A dog’s eating habits are controlled by three things: its brain, its experiences, and its environment. The very first experiment in behavioral psychology was done by a scientist named Pavlov who taught dogs to get ready to eat when they heard a certain sound. Since that initial experiment, scientists have observed over and over how important the things happening around, and to, a dog are when it comes to affecting the dog’s eating habits.
Once, when dogs were wild, most of their daily activity was devoted to obtaining a meal. While the need for this activity has practically disappeared, mealtime still constitutes one of the most important events in a dog’s life. And, many of a dog’s behavioral responses are still linked to its eating routine.
Today’s dogs have become creatures of habit. They thrive on monotony and are most comfortable when things remain the same. Few dogs appreciate a sudden change in their sleeping quarters or the surprise of a new food in their bowl. The more that can be done to prevent change in a dog’s feeding program, the better it will be for both the dog and its owner. Regularity in feeding promotes good appetite, good digestion and regular eliminations. Therefore, the first general consideration to be made when feeding any dog should be the establishment of a regular feeding schedule and should stay that way without being altered.
Puppies have conventionally been fed small portions of their daily diet at frequent intervals during the day. The rationalization behind this is sound, but the frequency of feedings often is too high. Even newborn puppies do quite well when fed only four times daily. Some breeders even reduce this to three times daily, but unless your schedule absolutely prohibits it, a minimum of four feedings should be the limit. The feedings need not be separated exactly six hours apart, but it is desirable to space the feedings as evenly as possible throughout the 24-hour time period. For example, my own schedule usually works out best when I feed around 7:00 A.M., 12:00 Noon, 6:00 P.M., and 1:00 P.M. Yours may be different.
The frequency of feedings should not be reduced to three a day until the puppies are weaned. Whether you are feeding newborn puppies four times daily, or older puppies three times, once the pattern of feedings has been set, it should not be changed, but should occur at the same time every day.
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