meant to be mixed with biscuits to add texture and extra nutrients to make it a 'complete' meal.
Benefits include that it's quick and easy to prepare, especially cans with a ring-pull, and many dogs like, or even prefer, soft, wet food.
However, the downside is that tinned dog food can be messy, sometimes smell, and must be refrigerated when opened and used within a couple of days.
Once in the food bowl, if not eaten, wet dog food can dry out. It can also attract flies and other insects, especially in the summer, which isn't very hygienic!
However, the smell of tinned dog food, to dogs at least, can be very enticing!
You might consider feeding your puppy with homemade organic dog food if you prefer not to use commercially prepared dog foods.
Organic dog food is food that's grown and prepared using environmentally friendly practices and is free from herbicides and pesticides.
An organic dog food diet can have some great benefits for your pet. Apart from keeping your Cocker looking in tip-top condition, it can also add precious years to his life.
Whilst it may not be strictly necessary to feed your puppy organic dog food, it is essential to use good quality ingredients. If it's not good enough for human consumption, it's not good enough for your Cocker Spaniel!
Treats are often given as a reward for good behaviour or during training, but unfortunately, they're not very nutritional.
Check the label to know precisely what goes into the treats you're feeding your puppy because some can contain excessive amounts of salt, sugar, and fats.
They very often contain artificial flavours and colours too.
So if you love your puppy, feeding him, shop-bought treats should be kept to a minimum, if at all.
You may want to consider making your own healthy dog treats, in which case you could try a couple of these delicious homemade dog biscuit recipes.
If baking's not for you, a good alternative is to reward him with small pieces of cooked chicken or liver, chopped into little pieces.
Dental sticks are another healthy option if you want to reward your dog for good behaviour; as a bonus, they will help clean the plaque off his teeth.
Please don't feed your puppy table scraps.
Apart from upsetting the well-balanced diet his kibble or wet food provides, feeding him from your table will teach him to beg (which may be cute while he's still a puppy, but it's bad manners, and when he's a fully-grown dog, you won't like it!).
In addition, all those extra calories you feed him will soon begin to mount up!
And don't forget, any (healthy) treats or extras fed to your dog during a day should be offset against his daily food allowance; otherwise, your puppy will get fat!
At this point, I'd also like to mention that many everyday human foods can be poisonous to dogs, and especially puppies.
Chocolate is just one of them, and one large bar can kill a small puppy, so be careful and make sure all type of chocolate is out of reach of curious, greedy little puppies!
If your dog believes that you or any other family member are a threat to his food, he may become aggressive, and food aggression can get very nasty.
Getting too close to your puppy when he's feeding can trigger this.
There are things you can do to prevent food aggression, such as:
I recommend you read this article to help you understand more about dog food aggression. It describes the early warning signs and explains steps you can take to prevent it from happening in the first place or, if it's too late, how you can help remedy it.
The following reminder of our top tips for puppy feeding may help you with your schedule:
If you're worried about your puppy's feeding or digestion, i.e., he won't eat or drink, or his stool is often very loose or contains blood, don't hesitate to call your vet.
Photo Credits for Puppy Feeding:
1. Willeecole at Fotolia
2. Willeecole at https://www.fotolia.com/id/10448481
3. Karen Roach at https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-bowl-dog-food-image15720805
4. Tikmindaugas at https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-tin-canned-white-background-image15992053
5. Ludmila Smite at https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-pet%60s-food.-image17136494
6. Matthew Benoit at https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-dog-treats-image14842011
7. Willee Cole at https://www.fotolia.com/id/10731949
8. Willee Cole at https://www.fotolia.com/id/13105453