Ignorance is most certainly not bliss when it comes to determining an appropriate puppy feeding schedule. Your puppy is a beloved member of your family who is depending entirely on you to make the right decisions now to protect their health and happiness for many years to come.
When you get a new puppy for the first time there are so many questions. You have a lot of challenges, and fun, ahead of you as you raise your puppy into a health and happy adult. One of the best things you can do for yourself and your Australian Shepherd is to provide them with the best nutrition possible right from the start.
Here are some of the questions that new puppy owners face:
When you first get your puppy you will want to feed them the same food; the same brand and the same type as the breeder (or where you are getting them from) is now, then slowly transition them to the food you decide to give them over 7 to 10 days. For the first transitional feeding give them 25% new/75% old; then after 2—3 days 50%/50%; and after 2—3 more days switch to 75% new/25% old. Finally, you'll be feeding 100% of the new food. If at any stage your puppy begins to exhibit symptoms of gastrointestinal difficulty like vomiting or diarrhea slow the transition down.
During this time you'll be feeding your puppy three times per day. Keep the feedings about five hours apart. So if the first feeding is at 8:00 am make the next one about 1:00 pm and the final one about 6:00 pm. Keeping to a schedule like this will help with housetraining too. After eating you can keep an eye on them so you can get 'em outside. This will help to get them housebroken sooner.
How often to feed is only one part of the equation. The next question is —how much? The answer is… it depends. Primarily it depends on the quality of the food you are feeding. If you are feeding cheap dog food you are likely going to have to feed more. Usually, cheap dog food is less digestible and the nutrients are less biologically available so more of it passes through your puppy (and into your yard) without providing nutritive value to your puppy.
In order to make sure your puppy develops in as healthy a way as possible it is recommended that you spend more on higher quality food (the highest quality you can afford). These dog foods offer much better nutritional value which means your growing puppy has the nutrients it needs for optimal development. You'll save by having to actually feed less and hopefully with lower lifelong vet bills because your puppy will just generally be healthier.
As for specifics of how much to feed on your puppy feeding schedule—that also depends. Use the instruction on the dog food bag as a guideline. Start there along with a consultation with your vet. Each brand can be different. As a general rule of thumb, you will want to be able to feel your puppy's ribs but not really be able to see them. You should also see a bit of a curve in at the waistline. If she is shaped like a beachball, you've probably feed her too much.
Okay, you've got your puppy transitioned to a good quality food. You and your vet are happy with her development—not too thin, not too fat. You are feeding on a regular schedule about 3 times a day. When should you switch to an adult schedule?
You'll want to change to feeding twice a day when your puppy is about 6 months old, but stick with puppy food until she is about a year old. After that you can move to an adult food.
While some might say that it is better to leave food out all the time so puppies can eat whenever they feel hungry, I feel this would be a mistake. Not only does it make it more difficult to housebreak your puppy it can also lead to behavior problems later.
If your Aussie is allowed to eat from the bowl whenever they want they think that food is just available and don't recognize you as the provider of that food. Why does that matter? With a routine of scheduled puppy feedings she will begin to associate you and the food. You will be regarded as the provider—the alpha. Owners who miss this training opportunity to establish themselves as the alpha will often later find themselves facing an aggressive dog making a play for the alpha of the pack.
It would also be a mistake to not feed a good quality of puppy food. Most brands have different formulations for puppies, adults and senior dogs. There is a difference. Your puppy needs the nutrients for proper development provided in puppy food. To give your Aussie the best chance at health always provide age appropriate food.
Another potential mistake is to "chintz out" and buy cheap, crappy food. It is a false economy. You are going to have to feed more of it, to get less value for your puppy, leading to increased vet bills down the road as their health is compromised.
Finally, as far as table scraps go—don't do it. Chances are the food you are offering from the table is not nutritionally sound for a dog (let alone a human). You may be eating very healthy but there is another reason to not feed scraps from the table. It will also start you on the never ending path of begging which can be a very difficult habit to break.
Hopefully, you have a better idea of how often, how much, and how long to feed your Aussie puppy food. Keep in mind that you will want to get your puppy on a schedule and feed them at regular times three times a day. Make sure to feed the highest quality puppy food to assure the best health for your puppy.
A puppy feeding schedule is more important than many people realize. It creates a foundation that will affect your puppy's future health and well-being, and even affects whether or not there are future behavioural problems. In consultation with your vet always choose the best quality of food for your puppy. It's an investment in the long term health and happiness of your new best friend.