**This is a very general guideline for feeding the average puppy, with specifics included regarding the average American Cockapoo. Please keep in mind that very small and very large breed puppies can need very different and specific feeding regimens and no matter what you should always consult your specific breeder and your veterinarian about any feeding recommendations for your little guy**
First you need to establish WHAT to feed your puppy or dog. I suggest you start HERE which discusses what dogs need to eat, or you can begin HERE, which jumps straight into recommendations for commercially prepared extruded dog foods (aka kibble).
Then you can move on to step #2, which this blog addresses: How to Feed Your New Puppy
Now that you have narrowed down (or chosen) your commercial puppy food I want to talk to you about feeding your new puppy.
Your little guy began getting his/her first baby teeth only a few weeks ago! He/she will continue to have teeth erupt and grow all the way through 9 weeks of age. Up until your puppy is about 3 months old you may want to take into consideration the tender, soft gums and mouth that your puppy has.
He/she is unlikely to want to munch on straight-poured hard commercial dog food pellets/extruded food. It is safer and easier for your puppy to mix the food with some warm water to help soften the food for your little sweetie.
This has multiple benefits. First, it makes the food easier to eat and digest (and more palatable overall for your little guy). Second it prevents the potential problem of causing gum/mouth abscess. Hard puppy cereal/food can scrape and slice up the tender gums and mouth of your new puppy. Opening up wounds and abrasions in the mouth gives all that lovely mouth-bacteria a chance to take hold and cause a nasty infection. It can happen, so if you choose to feed hard food right away keep an eye out for any swollen lumps in the jaw/mouth/muzzle and especially any swollen eyes.
Another major benefit to softening the puppy kibble is that it ensures your puppy is ingesting plenty of fluids.
Your little one will prefer soft foods to hard ones and is likely to lap up any fluid around the kibble before actually chewing up the food.
Making sure that the food is tasty and palatable will also ensure that your puppy will consume as much nutrition/food as he/she needs during this time of extraordinary growth!
Most (if not all) bags of puppy food and “all life stages” dog foods will actually give instructions on how much water to add to the food to feed to a puppy or a dog with a smaller mouth or less teeth that the average adult.
How much and how often should you feed your little guy? Puppies should (ideally) eat at least three times a day. If you’re available to feed your little guy 4-5 smaller meals/day that is fantastic! If you are completely unable to schedule three evenly-spaced meals a day due to work constraints that is ok. You can still squeeze in three feedings. For example, if you go to work at 7 and leave the house at 6:30 then you can feed your puppy first thing after letting him out to potty. So we’ll say that you’re waking up around 5:30 to let the puppy out. Feed him in his crate and while he is eating you take your shower (or whatever) after about ten minutes or so your puppy will be done. You should let him back outside immediately in order to allow him to defecate- as first morning feedings in particular tend to stimulate the need to eliminate. Then you come home from work and running errands, etc. by 6 pm. You can feed your puppy again (after letting him potty) and again let him outside right after eating. If you’re going to bed around 11pm then the last thing you can do that day is offer your pup another meal (and let him outside for a decent amount of time and maybe a little walk) and then you go to bed. Three meals are possible, even if they aren’t evenly spaced. If doing a schedule like that is absolutely impossible then you absolutely need to be sure your little one gets fed twice a day and closely monitor his progress (and weight).
Continue to feed your puppy 2-3 times per day until he/she is at a minimum of 6 months-1 year old OR has access to food at all times, using the “free feed” method. You can cut down from the 3-5 feedings a day to 2 feedings a day at 6 months if you want an ideal schedule for a Cockapoo. Then you can feed once per day after one year of age.
An adult Cockapoo can eat once per day although you may prefer to feed him twice per day and you might find that he is healthier and happier twice per day. At that point it is important to know your individual dog’s personality and preferences along with his individual food needs, activity level and health. That is where your vet is a lot of help.
You will want to feed your little puppy as much as he/she wants. There is no need to restrict food for a Cockapoo puppy (and generally for Cockapoo adults as most do not have a tendency to become overweight).
If you don’t feed your puppy very often and you notice your puppy is eating large amounts very quickly you will see your puppy’s tummy become very round and turgid, like a furry water balloon. If this is how your puppy eats you may need to force your puppy to slow down. Puppies can give themselves tummy aches and a potentially life-threatening condition called “bloat” by eating too much too fast. Remember that your puppy is accustomed to fighting for his/her food from 4-8 other siblings! He/she is programmed to consume as much food as quickly as possible.
A puppy that overeats like that may also disgorge part of the food a little while after eating. This is natural canine behavior and is not anything to be concerned about. If your puppy is doing this you will need to reduce the portion size being offered to your pup and if he/she still seems genuinely hungry after eating you can offer a small amount more, and so on (in small bits) until your little guy seems satisfied.
If your puppy seems to be vomiting (and not only regurgitating excess food) you will need to bring your little one to a veterinarian right away. Regurgitated food should look just like the food that went in a few minutes before, only a bit softer and there will be some slime and mucous to it. Your puppy might also attempt to re-consume the disgorged food. Vomit will have more force to it while coming up and will have a vomit-smell to it. It might also contain food that is more digested than not. Sometimes your dog might try to eat this as well, but if the vomiting did not make your puppy feel better he will not do this.
**Strange behavior history As gross as eating vomit or regurgitated food is to us people-types, it is perfectly normal for dogs. Since wild dogs do not have pockets, backpacks, arms or coolers they do not have a way to bring all their food with them after a kill. They can only eat so much. They will often try to hide the carcass so they can come back but there is a good chance a scavenger will find their food and consume it. So consuming too much food is a great way to get food back to other dogs (and pups) or to eat a second meal later by regurgitating the food and then re-consuming it when they can. Of course the domesticated dog is unaware that this is unnecessary behavior and sometimes will over-eat and then regurgitate the food. This happens more often when the dog is not being fed frequently enough. And this instinct of “waste not, want not” is what drives them to consume anything that comes back up out of their stomach.**
If your puppy is vomiting the mess will have a very distinct “vomit” odor to it, and it may include yellow bile and bitter-smelling stomach juices. It is much less likely that a sick dog will attempt to consume vomit.
Either way you will want to prevent your dog from eating anything he vomits or regurgitates. If he is already so full he is regurgitating or there is something there that is irritating his stomach you don’t want to allow that to happen again. Simply “redirect” your puppy to his water dish (even dogs don’t like the flavor of bile) or a favorite toy.
If your puppy is vomiting up yellow bile and nothing else and hasn’t eaten in a long while you’ll need to feed your puppy (or dog) more frequently. Dogs do this because when they become hungry or think they are going to be fed, (think Pavlov’s dogs) they produce that lovely yellow acid in anticipation of their food. When that food is not forthcoming they must get rid of all that yellow acid because it irritates their stomach sitting there undiluted. So they chuck it up onto your nice carpet. This yellow bile does not feel good on their little tummies or in their throats and mouths, so if you’re noticing this kind of vomit you should re-evaluate your feeding schedule. If you are already feeding your dog the appropriate number of times per day you need to look at the ingredients in your chosen food and the volume of food being fed. Evaluate your dog’s hunger level. Is he still hungry after his meal? Is he a healthy weight?
If your dog is a healthy weight but is still vomiting up yellow bile then your food may be too dense in calories. Meat and organs are primarily what dogs are supposed to eat. These foods are not dehydrated into shelf-stable kibbles. They contain a lot of water and are voluminous and heavy. You’d feel a lot more full and satisfied after a big steak then a half cup of dry cereal (and they don’t get milk). If you like your dog kibble and don’t want to change that please consider adding water or yogurt to the kibble or (better yet) adding some kind of fresh food mix-in to help your dog feel fuller, longer. Give your dog some cubed, cooked chicken (or any other meat or fish) in with his dog kibble and you’ll see that problem magically disappear.
If you don’t then it is time to see your veterinarian because something else may be going on, or (more likely) you’ll just need more frequent special feedings for your dog (who is probably intolerant of his species-inappropriate dog food) or one-on-one help to get him well again.
I hope I’ve helped!