NOTE: If you need to care for a newborn puppy that has been rejected by its mother, or whose mother has died, you need to research how to bottle feed an orphaned puppy.
Most puppies will learn to eat by watching their mother. The mother should be fed a good quality puppy food during her pregnancy, and while nursing. She should be fed at least three times a day. The curious puppies will start to investigate the food around four to five weeks of age. At this time an extra pan of food can be put down just for them.
When you feed kibble (dry dog food) it is important to feed small pieces appropriate to the size of the puppies. If the kibble is too large it can be soaked briefly in water. Some people feed canned food, and this can be done with the awareness that canned food can contribute to diarrhea. Canned chunks in gravy should never be given to puppies (or adult dogs really), rather they should only be fed a mush type, or have the food mushed up with a fork.
Rice Pablum can also be fed to puppies who are having problems with eating – typically smaller breed pups. When feeding pablum, soaked kibble, or canned food, it is important to thorw out any uneaten food after 20 minutes or bacteria can grow in the food.
As the puppies approach six weeks of age they should be eating dry puppy food that no longer needs to be soaked in water. If you are feeding more than one puppy you will find they can spill their food so it should be offered in a special non-spill bowl or tray made for feeding litters of pups.
Puppies can be weaned from their mother between six and ten weeks of age, smaller pups should be left longer.
The toy breed puppies (and teacup pups) have smaller stomachs and should be fed more often or they can go into s state of shock from their blood sugars not being regular. In some cases this may mean 5 or 6 small feedings a day. Other puppies are best if fed three times a day, this can be cut to twice a day around three months of age, with many smaller puppies still needing a mid day snack.
To know how much food to feed your puppy look at the guide lines on the side of the bag. Feed according to the weight your pup should be, and divide the total your pup should eat for the day by the number of times you will be feeding it in a day.
You will note that with better foods you need to feed less, and there is less waste. As every puppy food is different in quality the amount that needs to be fed will depend on the quality of the food you decide to use. All puppy foods will try to insist they are the best, but it is worth noting that some foods use lots of filler and contain little nutrition – requiring the pup to eat more food.
When to switch a puppy to adult dog food
If they are healthy, small breed puppies may be switched to adult food around 8 months of age.
Large breed pups should be fed large breed puppy food, and may even need to be fed this until 18 or 24 months of age.
Most other pups can be gradually switched to adult food between 10 and 14 months of age, depending on their condition and activity level. Active pups who are thin should be kept on puppy food longer, while less active ones who have filled out can be switched to adult food sooner.