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Puppy Nutrition 101: What Should You Feed a Puppy?

Poodle

Like any adorable baby, puppies have unique needs, especially concerning their diet. The right food and nutrition while they’re small can help them grow into healthy, strong adults — despite our wishes for them to stay this small and cute forever. Here’s everything you need to know about your puppy’s diet.

Puppies Need Puppy Food

Puppies should usually be weaned off their mother’s milk when they’re around 7 to 8 weeks old. Then they need food that’s formulated for a puppy’s unique nutritional needs — like any of the PEDIGREE® puppy foods.

Puppies grow fast, so they require more nutrient- and calorie-dense foods than adult dogs. They also need food with more amino acids, fatty acids, minerals and protein to help them develop strong bones, muscles and immune systems.

What Makes a Well-Balanced Puppy Diet?

There are four main things a puppy needs in their food bowl to grow up fit and fabulous:

  • Protein: Imagine how much protein you’d need to reach your adult size within a year. Pups need a little extra protein to help build all those growing muscles and tissues.
  • Fats: Fats are, not surprisingly, a great source of essential fatty acids. They help puppies develop a healthy skin and coat. They’re also important for brain development and vision.
  • Calcium: This is a necessary component for growing strong bones and teeth.
  • Digestible carbohydrates: Puppies love to play, and easily digestible carbs are a great power source for all that energy.

What Type of Puppy Food Is Best?

Dry? Wet? Combo? There’s no right or wrong answer. Each has its advantages, and as long as it provides the nutrition they need and your pup enjoys eating it, ring the dinner bell.

  • Dry food: This is an economical option that offers a balanced diet. Dogs love the crunch of kibble. Bonus: The texture can also help keep gums and teeth healthy.
  • Wet food: Dogs of all ages love the flavor of wet food, so it helps even finicky eaters get their needed nutrition. It’s also considered more easily digestible among dog food connoisseurs.
  • Combo of wet and dry food: A bit of this and a bit of that? Go right ahead. Puppies like a little variety in their meals, too.
  • Treats: Treats are a great way to help train your little best friend and build your relationship. To keep calories in check, don’t give them too many treats — no matter how much they give you the puppy eyes look.
A word (or several) on table scraps: We know it’s tempting, but table scraps add unnecessary calories to your pup’s diet and can lead to obesity. You don’t want them to develop any bad table manners by rewarding begging, either. Plus, some human food can be dangerous to dogs, especially puppies. It’s better to stick to puppy food.

When Should Puppies Switch to Adult Dog Food?

The time for your dog to leave the kids’ table is generally when they near their adult height. This can be as early as nine months for small-breed dogs or as long as two years for large breeds. Make the switch gradually over several days, mixing in the new and the old food to minimize upset tummies.

With the right nutrition and lots of love, your dog will grow into a healthy and happy adult — though they’ll always be your little puppy at heart.

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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