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Puppy Series Part Three: Feeding Your Puppy

by | Dec 28, 2011 | 2 comments

Oh boy! One of my favorite topics. Like most of my favorite topics, nutrition for dogs (and everybody) is highly controversial.  So, as usual, I have a disclaimer:

I am not a nutritionist or a veterinarian.  What I am about to write is based on my own personal research and experience. 

Let’s start with the less controversial part: WHEN and HOW OFTEN to feed your puppy.  As a general rule, puppies should be eating at least three times a day until they are at least four months old.  You can keep them on that schedule as long as you like, but the longer you have the lunch in there the more they’re going to miss it when you cut it out.  You should feed them in the morning, in the middle of the day, and again at night–just work that around your schedule.

Now comes for the dog trainer part: WHERE and HOW to feed your puppy.  PLEASE for the love of dog don’t waste your puppy’s meals by just handing him a bowl and letting him have at it! Turn their meal into a training session, and now you have three training sessions under your belt every single day without even trying!  Here’s all the potential productive ways to feed your puppy (or adult dog for that matter):

  • Hand-feed the whole meal.  This helps your dog to connet his meal to you, understanding it comes from you.  I recommend this for a lot  of my aggression cases.
  • Use the food as treats and work on your homework assignments from your puppy class.
  • Work on impulse control exercises. At a minimum, your puppy should learn to sit and wait without being asked to earn his food bowl.  This is something I will work on for just a bit of the meal, and then use the rest of the meal (which is separated out) for something else in the list.
  • Stuff the food into a puzzle toy and give it to your puppy in his crate or ex-pen to help him learn to rest calmly and quietly in there.  This is a great one for the morning meal.  I’m not the sharpest in the morning and I need to get ready for the day, so stuffing the food into a toy and giving it to my puppy in the crate while I prepare for my day is typically what I do.  If you’re the opposite, you can do this one in the evening so that you can have some down-time–but don’t cheat by doing this at every meal!

Ok, now for the fun part–WHAT to feed your puppy.  Remember my disclaimer please.  I do not think that dogs should eat “dog food.”  The best brands are still highly processed and full of questionable stuff.  The worst brands are unspeakable.  The only service dog food does is to the dog food companies and the veterinarians that treat the chronic health problems dog food creates.  Oh boy, here come the tomatoes!  Now, I am not here to tell you that you are killing your dog by feeding him kibble, because if you are feeding a very high quality kibble you probably aren’t going to create any chronic issues, but I am begging you to at least suppliment the kibble with fresh food.  If you are feeding commercial dog food, look up the food on this website to see how it holds up, and then add some fresh meat to your dog’s diet, and let him chew raw bones like these ones on a regular basis for recreation and health.  You can buy raw bones like that at Whole Foods in the freezer, or most high-quality feed stores have a freezer full of them too.  If you live in my area–Northern Colorado–you should check out Poudre Pet and Feed, they have a great selection of both high-quality dog foods and raw bones.  I am not endorsed by them, I just love them!

Ok, since I know you’re wondering, I feed my dogs a raw diet.  It consists of raw meats, bones, and organs.  I didn’t always, but I have seen the magic it has done for their health.  Kelso has had chronic digestive issues his whole life, and now he doesn’t.  Idgie was impossible to keep weight on and her coat looked like crap on even high-quality kibble.  They are both thriving and they LOVE their food.  I don’t think you HAVE to feed raw, really. I know it’s a commitment a lot of people are not willing to make, and I understand that.  But I do think you need to think about what you are feeding your dog, because it does affect his health. 

I am not here to tell you HOW to raise a puppy on a raw diet, because I am not an expert.  But I do recommend this book which will tell you how to feed a raw diet, a home cooked diet, or a supplimented kibble diet accurately.

Oh, and one more thing.  If you choose to go with a breeder for your puppy, ask her what she feeds her dogs and puppies–it speaks volumes about the breeder, in my opinion.  It is expensive to feed a lot of dogs a high quality diet, so someone that is in it for profit won’t be doing this. 

For more information about raw feeding check out my friend Dawn-Renee Mack’s website.  She breeds dachshunds (looking for one? yay! I found your breeder!) and she feeds all of them raw.         


  1. Jenelle Sharpley

    OK, so Sarah can throw tomatoes at me, but I feel obligated as a veterinarian to comment on the raw food diet. Just this week, I saw a dog with multiple pathologic fractures and osteoporosis due to a raw meat diet. I’ve seen various other health problems due to this diet as well. Its just not a balanced diet and It is not without risk to both dog and owner. I have no problem with homemade diets, but they must include fruits, veggies and other supplements to be balanced.

    • cogdogtrainer

      Jenelle, no tomatoes! It saddens me that the dog with osteoperosis was not fed properly, as it saddens me when I see ANY dog suffering from chronic health problems that are diet-related. All diets can be unbalanced, whether they are raw, cooked, or processed. I simply encourage dog owners to take a deeper look at what they are feeding, and I do not suggest that anyone switch their dog’s diet without doing a LOT of homework.


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