I’m going to let you in on a little secret. As a certified trainer, I hate talking about dog food. In my Facebook group Puppy Training with Michele Lennon I get a lot of questions every single week asking about the best kinds of food, how to make the dog eat the food, what kind of things to mix in with the food- so much food! And I get even more questions on my other platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. I hear you! So today, I’m finally going to do it. I WILL talk about food! And you should know from the very beginning of this article… I have never been paid by a food company. At the time of this recording, I never received any donation or compensation from any company having to do with dog food. This is just me, Michele, talking to you about dog food. Reluctantly! Nah, just kidding. I’m happy to do it. Michele here with HTTADD…. Before snacking on what I’m about to tell you, hit that subscribe button so you don’t miss another article like this So…We recently switched our dogs to a new food. That sounds so simple, but you have to understand, it was a PROCESS! Two out of three of my dogs have sensitive stomachs. Harper my Great Dane has a few food allergies and Pickles often throws up after eating a portion of new food. We had to slowly start to add in the new food, each week gradually adjusting the amount until about a month later – yes one month! – the transition was complete. Let’s talk about that transition in more detail for just one minute. When you first bring home a new puppy, try to bring home the same type of food he was on at the breeder or rescue. Puppies have sensitive stomachs and they need us to transition their food pretty slowly. You might not have to do it as slowly as I did, but the slower the better, otherwise your pup may experience an upset stomach and you may end up cleaning up very loose stools frequently. Resist the urge to doctor up your puppy’s food. When it’s mealtime, put down the food for 10-15 minutes. Then pick up any remaining food and make it part of the next meal but don’t give more than the normal amount. All dogs are food motivated, but it might take a few meals for them to get the idea that they should eat what is served at the time it is served. OK I know what you’re thinking. “But Michele, what type of food should I buy??”. I get it, it’s so hard to know. Along with stopping biting and mastering potty training, this is something most puppy owners want to know. Sidenote – I can help you with those other two things too. For biting, you’ll love my online course where I can help you train your puppy to bite the RIGHT thing, not the human thing. And potty training is covered in my free New Puppy Starter kit. The links to these resources are in the description below. Ok back to food. I want you to know that your dog is not a vegetarian. So if you believe strongly in the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, that’s totally fine, but y your dog’s health needs require meat to be a part of their well-balanced diet. Just like with food for humans, there are many differing opinions on the best food for our dogs. But a lot of it depends on how YOUR dog does. I could tell you the brand of dog food we ended up buying, but it doesn’t matter how MY dogs do on the food, it matters how YOUR dogs do. Sorry to make more work for you, but you’ll need to do a little more research if you really want to understand what food is best for your dog. And then you’ll have to watch your dog carefully to see how he reacts when he has fully transitioned to the new foods. Things you can watch for are behaviors like how settled or anxious he might be, the quality of his poo – and even how much he goes to the bathroom. Of course, watch for obvious signs like throwing up. If your dog has an issue with the brand or protein source you likely will notice it soon after introducing it. Sometimes you may see your dog excessively itching. It’s possible that it could be a food allergy. The more you can keep a log of your dog’s daily activities and any new behaviors you notice, the better you will be able to pick up patterns. This works for potty training too! As part of your research into good foods, you can definitely ask your vet for his or her opinions, but you should know that many vet offices receive incentives if they promote or use specific foods. When I do my research on foods, I look to see who paid for the studies to be done. But I’m not going to leave you empty-handed with your question about what food to use. I’m going to share this resource with you. Using this as one of your many sources of info is recommended. https://www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk/ I like this site because I feel that it gives the most accurate information. I know it’s from the UK and you may be looking for something similar published in the USA but I’m just not fond of the info found on the US-based sites as I don’t think it’s thorough enough. So thanks to our good friends across the pond for putting out such great content. But let’s go beyond dog food for a moment. Let’s talk about food that humans eat that you may or may not want to feed a dog. Remember that to a dog, all food is dog food. They don’t know the difference, and they definitely don’t care. If it’s tasty, they’ll eat it. Even if it’s harmful to them, they will still eat it. That’s where you, the critical thinker in the relationship, have to help prevent accidents from happening. Many human foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can really irritate a dog’s digestive system, sometimes even causing health problems. A few foods to never feed your dog are grapes, chocolate, garlic, onion, olives, apple seeds, and alcohol. For a more comprehensive list, go to my website. Alternatively, some food that you eat on a regular basis can be a part of your dog’s diet too. And it may even be healthy for them! A few human foods I sometimes feed to my dogs are apples, blueberries, bananas, boiled chicken, eggs, and white rice! Oh, and of course cheese. Pickles will do just about anything for cheese (look at PIckles: “right buddy?”). We recently did a challenge in my student group. Puppy parents were tasked with giving their dog a taste test of human foods that were safe for dogs. We wanted them to learn more about their puppy’s preferences. Some pups ate anything their owners offered them. Other pups definitely held out for the good stuff. Pups and owners alike had a lot of fun and my students got some new ideas on what foods to try with their puppy. Let’s talk about evaluating the dog food you are considering. When you are looking at the ingredients list on the back of the bag, be sure to look at the first 3-5 ingredients You want to make sure the foods are something you recognize and aren’t just fillers. Remember ingredients are usually listed in order from greatest amount to least. If you don’t recognize one of the ingredients as something wholesome and nutritious then pass on that brand. If one of those ingredients is a filler like corn or rice then you’re filling your dog with a whole bunch of empty foods that have no nutritional value, That food will likely leave your dog hungry for more and you’ll be picking up a whole lot more poop than is necessary. Did you know that over 54% of American dogs are overweight because they are eating poor-quality diets and are being overfed? Many foods have high salt contents and even sugars in them. Foods with lots of colors in them are not healthy for your dogs. When choosing dog food, consider if you want to use wet or dry food or a combination of both. Wet or dry foods alone can be a complete meal or can be combined to complete the meal. Keep in mind that wet foods contain a large amount of water, so you’ll have to adjust the quantities higher to make sure your pup is getting enough. This often makes it a more expensive option. And it could impact potty training! I’m also going to recommend you take a look at the YouTube channel Farmer’s Market Fido. My colleague, Dr. Jessica Fusch, a board-certified veterinarian, and canine nutrition expert, has some great tips about food for dogs. Let’s talk more about that overweight issue for just one minute. Knowing what a healthy weight looks like in a dog is also important. Take a look at this image, which I found on the site from the UK that I shared earlier. I thought it is a great way to visualize what might be a healthy weight. Sometimes it’s different than you think! OK, that was really a lot of information from someone who really doesn’t like to talk about dog food, am I right? Let’s move on to some more food-related questions I get a lot. How much should I feed my dog? How much to feed your dog will depend on many factors, including size, weight, age, breed, and activity level. The label on the dog food bag should be one of your guides, as each food has a different caloric makeup. Keep in mind that manufacturers want you to buy more of their product so their recommended levels may be on the high end. How often should I feed my puppy? How often to feed your dog really depends on his age and the advice of your veterinarian. Most puppies are fed three times a day. Young puppies who have an empty stomach for too long might throw up yellow foamy bile. This is not harmful but you might add in an extra snack or adjust mealtime so his stomach is not empty for so long. Around the 6 month mark, we often recommend feedings drop to twice a day. A quick safety tip: we don’t want to exercise a dog immediately before or after a meal. Dogs can get bloat and Their stomach can actually flip and require surgery to fix it. This is more common in larger breeds like Great Danes and less so in smaller dogs but it can still happen. Give a buffer of 30 to 60 minutes before or after meals before allowing the pup to run and exercise. This includes walks. How can I make my puppy slow down when he’s eating? If your pup is eating too fast you can use various slow bowl feeders, puzzle toys, and enrichment activities such as snuffle mats to slow down the eating process. While these things may slow the consumption rate you will need to work on your pup’s excitement level around food, and impulse control. This will take time and training. I go into some more detail in this article, which might be a good one to watch if you have a fast eater. Another question I get What do I do if my pup won’t eat from the bowl? This is pretty common. Some pups just don’t like the bowl. It may make an unpleasant sound when it hits the tags or collar, it could cause a reflection that the puppy doesn’t understand or, there’s such a thing as whisker fatigue. In this situation, the puppy doesn’t like the repeated touching of the bowl to the whiskers. Don’t you wish he could just tell you that? If your puppy prefers to eat off the floor, that’s perfectly fine! Many people get a rubber mat or flat surface to put the food on. Some puppies prefer to eat from a puzzle toy or game. They are more motivated to eat when they have to hunt for or work for it. This is where becoming a puppy detective is going to pay off. Watch your dog for the clues that they are giving off and adjust your habits – and expectations – accordingly. What treats should I feed my dog? Ultimately the treatment that works the best for your dog is the one your dog likes the most. And this may vary over time. Most of the time the treat or food with the highest moisture content is the most desirable. But novelty may play a role here as well. This is not up to you to decide – what your puppy finds tasty is what he finds tasty! You can watch this article all about Treats How do I use food with training? We recommend using mealtimes, or part of mealtimes, as training time. You want to allow your dog to enjoy part of his meal so he’s not so hungry during the training session, but save the rest of it for some focussed training, or crate training to gain positive association, or reinforcement when you see behavior you want to see more of. Don’t forget to take food and/or treats when you are out on a walk with your puppy and reinforce all the good things you see from your pup!