Nutrition during puppyhood is one of the biggest influencers of your dog’s lifespan and development. Although pet nutrition is important throughout their lifespans, puppyhood is the most important of all. Feed too much, and your adult Labrador will be prone to joint problems, feed too little, and puppies fail to realize their genetic potential.
What are your options?
You have many options when it comes to feeding your Labrador pup, and you’ll find advocates and opponents of the various feeding methods around every corner. Not even vets agree! Let’s do a quick roundup:
#1. Raw or cooked food prepared at home
Because nutrition is so crucial for puppies, you don’t have time to play around. If you want to go the natural or home-cooked route, make sure you know what you are doing. There are entire books written on the subject of raw feeding and homemade pet foods. Get one and become an expert.
In my personal opinion (and that of many vets), getting used to raw food is quite a process for pups. I’m also not comfortable with staking my puppy’s future on my very limited skills as a pet nutritionist. After all, if I make mistakes, my puppy is going to be the victim!
#2. Commercial dog food
Here, we are looking at wet and dry foods. You can get away with just dry food, or you can add some wet foods into the equation as a treat. What I like best about commercial puppy foods is that you get them with clear guidelines as to how much and how often to feed. Since you should take your puppy for a vet check-up as soon as possible, you have a great opportunity to ask for feeding advice.
One caveat about commercial foods that I’d like to mention is that the cheaper they are, the less likely they are to be particularly good. You don’t have to go for the most expensive option, but I would suggest going with a brand your vet recommends or choosing a mid-priced option.
Apart from being very expensive, wet foods don’t clean your pup’s teeth. Crunching kibble helps a bit here. I’d recommend wet foods as a treat, and I’d suggest that you choose a wet food that’s made by the same company that produces the kibble. The reason for that is that you should reduce the kibble ration to make up for the extra wet food you’re giving your pup.
How many times a day should you feed your pup?
Although you can get away with feeding an adult dog once a day (twice is better), your puppy needs to be fed more frequently. A good puppy food will have feeding instructions that cover this, but in short:
- Four times daily until your pup is three months old.
- Three times a day from three to six months old.
- Twice a day from six months onward.
Not too fat, not too thin
Unfortunately, I can’t give you guidelines on how much your puppy should weigh at what age. Even the most highly pedigreed Labradors won’t all be the same. Some will be larger, others smaller, and the growth rate will vary too. However, a broad guideline is possible.
Young pups invariably have roly-poly figures, but from the age of three months, you ought to see a waist on your dog. You should NEVER be able to see ribs showing through. If you do, it’s time to go to the vet for an expert opinion. The same is true if you suspect your puppy of being overweight. Don’t risk underfeeding. Get the vet’s opinion before you change your puppy’s diet.
Because most people have to work during the day, they often leave the day’s food ration out so that the puppy can help himself. There’s just one problem: a puppy might decide to eat everything up in the morning. Later in the day, he might be hungry, but there won’t be any food.
Dogs, especially Labs, sometimes eat out of sheer boredom and believe me, your Labrador pup is very bored when you aren’t around. If possible, ask a friend or family member to feed your puppy at midday if you can’t do so yourself.
Eat, Love, Play
Remember that love and play are almost as important to your puppy’s health as a good diet. Training also becomes a game for your young Lab, so don’t just look for the best puppy food for Labs, also give your pup plenty of your time.