Health And Exercise
Dogs have physical exercise requirements that can vary with breed, age, and for each specific dog. But we do not subscribe to the idea that “a tired dog is a good dog”. A trained dog is a good dog. But we do need to make sure we provide outlets for physical exercise. Short walks and hikes, or games of fetch or tug, are usually enough for most dogs to fulfill their exercise requirements. Mindless physical exercise is not productive and can encourage unwanted or mindless behaviors. Instead, combine the physical exercise with rules that they have to follow, kind of like the games we all played in gym class. Setting up obstacle courses is a great way to do this.
It is easy to over do it with exercise. Be cautious of how much your puppy is getting. Their bodies aren't quite capable of long walks, and certainly not jogging/running with you. Short exercise sessions throughout the day is ideal.
Puppies need five minutes of exercise per month of age up to twice a day, according to the U.K. Kennel Club. In other words, a 3-month-old puppy will need 15 minutes of exercise while a 4-month-old will need 20 minutes. This may take the form of low-impact activities like swimming or playing with small dog exercise balls.
Check out the section on Games and Play for activities!
Some days the weather, long hours at work, or other circumstances prevent us from being able to give our dog the physical outlet they need. We can also tire them out mentally through training, or through games that require them to think. Things like scent work, puzzle feeders, or simply scattering kibble in the yard and letting your dog hunt for their food are all great ways to exercise the mind when you can’t exercise the body. Mental exercise is critical in the development and maintenance of a healthy, happy dog.
So practice obedience throughout the day, and/or set up formal training sessions. Check out the section on Games and Play for different activities that work not only the body but also the mind!
We all want what's best for our dogs. It can be confusing with all of the options out there to know what 'best' really is! Personally, I use reviews from dogfoodadvisor.com to gather information on different food brands and formulas. You should speak to your vet to get their input as well, but certainly do your own research. One dog might respond spectacularly to Food A, while the dog's housemate responds poorly to it.
Portions and Growth
Be sure to pay attention to your dog's body weight. Puppies grow incredibly fast so be prepared to change food portions weekly or so. It's still important not to overfeed puppies so make sure to measure the portions each time and keep track so you can adjust accordingly. I generally feed puppies 3x a day until they're around 16 weeks old or so (sometimes younger, sometimes older as it depends on the individual dog), and then I switch to 2x a day. With small breeds I often continue to feed them 3x a day.
The feeding guidelines listed on the food bag are a starting point, but really, portion size will depend on the individual dog.
Watch your puppy’s body condition as they grow, and adjust the portions accordingly. If they seem to be holding on to their puppy weight for too long, they may be overeating. Likewise, if they leave food in the dish, it may mean their ready to drop from three to two meals a day. Also, be sure to account for treats (below I discuss how I control portions and use their food for treats too). If you can see their ribs and/or hip bones, it's time to add another meal to their day (or increase the portions of their current meals).
When and How to Feed your Puppy
In general, several meals spread throughout the day is the best way to feed your puppy. A feeding schedule helps distribute calories and energy throughout her day. As a bonus, sticking to a regular feeding schedule means a regular potty schedule, too!
Do not free feed, rather offer them their food and if they do not eat it within 10 minute or so, pick it up and offer it at the next mealtime. If your dog doesn't finish it's food, you may need to adjust the portion. If your dog usually eats enthusiastically and then begins to refuse food, the food may be spoiled or your dog may be ill. Use good judgement and call your vet if you have concerns.
The ideal way to feed your dog is to have them work for it! With all of my dogs and any dogs that are staying with me, I portion out their entire food for the day and keep it in a sealed container. This allows me to use the food for rewards without overfeeding them. At mealtime I may use their entire meal portion while working on exercises (obedience, brain games, etc) or sometimes I feed them in their bowl, but in some way or another they earn it. That may mean that I practice recall, where they have to move away from the food and recall to me in order to be released to access their meal. Another example is working on sit/stays or kennel while I prepare the food, and then releasing them to eat once they successfully complete the exercise. And other times I work them with multiple exercises using their food as rewards throughout the session.
If your dog is struggling getting used to the crate, for example, use mealtime to work on that, whether you're feeding them in a bowl or sprinkling it on the crate floor, or rewarding for being calm in the crate, or just rewarding for them walking into it!
This Body Condition chart is for adult dogs, but it's important to be aware of what proper weight looks like. Start healthy eating habits with your puppy now so it can continue into adulthood!
Below is a rough guide on the growth of your puppy based on the category they fall into (toy, small, medium, large, giant).
Dangerous foods! Many common foods that we have daily can be dangerous to our four-legged friends. Click here if you'd like a pdf to print out.
This next poster is a good reminder that even the most seemingly benign thing can turn out to be incredibly harmful to our pets. It's a good reminder that we need to have a different perspective, or thought process, when it comes to our dog's well-being.