Getting a Ph.D in Puppy Chow

Managing Editor

Recently we got a puppy. It’s been a long time – several decades – since either of us had a puppy, but we had done our research and were prepared. After all, the basics of puppy care don’t change, right? Or so we thought.

Newspapers for house training? Check.

Supply of chewy toys for puppy teeth? Check.

Brush to keep fur shiny? Check.

Long walks for muscle development? Check.

Training, companionship, playtime – we had it down. Bring on that baby dog!

Gus the puppy arrived the middle of March, and that’s when we learned there was a very basic part of puppy care we were not ready for: feeding.

Now don’t get me wrong, we thought we were ready.

First we obtained a large bag of the food Gus was used to from the breeder, some kind of generic dog kibble with a vaguely chicken odor.

Next we checked with our vet, who said it would be best to feed Gus food formulated specifically for puppies, rather than the generic kibble. Puppy food, she said, has more calcium for growing bones.

So off to the store we went, armed with that simple instruction: buy puppy food.

Jauntily we turned the corner to the dog food section, and came to a befuddled stop. There must be a hundred different kinds. When did feeding a puppy become so complex? We found ourselves wandering up and down the aisle in a kind of daze, randomly pulling puppy food bags off the shelves to read labels.

Stress starts to set in. There are too many questions for which we don’t have answers.

For example, our puppy is an Australian shepherd, a medium-sized breed. Does that mean he should eat only kibbles specifically made for medium-sized breeds? If the bag doesn’t say, and we accidentally give him a small breed puppy kibble, will we stunt his growth?

Should we feed a holistic blend or a natural evolutionary diet? A scientific formulation or a wild one?

Ok, skip that – let’s deal with meat, something we think we can handle because we know to avoid brands listing “meat by-product” as the first ingredient. But we are quickly baffled by an overload of protein options. Is salmon better for puppies than chicken? What about beef vs. venison? Eggs? Are eggs ok?

Now, wait. Some of these choices seem unnatural. I mean, where would an Aussie puppy find a salmon in real life anyway? Maybe we should stick with chicken, a food we can actually envision a puppy eating.

Having settled that question, more or less, we turn to the non-meat ingredients, but find there’s no solace there.

Grain is out, but rice is ok. Last time I looked, rice was a grain, but apparently not when it comes to puppy food.

Super foods are good, it seems. Sweet potatoes? Absolutely. Kale? You betcha. Blueberries, cranberries, apples – any puppy eating today’s kibbles is getting more servings of fruits and vegetables than most kids.

Already we are overwhelmed, and we haven’t even gotten to the “extra” ingredients.

Should we buy the kibble formulated for joint health? What about one containing essential nutrients? The brand touting digestive health? Or the one with DHA for cognitive development?

Dare we risk our puppy’s digestive health in order to provide essential nutrients? If we opt for joint health rather than DHA, will our puppy grow up to be stupid but athletic?

And what in the name of heaven are “Life Source Bits”?

In the end we choose the bag with the cute picture of an Aussie puppy and many promises about healthy, natural ingredients (not to mention the DHA).

We leave the store in a state of brain overload, glad to have purchased what surely must be the best puppy formula ever created.

That night we pour a measured amount into the puppy bowl, and proudly present Gus with his oh-so-carefully chosen gourmet dinner.

He hates it.


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