Puppy Feeding Guidelines

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!

Puppy Feeding: Diet And Nutrition

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.

Cute orange and white cocker spaniel puppy with two paws in his red kibble bowl.Just watch me; I'm going to eat it all!

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.

Why Free Feeding Puppies Isn't Recommended

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!

This is especially relevant where you have two dogs in the family. You may find one dog wolfs down both bowls!

Feed them at regular mealtimes and feed them separately.

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.

Puppy Feeding Schedule: How Often?

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:

  • Once fully weaned and up to 4 months of age: 4 meals each day;
  • Between 4 months and 6 months of age: 3 meals each day;
  • Over 6 months of age: 2 meals daily, morning and evening.

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.

Please note that the above information is a guide only. If you feel your puppy is losing weight or getting a little chubby, or you're worried about your puppy's weight, always speak to your vet for advice.

Cocker spaniel and a pug puppy lying on a white tiles floor surrounded by kibble. Looks like the pug isn't going to get any food.Please may I have some?

How Much Should I Feed My Puppy?

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.

Feeding Your Puppy: Wet or Dry?

You may decide to feed your dog a raw food diet (similar to what a dog would eat in the wild), or you may prefer to feed him what the family eats. Either way, it's a good idea to discuss your Cocker's nutritional needs with his vet beforehand.

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.

Feeding Dogs & Puppies Dry Dog Food

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.

Large stainless steel bowl filled to the brim with colourful kibble.This bowl of kibble looks good enough to eat!

Benefits of Kibble

Some of the benefits of feeding your dog kibble:

  • It doesn't smell, it's clean, and it's easy to use;

  • It lasts longer than an open tin of wet food, which, once opened, needs to be used within a day or two;

  • Kibble can be good for your puppy's teeth as the crunchy texture helps to remove plaque before it has a chance to build up;

  • Whilst kibble may seem more expensive than other dog food because it's a complete meal and there's no waste, it can work out to be good value for money.

Puppy Feeding Tip: 

Dry dog food contains very little moisture, so it's essential to ensure your puppy has access to plenty of fresh drinking water.

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!

Puppy Feeding & Tinned Dog Food

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.

Bright silver tin of dog food without a label.I wonder what's in this tin?

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!

Puppy Feeding: Homemade or Organic Dog Food?

You might consider feeding your puppy with homemade organic dog food if you prefer not to use commercially prepared dog foods.

Colourful, organic dog kibble, shaped like a heart, with the word DOG written inside it.Aw, sweet!

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!

Puppy Treats & Extras!

Treats are often given as a reward for good behaviour or during training, but unfortunately, they're not very nutritional.

A colourful selection of puppy treats on a white background.These dog treats look tasty!

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.

Rewarding Your Puppy With Homemade Healthy Treats!

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.

Overweight Puppies!

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!

Toxic Foods For Puppies

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!

Puppy Feeding & Food Aggression

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:

  • Feeding your puppy in a quiet place where he won't be interrupted while he eats. If you have more than one dog, always provide their meals separately to avoid fights;

  • Making sure children in the family understand the importance of leaving the dog alone while he eats can also help.

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.

Summary of Top Tips for Puppy Feeding

The following reminder of our top tips for puppy feeding may help you with your schedule:

  • Always ensure your puppy has access to plenty of clean, fresh drinking water, especially if your pup is fed a diet of dry food.

  • Don't allow your puppy to feed all day.
Beautiful black and white cocker spaniel lying by a bowl overflowing with kibble.I'm full up, Mum!
  • Always keep tinned dog food covered until required, preferably in the fridge.

  • Never feed your puppy with chilled food directly from the refrigerator; always allow the food to come up to room temperature so that it doesn't chill his little tummy. It will taste better too!

  • If you feed your dog wet food and he doesn't finish it, don't be tempted to top it up at the following meal time. This is not hygienic, can attract insects, encourage harmful bacteria, and upset tummies.

  • Don't feed your puppy table scraps. This bad habit will teach your puppy that it's okay to beg and will almost certainly make your puppy fat.

  • If you can't feel your dog's ribs - your puppy is overweight, and we all know that overweight dogs are unhealthy dogs!
Golden American cocker spaniel sitting by a selection of dog treats. The photo is taken against a white background.These dog treats are all mine. Would you like one?
  • Always consider any treats given to your puppy and offset them against his daily food allowance.

  • When it comes to puppy feeding, small but frequent meals during the day are best. Always follow your breeder's or food manufacturer's instructions.

  • If you decide to change your puppy's diet, do so gradually, over 1 to 3 weeks, so as not to upset his digestion.

  • It's always sensible to check your puppy's stool regularly as it can be an indicator of health. If your puppy's stool is very loose or he has diarrhoea, this may indicate a digestive problem and/or his current diet is unsuitable.

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: In order of viewing for Puppy Feeding
1. Willeecole at Fotolia
2.  Willeecole at http://www.fotolia.com/id/10448481
3. Karen Roach at http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-bowl-dog-food-image15720805
4. Tikmindaugas at http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-tin-canned-white-background-image15992053
5. Ludmila Smite at http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-pet%60s-food.-image17136494
6. Matthew Benoit at http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-dog-treats-image14842011
7. Willee Cole at http://www.fotolia.com/id/10731949
8. Willee Cole at http://www.fotolia.com/id/13105453