If it’s your first time living with a dog, it won’t take long for you to realize that mealtime is the highlight of your dog’s day. Food is everything for your pup, and you want to get started on the right foot. With the help of this guide, you’ll have the basics on making those first mealtimes with your newest family member a success.
What should your dog’s first meals look like?
Before your furry friend walks in the door, you’re probably wondering just what to put in the bowl and how much. The good news is, the first few days are relatively easy. You’ll want to start off with the brand of dog food your new friend was eating in their other home, and here’s why:
- Your dog’s prior home — whether it was at a breeder or shelter, or with a foster family or friend — will likely send along some food, and instructions on how much and how often to feed your pup.
- Being in a new home can throw off a dog’s sense of security. Not only are there new humans, new surroundings, and perhaps even new animals to get used to, they’re also processing a host of strange scents and weird noises. Putting familiar food in their bowl is one small thing you can do to make your new dog feel more secure.
- Also, it’s very important to feed your new dog on a schedule. When dogs know what to expect, they can feel more at home in your house!
Should you change your new pet’s diet?
In your first few days together, your new best friend should start showing signs that she’s getting more comfortable living with you. Meanwhile, you have every intention of keeping her as healthy as possible, so you can get the most out of your years together. So you may be wondering if their diet — the brand they’re used to — offers the full spectrum of health advantages, or if there’s something better out there you should try.
If you’re new to dogs, there’s no shortage of information about pet diets and there’s much to digest! Is one brand better than another? Is canned food more nutritious than kibble? What’s the deal with single-protein diets? Before you fill your cart with the first thing that looks good, do your homework. You can ask one of the helpful experts at your local, independent pet supplier. If you’re still unsure whether it’s time for a change, this guide will walk you through the cues your pet is giving that it’s time to switch diets.
Before the food swap, a word of caution. Sudden diet changes can upset a dog’s system, with tummy issues and runny stools being two common side effects. That’s why it’s a smart to opt for a high-quality diet that’s packed with probiotics. These build the microbiome in your dog’s gut, enabling them to better break down their food and absorb nutrients. Choose a diet that includes probiotics, and you’ll find the transition is much less eventful, leaving you with less mess to pick up in the yard. Look for brands that have, at minimum, 80 million colony-forming units of probiotics. At the same time, check the label for the thing that helps probiotics work their magic: prebiotics. These are resistant starches that provide a food source for probiotics.
Here’s how you switch your dog’s food with minimal upset. If you’ve chosen a high-quality diet, a maximum of five days is all the time you need. You’ll start by mixing a small amount of the new food with the old, and over the next four days, bump up the ratio of new food a bit more while serving less of the old until the transition is complete.
- Day 1: 20% new food, 80% old food
- Day 2: 40% new, 60% old
- Day 3: 60% new, 40% old
- Day 4: 80% new, 20% old
- Day 5: 100% new
A primer on feeding adult dogs
So you’re about to fill that bowl with your dog’s first meal at your house. But wait. How much should they get? And should you refill the empty bowl in case they feel like having a snack? If you know one thing about dogs, it’s that you can’t always count on them to stop eating when they’re full! You’d never want to deprive them, but you may have heard that extra pudge is dangerous for your dog’s health. Serving an adult dog two meals a day should meet their needs. The rest is all about portioning, and here’s how to get it right.
- Get familiar with the portion chart on the packaging of your dog’s food. It should offer a range of how much to put in the bowl at mealtime based on the dog’s weight and activity level. If you’re unsure of your new friend’s weight, here’s an easy method to accomplish this at home. First, get your bathroom scale and weigh yourself. Then pick up your dog and step on the scale a second time. Subtract your weight from the larger number and there you have it!
- To begin the process of perfecting the portion, consider your dog’s energy needs. A 12-pound Yorkie who spends much of its day relaxing indoors in a quiet house can get the calories it needs from that mid to lower range spelled out on the chart. And a Labrador that spends long hours romping outside with the kids will easily burn off the extra calories in the upper tier serving.
- Once you settle on that just-right portion, a DIY “scoop” designed to hold the perfect serving makes for fuss-free feedings. First, measure the portion of food and place it in an empty, clean food carton — say, an empty sour cream container. Use scissors to trim down the container and fashion a “scoop” that offers proper portioning with every meal!
Finally, a word about treats. With any new dog in your house, doling out rewards for a job well done comes with the territory. If your dog is getting lots of “good dog!” bites, be mindful. Opt for small, 5-calorie training bites to prevent a calorie pile-on.
A primer on puppy feeding
If your new family member is still in the puppy phase — still growing and developing its brain and body — her nutritional and energy needs will be different. Which is why you’ll want to offer your puppy a specially formulated puppy diet, which has higher levels of fats, protein and calcium to support their bone and brain growth. But not all puppy diets are alike!
There are formulas designed specifically for small breed puppies as well as for large breed puppies, so your dog’s specific needs are met. You don’t want to feed a small dog large-breed puppy food and vice versa.
In the list of ingredients, look for omega-3 fatty acids to optimize eye and brain development. Small-breed formulas should contain 10g of omega-3s per kilogram of food, and large-puppy formulas should have 5g per kilogram.
As your puppy grows, use this guide to help you monitor and respond to their changing needs.
- Young puppies age three months and younger need up to four feedings a day. Keep an eye on the serving ratios spelled out on the package and monitor their weight, so you can be sure you’re keeping up with their evolving calorie needs.
- Then, between the ages of three to six months, the puppy’s meals can be scaled back to three meals a day. Before you do so, pay attention to the energy needs and appetite of your dog, so you’re not yanking away that meal when her growing body still needs it. If she’s leaving food or picks at her lunch, that’s a strong cue that she’s ready to eliminate a meal.
- Between the ages of 6-12 months, puppies will transition to two meals a day. If your pet gets spayed or neutered during this time, you may see an impact on their energy level, which can make this transition a bit easier.
- When should puppies make the switch to adult food? In smaller breeds, this can happen at 7-9 months, while larger dogs may not be ready until as late as 14 months. Since puppy food is packed with the nutrients young dogs need, it’s better to stay with the puppy food too long, rather than switching too soon!
A healthy, happy dog starts with a high-quality diet
In addition to using better ingredients, each bag and can of NutriSource contains Good 4 Life, an exclusive blend of supplements that offer your dog all the minerals and probiotic nutrients they need to build a healthy gut and a healthy body. Our food has more probiotics, with a minimum of 100 million cfu in every pound, for better digestion. Essential trace minerals, like copper, manganese, cobalt and iron support your dog’s digestion, nourishes their skin and coat and enhances the immune function. Learn more how Good 4 Life supplements found only in NutriSource can make your pet’s diet complete.