During its formative stages your puppy will be growing very rapidly, therefore it’s important to manage their weight effectively. An obese puppy can easily lead to an obese adult dog if their diet and behaviour aren’t closely monitored.
Dogs are naturally energetic animals and get that energy from fat; if there’s too much fat in their diet and not enough activity, they’ll begin to put on weight. This extra weight can put pressure on their skeleton, leading to joint issues and putting greater demands on their essential organs. Keeping them at a healthy weight and in good shape can therefore help improve their quality of life.
What to do to manage your puppy’s weight
Make sure to give your puppy nutritionally-balanced food which provides them with the right combination of elements and the right ratio of fat to protein to help them grow without putting on excess weight.
Set a routine for their feeding: feed them in the same place, using the same bowl, at the same times of the day. This will help them understand when and where ‘meal time’ is and regulate their eating habits.
Give them small, regular meals with controlled portion sizes. Start with three meals a day and reduce this to two meals a day once they’ve finished their growth phase. Frequent small meals spread their energy intake over the day and are easier for them to digest.
Allow your puppy to explore their environment early on, starting at two months. They need to get used to where they live so they can play and expend their energy confidently. At first you should guide them, and always supervise play – especially when there are children around.
Regularly weigh your puppy and adjust their portions according to the instructions on your dog’s food. This is especially important for smaller breed dogs whose growth spurt is more rapid than bigger dogs, and therefore may need more frequent adjustment.
Give your puppy toys to play with to encourage active behaviour. Cardboard boxes are always fun, and rubber toys last a long time; choose ones twice the size of their mouth to prevent them choking on, or swallowing small parts.
What not to do when managing your puppy’s weight
Don’t treat your puppy like a human. Dogs don’t need variety in their diet – stick to a single type of nutritionally-balanced food and use a routine to keep things simple and understandable for them.
Don’t feed them table scraps, as these can significantly increase the amount of energy (and fat) your puppy is taking in. It can also encourage bad behaviour like begging at the table.
Don’t give your puppy treats to try and get it to eat its ‘main’ food. This is counter-productive, as your puppy may end up refusing to eat its kibble because it thinks it will get a treat!
Don’t overfeed your puppy. Your puppy’s appetite will vary depending on their age, but don’t be tempted to put more food down if they eat it all or put food down at a different time if they leave some from an earlier meal. They’ll eat when they’re hungry, and small, frequent meals will mean they have time to satisfy their hunger later.
Although it can be difficult, it’s essential to stick to recommendations about eating and exercise for your puppy to avoid health problems later in life. Follow these guidelines, keep an eye on their food, and spend plenty of time playing – you’ll be giving them the best possible start.